- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) A gunman broke into a home and took a 14-year-old girl from her bedroom yesterday, warning the girl's younger sister he would hurt her if she told anyone what she saw, police said.

Police, some with tracking dogs, began searching the foothills for Elizabeth Smart before dawn and authorities used a statewide emergency alert system for the first time to quickly broadcast information about a missing child.

Police said there was no indication the man knew Elizabeth, but authorities were looking at the family's computer to determine whether the girl had contacted strangers online, and they interviewed the eighth-grader's classmates at Bryant Intermediate School.

"This was not a purely random act. He'd have to know that she lived there," said Wes Galloway, victims' advocate for Salt Lake City police.

Elizabeth's 9-year-old sister waited several hours before alerting her parents about the abduction because of the threat, police spokesman Duane Baird said.

The sister told police that the soft-spoken man got into the house by forcing open a window and had a small black handgun. Elizabeth was wearing red pajamas and the man let her take a pair of shoes, police said.

Police said the man didn't force open a window in the girls' bedroom, but didn't say exactly where the window was. The man did not leave the home through the same window, police said.

Mr. Baird also said the family's home is for sale and police are looking at a list of people who toured the house, a seven-bedroom home listed at $1.19 million.

Elizabeth's disappearance brought the first use of Utah's Emergency Alert System, known as the Rachael Alert. It was created in April to quickly broadcast information about an abducted child. The alert started about 3½ hours after police were notified of the girl's disappearance.

The Rachael Alert, named after a Utah girl abducted and killed in 1982, was adapted from the Amber Plan, named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996. Utah is the ninth state to establish the program.


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