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Utahans Seek Girl Abducted by Gunman

Crime: Alert is issued after teen is taken from bedroom. Police said incident wasn't random.

June 06, 2002|From Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — A gunman broke into a home and took a 14-year-old girl from her bedroom Wednesday, warning the girl's younger sister he would hurt her if she told anyone what she saw, police said.

Police, some with tracking dogs, began searching nearby foothills for Elizabeth Smart before dawn, and authorities used a statewide emergency alert system for the first time to broadcast information about the missing child.

At a late afternoon news conference, Elizabeth's father appealed for her safe return.

"Elizabeth, if you're out there, we're doing everything we possibly can to help you. We love you, we want you to come home safely to us," Edward Smart said.

Mayor Rocky Anderson also offered a $10,000 reward for information about her disappearance.

Police said there was no indication the man knew Elizabeth, but authorities were looking at the family's computer to see whether the girl had contacted strangers online and interviewed the eighth-grader's classmates at Bryant Intermediate School.

"This was not a purely random act. He'd have to know that she lived there," said Wes Galloway, a victims' advocate for the Salt Lake City police.

Elizabeth's 9-year-old sister waited several hours before alerting her parents about the abduction because of the threat, police spokesman Duane Baird said.

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

Baird also said the family's seven-bedroom home is listed for sale at $1.19 million, and police are looking at a list of people who had toured the property. Elizabeth's schoolmates attended an end-of-school-year talent assembly Wednesday, dedicating some of the performances to her.

"I just hope she's safe and hope she comes back soon," classmate Tiffany Morris said.

The incident prompted the first use of Utah's Emergency Alert System, created in April to broadcast information as soon as possible about an abducted child.

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