This riveting inside story of the intense search for the Salt Lake City teenager reveals never-before-told details of the largest investigation in Utah state history. The firsthand account of Tom Smart, Elizabeth's uncle and one-time suspect, reveals the details of the flawed police investigation, the media's manipulation of the family, and the eyewitness account of nine-year-old Mary Katherine Smart that went largely ignored by investigators. New research is presented on the family background of disturbed street preacher Brian David Mitchell, who kidnapped Elizabeth as part of a bizarre polygamous plot. Also examined is the critical role of the media, revealing the essential part played by John Walsh and others in facilitating Elizabeth's safe return, and the manipulative influence of Fox News and Bill O'Reilly. Going beyond a mere eyewitness account, the book includes information culled from interviews with more than 150 people involved in the search and investigation, notes from family meetings, and memos from law enforcement officials.
Despite the sensational subtitle, readers who have followed the kidnapping and eventual safe return of Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart won't glean any "startling" truths from this account, coauthored by one of the drama's prime players. But most will find the detailed account of police missteps disturbing and saddening. Smart's traumatic imprisonment riveted much of the country for nine months, from her abduction from her bedroom until the discovery that she was the veiled young woman accompanying a bizarre street preacher named Brian David Mitchell. Tom Smart, an uncle who came unfairly under suspicion and who devoted countless hours to exploring every lead, and journalist Benson craft a coherent narrative interweaving the official investigation with a reconstruction of Mitchell's movements; the numerous missed opportunities to locate Elizabeth and her captors make for agonizing reading. Tom Smart settles some scores: Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and Marc Klaas, the father of a murdered child, come across as journalistically unscrupulous. But Smart is also forthright about his own mistakes. While this is an interesting alternate perspective to that provided by Elizabeth's parents in 2003's Bringing Elizabeth Home, the compelling story still awaits a definitive telling. 8 pages of color photos.