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Timeline: Elizabeth Smart saga

Elizabeth Smart's dramatic return Wednesday — alive and in apparent good health — marked the climax of a heart-rending nine-month saga filled with remarkable twists and turns and marked by extensive local and national media coverage.

The Salt Lake girl, 15, the daughter of Ed and Lois Smart, disappeared from her bedroom early June 5, sparking first an intense communitywide search and then a nationwide hunt. In the end, though, she was recovered relatively close to home, at 10200 S. State in Sandy about 1 p.m. Wednesday. She was found with Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ilene Barzee, both of whom have been taken into custody.

Here is a timeline of the events in this remarkable case.

Wednesday, June 5

Elizabeth Smart, then 14, is kidnapped about 2 a.m. from her Federal Heights home. The kidnapper threatens to hurt Elizabeth, according to her sister Mary Katherine, 9. Mary Katherine waits two hours before alerting her parents, who call 911 at 4:01 a.m.

Utah's new Rachael Alert messaging system is activated that morning through radio and television broadcasts.

The Smart family asks that the search be extended to southeast Idaho and Wyoming.

Meanwhile, people fill a meetinghouse near the Smart home to pray; President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls the Smart family to express his sympathies.

Thursday, June 6

The Smarts offer a $250,000 reward for her return; Salt Lake Police offer $10,000 more.

An army of 700 volunteers joins the search; 25 police and FBI detectives are on case.

Members of the family and police officials appear on such television programs as "Larry King Live," "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America." Fliers about the missing girl are distributed throughout Utah and neighboring states.

The Salt Lake County sheriff makes 10,000 child ID kits available; calls skyrocket to area home security firms.

Elizabeth's father, Edward Smart, collapses from exhaustion and is hospitalized.

Sightings are reported of a suspicious vehicle in St. George of a man and young girl fitting Elizabeth's description; none pan out.

Friday, June 7

Elizabeth's brother accepts her certificate at Bryant Middle School commencement exercises after a moment of silence for his sister. A chain-link fence outside the school is adorned with powder blue, heart-shaped ribbons with her name.

A milkman reports seeing a suspicious car roaming the Smart neighborhood two days before the kidnapping and notes a Utah license plate number. The driver is later identified as transient Bret Michael Edmunds, 26.

Searchers report a suspicious man in Emigration Canyon wearing clothes resembling the intruders' light-colored pants, T-shirt and white cap. A man disappears into deep brush; searchers hear several gunshots.

Investigators say tips were incoming at a rate of one per minute. As two FBI profilers arrive from Virginia, police release description of the shoes Elizabeth was wearing.

Saturday, June 8

Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse says publicly that he is frustrated by the lack of solid leads. Twenty-five search pilots take to the air; Ed Smart returns home from hospital, and "America's Most Wanted" airs a story on Elizabeth.

Sunday, June 9

Ed Smart takes a polygraph test that police say is routine, and other family members are also tested. Police later admit the polygraph tests resulted from tips.

Wednesday, June 12

Thirty-four California National Guardsmen comb Jordan River banks and underbrush; police work 6,000 tips.

Thursday, June 13

The police refuse comment on results of family polygraph exams.

Bret Michael Edmunds is identified as the man spotted by the milkman. Police deny Edmunds is a suspect but seek him for questioning.

Friday, June 14

A man matching Edmunds' description is spotted in Hereford, Texas. Salt Lake police say that five days earlier, Edmunds, after a Salt Lake candlelight vigil, had sped away after an attempted capture.

The number of volunteer searchers drops from 1,200 to 785 a week later.

Reports say Elizabeth's sister Mary Katherine did not get a good look at the abductor's face.

Saturday, June 15

Police announce that the suspect is believed to have worn a tan golf cap.

Sunday, June 16

Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart, confirms that a powered garage door had been left open the night before his daughter's disappearance. He speculates that an intruder could have hidden in basement undetected.

Monday, June 17

Police examine surveillance footage of a suspicious car spotted at Shriners Hospital moments before the kidnapping, which occurred a half mile away.

Friday, June 21

Edmunds is arrested after checking into a West Virginia hospital with an apparent drug overdose.

July

A former Smart handyman, Richard Albert Ricci, becomes a top suspect after he takes a Jeep from a repair shop May 30, then returns it after logging an extra 1,000 miles. Prosecutors later charge Ricci with burglary and theft for items stolen earlier from the Smart home and another Federal Heights dwelling.

A Cheyenne, Wyo., woman claims she saw a man who looked like Ricci digging fence holes in a rural area two days after Elizabeth's disappearance; the lead quickly turns soft.

August

Ricci dies in a hospital after suffering a brain hemorrhage in prison, where he was being held on theft and burglary charges.

Elizabeth's younger sister and three brothers head back to school after a secluded summer.

Police announce an investigation of a similar attempted break-in at Elizabeth's cousin's home July 24; police determine it was likely a prank.

Ed Smart reports to MSNBC that Mary Elizabeth recognized the abductor's voice.

September

Smart family press briefings become increasingly infrequent; police return to investigating early clues.

Police admit to waiting nearly three hours to seal the Smart home after her disappearance, allowing potential contamination of the crime scene in the critical hours after Elizabeth's abduction.

October

Ed Smart continues lobbying for a national Amber Alert System days before Elizabeth's 15th birthday. President Bush announces a federal push for such a national rapid-response alert system.

Renowned forensic expert Henry Lee travels to the Smart home to assess the crime scene.

November

Family members mark Elizabeth's 15th birthday on Nov. 3.

A South Carolina man who claimed to be Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper and tried to extort millions of dollars from the Smart family was charged in U.S. District Court for Utah with interstate extortion and threatening communications.

December

Bret Michael Edmunds, who was the subject of a nationwide manhunt in connection with the kidnapping, is sentenced in 3rd District Court to serve up to five years for failing to stop for police and up to one year for assault on a peace officer.

January 2003

Mary Katherine and four brothers are interviewed on "48 Hours Investigates" by CBS reporter Jane Clayson.

Police announce a $20,000 increase in the reward for information leading to the recovery of Elizabeth Smart's body or to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.

February

The parents of Elizabeth Smart offer a new $10,000 reward for information that would exonerate Richard Ricci, the handyman who had been the prime suspect in the kidnapping.

Ed Smart travels to Washington, D.C., and joins a parade of House members to call for the House to create quickly a national AMBER Alert system.

Photos of a handyman who had worked at the Smart home are released; his identity is sought as he is wanted for questioning. A composite sketch of a man Mary Katherine remembered as working at the Smart home airs on "America's Most Wanted."

The handyman is subsequently identified as Brian David Mitchell, a drifter who is known on the street as "Emmanuel."

March

"America's Most Wanted" again profiles Brian David Mitchell and interviews several of his stepchildren.

Elizabeth is found alive in Sandy.