- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Ed and Lois Smart, for a while, jumped every time the phone rang.
The sound instantly filled them with both hope and dread hope that police were calling to say their 14-year-old kidnapped daughter, Elizabeth, had been found safe, dread that they were about to learn she was dead.
Now, nearly six months after a gunman stole Elizabeth at gunpoint from her bed in the middle of the night, the Smarts say the calls no longer have the same effect on them.
They accept such calls as part of their strange new life, where their vanished daughter is everywhere, yet nowhere. Although investigators have found no trace of Elizabeth, tipsters and psychics continue to report sightings and visions of the youngster.
"Every day is a struggle," Mrs. Smart said in an interview this month. "It would be very easy for me to stay in bed, never leave."
But the Smarts have five other children, ages 4 to 16, who need their parents.
"They take their cues directly from us," Mrs. Smart said. "As long as we are able to function, so are they."
The frenetic pace of the summer when the Smarts held twice-daily news briefings, helped coordinate huge volunteer searches, heard from or called investigators several times daily has slowed, and the search has been scaled back considerably.
Mr. Smart, a real estate broker, said he will continue to seek attention from news organizations to keep Elizabeth alive in the public mind, hoping for the one tip that will break the case. He is willing, in exchange, to put up with people following him, pointing at him, approaching him to strike up conversations.
The top potential suspect in the kidnapping, Richard Albert Ricci, a handyman who once worked in the Smart household, died Aug. 30 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while in prison on a parole violation.
He said he had nothing to do with the kidnapping, and whatever he might have known he took with him to the grave.
Investigators said they believed he was involved but might not have acted alone.
"We have no evidence that Elizabeth's not alive out there," said Salt Lake City police Capt. Cory Lyman. "There's obviously some information still missing. It could come in tonight, or it could be a long time."
Elizabeth's kidnapping was part of a frightening string of child abductions this year that included the slayings of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam of San Diego and 5-year-old Samantha Runnion of Orange County, Calif.
Elizabeth was seized early on the morning of June 5 in front of her 9-year-old sister, Mary Katherine, by a gunman who might have entered the house by cutting a window screen near the back door. As the younger sister pretended to be asleep, the gunman threatened to hurt Elizabeth if she didn't keep quiet.
In the weeks that followed, Elizabeth's parents often received calls from the police, but the information was never what they wanted to hear. Often, police were calling to alert them to grisly discoveries that might be linked to their missing daughter; they wanted the Smarts to know before the stories hit the news.


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