SALT LAKE CITY - Elizabeth Smart waited more than eight years for the word she heard Friday.
"Guilty," the court clerk said, after a federal jury deliberated five hours to convict street preacher Brian David Mitchell of snatching Smart from her bed, at knifepoint in the dead of night, and having sex with her while he held her captive for nine months.
Smart smiled as the verdict was read, while a bedraggled, bearded Mitchell sat at the defense table, singing hymns with his hands before his chest, as if in prayer.
"I hope that not only is this an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened," Smart said, after she walked arm in arm with her mother through a crush of media people.
It was a dramatic end to a tale that captured the nation's attention since she disappeared in June 2002: a 14-year-old girl mysteriously taken from her home, the intense search and her eventual discovery walking Salt Lake City's streets with her captors.
Smart, now 23, flew back from her Mormon mission in Paris to take the stand, and recount her "nine months of hell." "The beginning and the end of this story is attributable to a woman with extraordinary courage and extraordinary determination, and that's Elizabeth Smart," federal prosecutor Carlie Christensen said outside the courthouse.
"She did it with candor and clarity and a truthfulness that I think moved all of us," she said.
Smart described in excruciating detail how she woke up one night to the feel of a cold, jagged knife at her throat and being whisked away by Mitchell to his camp in the foothills near the family's Salt Lake City home.
Within hours of the kidnapping, she testified, she was forced into a polygamous marriage with him. She was tethered to a metal cable and subjected to near-daily rapes while being forced to use alcohol and drugs.