Anderson Cooper | BIO
An 11-year-old California girl snatched from the street in front of her house in 1991 had two children with the man accused of taking her and lived in a secret backyard shed, authorities said Thursday.
The 18-year mystery of what happened to Jaycee Dugard ended this week when a sex offender admitted to corrections authorities that he abducted her.
Since her kidnapping, Dugard has lived in her alleged abductor’s backyard, in a shed. All of this played out in a residential neighborhood.
We spoke to Ed Smart and his daughter Elizabeth. The Smarts lived through a similar nightmare, when Elizabeth was snatched from her bedroom in the middle of the night in 2002. She was found nine months later.
Anderson Cooper: Elizabeth from your own experiences, what do you think Jaycee is going through right now?
Elizabeth Smart: Well for me I felt relief and happiness and I was just excited to be home and back to the people that I know love and care for me and I know want the best for me. So I think Jaycee is probably feeling something along those lines as well.
Cooper: And Ed from a father's perspective what was it like getting that call, being told that after so long, your child was alive?
Ed Smart: It's the end of the nightmare. Just you know, it was very surreal, we didn't even get a call saying we had them, they just said we want you to come down. So I didn't know what to expect. They didn't even ask Lois to come with me, so you know, I'm just so happy for them, the moment finding that it was really her, was just like this one miracle in life that i could really have. It was just overwhelming and joyful.
Cooper: And Elizabeth, that reunion, obviously, incredibly emotional, and obviously, incredibly joyful. But there's got to be some ups and downs with it - can you talk a little bit about what that's like?
Elizabeth Smart: For me it was just overwhelming happiness because, I mean, I was out of that terrible situation, I was with my family and friends. I thought life was just going to resume back to what it had been before, I was just very happy. Of course I wondered what was going to happen, my captors, where were they going to be kept? What was going to happen to them? I mean, certainly there were some questions I had. But I would say for the main part I was just so happy, and I felt so loved being at home, and it was just one of the best days of my life.
Cooper: Ed, for you, what was that reunion like, and what do you think this reunion is like for this woman Jaycee who's been away for so long?
Ed Smart: The reunion was amazing, it was pure heaven. When we were transferred to the Salt Lake Police Department, one of my biggest concerns was that law enforcement would immediately get the full story from Elizabeth, which they took her in and started – I guess what you would call – debriefing her. And I was very concerned about that. And I'm hopeful that Jaycee will not have to immediately go through that. And that's basically reliving the whole nightmare of the time that she was gone. Now is the time to rejoice and be happy, reconnect as a family. The other will come, and it has to come, but right now it's just a time to live and feel the joy and happiness that life can bring.
Cooper: It was a police officer, a campus police officer, who was kind of very observant and got the ball moving, which ultimately lead to Jaycee being discovered. And yet, what we've now learned is that she was living in a backyard for 18 years, her children never went to school, never went to see a doctor. do you think the public is observing enough of things they see?
Ed Smart: I think that there are some people, in Elizabeth's case, there were two people that saw her at the same time. So I think a lot of people are very observant. I think that sometimes we need to put ourselves out and if we feel uncomfortable about something, you might look stupid, but it's better to check than not. There are other children out there like this that want to be found, and that we just need to work on how we feel.
In this scenario I don't know all the details on it, but you would i think somebody would have noticed a tent in a backyard. It sounds like it might have been remote. It's hard to second guess anyone and I wouldn't want to try to. It's important to be observant. I think that's really key.
Cooper: Elizabeth what's your advice for Jaycee?
Elizabeth Smart: I would tell her to just relax and enjoy your family and spend some time reconnecting. Maybe if it's possible to think back and think of things that she enjoyed doing with her family, and maybe going out and doing them again, and finding new things she would want to do with her family. One of the things I liked the best, after I came home – and no offense to the media – but, we didn't do anything. We just my family we went on a vacation but we just spent time as a family, which was like - it was the best thing I could have done. Together as a family, it was the best thing that I could have have done.
Cooper:And Elizabeth you would agree with your Dad, and just let her take as much time as she needs and tell her story or not in her own way, to her family, to her loved ones?
Elizabeth Smart: Yes I would agree with my Dad, for me it's something very personal and I just don't talk about it all the time with everybody and so I would think maybe she feels the same way and if she chooses to never say anything about it, I think it should always be her decision and there are a lot of people out here that love her and support her in what she decides to do.
Cooper: And Elizabeth, I read somewhere that you had written a pamphlet to help others who have been in similar situations, is that right?
Elizabeth Smart: That's right. A big thing I tried to stress in the section that I participated in writing was , to set goals for yourself to continually be moving forward, continuing on with your life and not letting this horrible event take over and consume the rest of your life. Because we only have one life and it's a beautiful world out there and there are so many things to see and learn and grow in. And I would just encourage her to find different passions in life and continually push forward and learn more and reach more for them and not to look behind, because there's a lot out there.
Cooper: It's something that happened to you its not who you are.
Elizabeth Smart: Right.
Cooper: Obviously, this is extraordinarily good news for everyone involved in this story. And it gives hope to other families out there who are still waiting for their loved ones to be found, in one way or another. Some would say that it gives false hope to some people because so many people will never find their loved one and yet there are cases like this, like Elizabeth's case, Jaycee's case. So it's a hard thing. Hope is important to hold onto isn't it?
Ed Smart: It is. A lot of people during those nine months said, how can you believe that she's still out there? You're crazy, or any number of comments. But I had this impression that Elizabeth was still out there, and we never gave up hope. That isn't to say that there weren't doubts in my mind. But for this family I've heard today that a lot of them kept on hoping, and you know, here it is. It's real. A miracle has happened.
Cooper: So many others are waiting and hoping as well.
Ed Smart: Absolutely.