Elizabeth Smart Tells Katie of Kidnap

updated 10/20/2003 at 12:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/20/2003 7:30AM

Kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart has broken her silence to NBC's Katie Couric, saying she's "still pretty much the same person" after her nine-month ordeal, but the experience has made her more compassionate toward the homeless.

Couric interviewed the 15-year-old high school freshman Tuesday at her family's ranch near Salt Lake City, the Associated Press reports. The network did not pay for the interview, said NBC spokeswoman Caryn Mautner.

Although few details from the interview have been revealed prior to its Oct. 24 airdate, AP reports that Elizabeth's parents, Ed and Lois Smart, discuss the police investigation and how their faith got them through the months that Elizabeth was missing.

"It was a miracle that we could function as a family together because these ... types of things can wreck marriages and pull families apart, and I think we've become stronger and closer as a family," Ed Smart told Couric.

The girl was taken from her family home on June 5, 2002. Homeless couple Brian David Mitchell, 50, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 57, are charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated burglary in connection with Elizabeth's abduction.

They allegedly kept Elizabeth as Mitchell's second wife for nine months in Utah and California. They were found this past March 12 in Sandy, a suburb about 15 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 9, CBS will air the TV movie "The Elizabeth Smart Story," in direct competition with NBC's scheduled "Saving Jessica Lynch," a saga of the rescue of the celebrated Army private from an Iraqi hospital.

Both movies are expected to be ratings blockbusters, but because they are so similar thematically, TV critics say that airing them on the same night will only split the audience.

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