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Extortion Charges in Smart Case

November 07, 2002|From Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — A South Carolina man was charged Wednesday with trying to extort $3 million for the safe return of Elizabeth Smart, the 14-year-old girl who vanished from her bedroom in June.

The FBI said it couldn't rule out Walter Holloway, 18, as the kidnapper until they found him Tuesday in Charleston, S.C., typing his latest demands by e-mail.

According to an arrest warrant, Holloway confessed he kept up a regular correspondence with Salt Lake City police and the Smart family, boasting he was "the only real kidnapper," threatening to hurt the girl and saying, "Tell [Elizabeth's father] Ed he can have Elizabeth back as soon as I get the ransom."

Holloway sent 38 messages over the last two months before the FBI found him in front of a computer at his parent's house. The family did not return a telephone message Wednesday.

Holloway was being held on felony charges of extortion and sending threatening messages across state lines. The charges carry up to 25 years in prison, said U.S. Atty. Paul Warner, who plans to seek a grand jury indictment next week and bring Holloway to Salt Lake City.

The bungled extortion "makes me sick," Ed Smart said. He said it kept authorities from devoting full attention to finding his daughter.

Holloway allegedly warned police they would be shot by snipers if they tried to interfere with a money drop that was never arranged.

FBI agent James H. Burrus Jr. said investigators didn't believe Holloway had Elizabeth or knew any of the details of her disappearance, but couldn't be certain until they traced him using his Internet service provider. He was using the screen name "Elizabethsmartkidnapper."

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