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THE NATION

Father of Kidnapped Girl Gets Routine Polygraph

Inquiry: Police say testing of parents is not unusual. Volunteers expand their search to the Utah desert.

June 11, 2002|TOM GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The father of 14-year-old kidnap victim Elizabeth Ann Smart was given a polygraph exam, authorities said Monday, as the search for the girl expanded into the desert outside Salt Lake City.

The desert search was conducted by about 50 volunteers using all-terrain vehicles, an effort applauded by police but directed by the Smart family.

While the police explore thousands of leads, the Smarts and scores of volunteers have organized a massive effort that included searchers on foot and horseback, in planes and SUVs.

"We're trying to cover every inch of ground, especially in areas that couldn't necessarily be done by airplanes," said family spokesman Chris Thomas. "There's no particular reason that we're looking in the desert, other than that it's an expansion of the search."

Elizabeth was reportedly abducted at gunpoint from her bedroom before dawn Wednesday as the family slept. Police have not identified a suspect or a motive.

Edward Smart underwent a polygraph examination Sunday, which police said was a normal investigative procedure. The FBI would not reveal the results.

Police have praised the Smarts for their assistance and have said they have no reason to suspect any family member.

"When asked by law enforcement, I fully cooperated because I had nothing to hide," Smart said Monday in a statement. "We are doing everything in our power to bring back Elizabeth.

"We again express our appreciation to law enforcement and all the gracious volunteers in their unwavering effort on behalf of our family," said Smart.

A polygraph test is commonly given to eliminate parents as suspects in kidnapping cases, law enforcement officials and lawyers say.

Experts said it would be unlikely that Elizabeth's 9-year-old sister, who shared the bedroom and witnessed the abduction, would undergo a polygraph. The sister has been unable to provide a complete description of the intruder, whom she described as a 5-foot, 8-inch white male wearing a white baseball cap and a light-colored jacket.

"You need a suitable psychological subject in order to take the test, and a 9-year-old is pushing it because the person is not emotionally in place yet," said Jack Trimarco, retired head of the FBI's polygraph unit in Los Angeles.

Salt Lake City Police spokesman Sgt. Fred Louis said Monday it was unclear whether the girl's mother, Lois Smart, would be given a polygraph.

Louis said about 100 detectives are assigned to the case and that the number of tips being telephoned to police had waned over the weekend.

"There are some good leads that investigators are working on but nothing that is leading us to the immediate whereabouts of Elizabeth," Louis said.

Edward Smart's brother, Chris, said Monday the family remains hopeful the kidnapper will release Elizabeth. "We hope that as the person hears the family pleading, he'll let her go," he said.

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