NBC News   |  October 04, 2013

'Elizabeth's Story' part 4

The teenager has more than one close brush with escape but realizes she's trapped by a captor threatening to kill her and her family.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> imprisoned in a remote camp where no one could see or find her, elizabeth smart was feeling one overriding emotion -- despair. and just a few miles away , her mom lois was feeling exactly the same way.

>> when the phone would ring, we'd wonder, now, is that the police saying that they found bones? i mean, we could not move on with our life.

>> so you were really frozen in time there?

>> yes.

>> frozen but determined.

>> please let her go. please!

>> a massive search was under way. just three days after her kidnapping they were combing the mountain range behind her home never realizing how close they came to finding her or that one of elizabeth 's own family members had been within earshot of the hidden camp.

>> and i remember hearing my name being called very distinctly. and i remember thinking it sounded just like my uncle.

>> but her captors heard the voice as well.

>> he grabbed me and he said, i will kill you if you make a noise. i will kill whoever comes up here to find you. if they ever get into this camp, i will kill them.

>> elizabeth knew she'd have to comply.

>> i remember sitting there just listening to the voices fade away and just feeling hopeless because surely they'd say, well, cross this one off, she's not up there. and i was.

>> but the remarkable resolve that had surfaced almost immediately in this young girl was mounting.

>> didn't matter what it was or how many things that i've always told myself i'd never do, i would do them if it meant i would survive, if it meant that one day i would be able to go back home and be with my family again. i would do it. and that's exactly what i did.

>> you went into survival mode.

>> yes. to the fullest.

>> sleep was a big part of her survival plan.

>> somehow, i'd make it through that day, i'd go sleep.

>> you didn't have nightmares. i think that's so interesting.

>> sleep was like my oasis. the place i could go to. if i could have slept for nine months, i would have. that's where i could go to almost and not feel the pain , not feel the despair, not feel everything that was happening to me.

>> when she was awake, elizabeth copied my clinging to her mormon faith. one pivotal moment was when their water supply at the camp ran out. they were all severely dehydrated and elizabeth said she awoke to find, of all things, an ice cold cup of water right next to her.

>> i remember picking it up and drinking it and i could just feel the cold water running down inside of me and just how grateful i was for it. and just feeling like it was god telling me that i wasn't forgotten.

>> not the fantasy of a little girl .

>> not the fantasy at all, no. this was real. this really happened.

>> to this day, elizabeth is convinced it was god trying to comfort her. faith comforted her family as well. they refused to give up hope even though they knew the odds were against them. less than half the children abducted by a stranger ever find their way home. and children murdered by their abductors are usually dead within the first three hours of their kidnapping. she worried in the book at one point if you all were still looking for her or if you reached a point of acceptance that maybe she wasn't going to come home? did you ever reach that point?

>> no.

>> never?

>> no. until we knew, it wasn't conclusive.

>> meanwhile, up on the mountain, mitchell was determined elizabeth would never go home again. and he was hatching yet another kidnap thought. elizabeth had inadvertently mentioned her cousin olivia , who was the same age.

>> all of a sudden he turned to me and said, i have a revelation that olivia , your cousin, is supposed to be my next wife. i felt like such a terrible person. i had just betrayed one of my very best friends .

>> you had just put her life in real danger.

>> yes, i had more or less put her name on her own death warrant because, if she was successfully kidnapped, her life would be over the same way mine was.

>> on the night of july 24th mitchell went down to salt lake city intending to kidnap olivia . it was 49 days the after elizabeth 's abduction and he had planned her cousin's exactly the same way, but this time he woke someone up. he ran off unseen and at the time officers said the incident likely had no connection to elizabeth 's kidnapping.

>> but really there was. and there was intent to do the same thing to my cousin olivia that had been done to me.

>> her cousin had been spared, but the incident made elizabeth realize her best strategy was to keep quiet. it paid off within a few weeks. one day her kidnapper suddenly unchained her from the steel shackles. why do you thing he decided that?

>> i think he must have felt that because i was going along with him, because i wasn't fighting as much as i used to.

>> then days later there was another surprise. mitchell decided to let elizabeth out of her prison. he took his wives down the mountain into salt lake city to look for food and liquor. they stumbled into a house party photo. mitchell had disguised the women in headdresses and veils and nobody had a clue that the girl was actually kidnapped 14-year-old elizabeth smart . it's almost as though you're hiding in --

>> plain sight? it was shocking. i mean, to have so many people stare at me and not recognize me or not do anything about it. it was hard. it was really, really hard.

>> but why didn't she scream out and beg for help? it's a question many have asked and one that never ceases to infuriate elizabeth .

>> it is wrong for any person to ever judge someone in any situation saying, well, why didn't you run? why didn't you scream? why didn't you try to do something? that is so wrong and, frankly, offensive to even ask that question.

>> why do you say that?

>> because you don't know, you weren't there, you don't know what i was going through.

>> tell me what it's like because people will wonder.

>> they don't understand. i was under threat of my life. i was under threat of my family's life. and those two threats right there are stronger than chains for me.

>> elizabeth was determined to stay alive until the right moment came for rescue. and it wouldn't be long before that opportunity arrived.

>> i just remember staring just thinking, you are going to save me.