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Police Search for Missing Utah Girl

June 5, 2002

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A gunman forced his way into a house and abducted a 14-year-old girl Wednesday while her parents slept in their bedroom, police said.

Police said the man also threatened Elizabeth Smart’s 9-year-old sister and said he would harm the teen if her sister said anything. The two girls share a bedroom in the home in the affluent Federal Heights neighborhood.

Her sister waited several hours before alerting her parents because of the threat, said Duane Baird, a Salt Lake City police spokesman.

``A two-hour window gives anyone the opportunity to be away from this area,″ Baird said.

Searchers began looking for clues before dawn Wednesday. Baird said the family’s home is for sale and police are looking at a list of people who toured the house, a 7-bedroom home listed at $1.19 million. Police also are looking at the family’s computer to see if the girl had contacted strangers online, he said.

The sister told police that the soft-spoken man got into the house by forcing open a window and had a small black handgun. Elizabeth was wearing red pajamas, and the man let her take a pair of shoes, police said.

There was no indication that the man knew Elizabeth, police said. He didn’t call the teen by name and didn’t appear to know his way around the house, the sister told police.

No other neighbors reported anything suspicious during the night, Baird said.

John Anderson, whose daughter Amanda is a close friend of Elizabeth’s, said the girl is very nice, calm and grounded.

``Her parents were very protective of her,″ he said. The girl was not allowed to attend sleepovers at Amanda’s house two blocks away. ``They doted on her, loved her,″ he said.

Sissy Galbraith, who plays basketball with Elizabeth on a Mormon church league team, said she was heading to the foothills to help with the search. ``Everybody loves her,″ she said. ``She loves her friends.″

Elizabeth’s disappearance was the first use of Utah’s Emergency Alert System, known as the Rachel Alert, which was created to quickly broadcast information about an abducted child. The alert started about 3 1/2 hours after police were notified of the girl’s disappearance.

The Rachael Alert, named a Utah girl abducted and killed in 1982, was adapted from the Amber Plan, named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996. The Rachael Alert went into effect in April, making Utah the ninth state to establish such a program, along with a number of cities and counties.


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