Former Child Abductee Elizabeth Smart shares her Imperial Valley connections


EL CENTRO – The Imperial County District Attorney, Gilbert G. Otero, held a Victim’s Rights Lunch in recognition of Victims’ Rights Week. The even was held Wednesday, April 9th at the Victims Witness Assistance Facility.DSC_0042_2

Deborah Owen, Assistant District Attorney, invited Elizabeth Smart as guest speaker. Smart, 26, was abducted from her family home in 2002 and was found months later on March 12, 2003. She now travels the country speaking about victims’ rights and helping those who don’t have a voice.

Elizabeth Smart
Elizabeth Smart speaking at the Imperial Valley

Smart has an unfortunate connection to the Imperial Valley that still is very vivid in her mind. During her captivity, her captors hitchhiked through the Imperial Valley along Highway 86.

“When I was asked if I wanted to come here (Imperial Valley), I said, ‘Yes. I definitely want to come here because my only memory of the Valley has been while I was kidnapped. I was held in Lakeside and then we hitchhiked through here.”

“I remember standing out on the side of the road—with the canals, some of the fields of alfalfa, sugar beets, or whatever it is growing out there. Every car that would pass us by I would just pray that they would stop and pick us up. It was so hot, I was so thirsty, so tired, I just wanted to go home so bad.”

Elizabeth Smart is a victim-turned-hero. Her foundation, Elizabeth Smart Foundation, has teamed up with radKIDS to break the cycle of violence and victimization.

radKIDS is the national leader in children’s safety education and provides the only holistic, practical and realistic life safety skills safety program available today. radKIDS teaches children individually in an activity based, hands-on training classroom.

radKIDS teaches three critical rules that help youth realize their self work and importance.

Rule number 1 is, “No one has the right to hurt me because I am special.”

Rule number two is, “I don’t have the right to hurt anyone else unless they are hurting me.”

The desire is to stop assault physically with the intention to escape, not to harm.

Finally, rule number three is, “It’s not my fault.”

Many abused victims are too afraid to report assault because they feel responsible.

Through radKIDS training, children become empowered, learning to replace the fear, confusion, and the panic of dangerous situatione with confidence, personal safety skills, and self-esteem.

Deborah Owen, Elizabeth Smart, and Gilbert Otero
Deborah Owen, Elizabeth Smart, and Gilbert Otero



  1. I too saw Elizabeth Smart. She was walking with her abducters by the Old Planters Hotel. She looked in the window, straight at me. Her eyes were saying help me. I took it as she was hungry. I looked in my purse, found $5.00. I went outside to give them to her and they were gone. I didn’t know the story of the young girl missing. I wrote to IVPRESS, asking if anyone had seen Elizabeth Smart after I heard the story. IV Press reply that they hadn’t received any sightings of her and her abducters. For the past 11 years, I have felt guilty that I did not know her story and I did not help her. I wish I could meet her and apologize. I’m happy that she was finally found and reunited with her family.

  2. I remember the day Elizabeth came through the valley. I drove in to Brawley to get some milk. On the way home just past the S and J gas station I saw two people walking, they had on long white robe like cloth with their heads coverd. Eliebeth was walking in front of the other person. I stopped my windows where all
    down we looked in to each others eyes, I did not talk she did not talk. I drove home with many things going through my
    mind. When I got home I told my wife I think I just saw the girl that was on the
    show on tv from Colorado. She said I don’t belive you. I said if you don’t belive
    me know one else will either. I prayed like did on the way home, Lord lf it is the
    girl from Colorado please let her get
    home safely and let her be recognized as
    soon as she gets to Colorado. I learned much from this.

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