Smart, 33, who is now a victims’ rights activist, appeared Wednesday on the show “Red Table Talk,” where she shared details from her harrowing ordeal in 2002 and discussed the sensational case of the 22-year-old Long Island native, whose death has been ruled a homicide.
“In Gabby’s case in particular, I mean, I was alive, and I came home, and hers tragically has not ended that way,” Smart told Jada Pinkett Smith and her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, on the show.
“But knowing what it’s like being on the other side and potentially what may have happened and what may have led up to her final moments, and understanding probably a lot of what she was feeling, it’s heartbreaking,” she added.
Smart has described in her 2013 book “My Story” how she was snatched from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2002 and forced to the ground at knifepoint before being held for nine grueling months.
She has said she was treated as a sex object by Brian David Mitchell and as a slave by his wife, Wanda Barzee, who denied her food and water for days at a time. Mitchell was sentenced in 2011 and is serving two life terms. Barzee was released from prison in 2018 despite pleas from Smart that she be kept behind bars.
Smart, who has since gotten married and become a mother of three children, said on the show that when she was kidnapped, she desperately wanted to make sure her parents didn’t think she had run away.
“My parents always said the worst part of having me gone was not knowing,” she said.
“When I was being taken up into the mountains that first night that I was kidnapped, I asked him if he was gonna rape and kill me and if he was going to do that, could he please do it fairly close to my house because it was important to me that my parents find my body and know that I hadn’t run away,” Smart said.
“And so, I mean, when I think of Gabby Petito, when I think of all of these other victims, I feel like they still deserve just every bit as much to be found so that their stories have an ending as well,” she said.
“When I think of all of the people… I mean, so many, so many whose stories never even see the light of day. I live in this field every day, and all the time I hear stories I’ve never heard, and they’re not just, like, brand-new stories of 10 minutes ago,” Smart continued.
“They’re stories of five, 10, 20 years ago, and I’ve never heard of them. Someone is missing. Like, are they any less worthy? Has any less of a hole been left because they’re gone? No. Like, they’re somebody,” she added.
Smart also discussed her kids, who are 2, 4 and 6 years old.
“They are young, but I wish I could claim this is advice that I came up with, but someone told me that as soon as your child starts asking questions, that’s the right time to start talking to them,” she said.
“And actually when one of my captors was coming up for parole, and I was supposed to go down to the prison that day to go give a victim impact statement and my daughter, my oldest, she didn’t really want me to go. And so she kept asking me, ‘Where are you going? Why are you going?’ That moment, I was just like, ‘Dang it, guess I have to take this advice now. Like, she’s asking questions,’” she said.
“So I started talking to her, but it’s not in graphic detail. ‘When Mommy was younger, there was a man who broke into my home and hurt me, and now he and his wife are in jail, and I’m going down there to make sure that they stay in jail.’ So that led to us talking about having the right to defend yourself,” Smart added.