TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (AP) — Former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart said Thursday Sen. Orrin Hatch’s proposal that would speed up DNA testing at crime labs would help ensure people guilty of kidnapping and sexual assault are locked up before they can harm others while diminishing the time victims have to wait on investigations to conclude.
She spoke after joining Hatch on a tour of a new Utah state crime lab where robotic machines allow for faster processing of DNA samples.
Sen. Hatch’s proposal — called the Rapid DNA Act — passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in May. He says it would allow police to compare DNA results with national databases in just a couple of hours, compared to it taking months sometimes.
"I think more than everything, the rapid DNA response made me think of the would-be victims," said Smart. "People who didn’t commit a crime shouldn’t be in prison and those who did should be."
Elizabeth Smart was 14 when she was snatched out of her Salt Lake City bedroom in 2002. She was held captive for nine months before being found walking with her captor in a busy street in a Salt Lake City suburb in 2003.
DNA testing confirmed that the man who abducted her, Brian David Mitchell, had raped her, said her father Ed Smart, who was with his daughter Thursday. Ed Smart said DNA testing also ruled out a suspect during the months when she was missing.
Elizabeth Smart sometimes lends her voice to support law enforcement efforts that could help other kidnapping victims, including past initiatives aimed at speed up DNA testing.
In 2015, Smart and her father helped bring attention to the case of a Mexican woman who went missing in Utah who had come to study English.
Elizabeth Smart, who brought her two young children with her Thursday, said anything that speeds up kidnapping cases would help victims who are often terrified to come forward.
"Because these processes can be so lengthy and so long, it’s more and more attention on the perpetrators," she said. "The faster that we can get their cases over with, that’s better for them (the victims) because the attention is then off the perpetrator and they can turn it back on themselves."