June 5, 2002 -- Police and desperate family members are searching for a 14-year-old girl who authorities say was kidnapped at gunpoint from her Salt Lake City home early this morning.
An unknown assailant entered the house in the affluent Arlington Hills/Federal Heights neighborhood and abducted Elizabeth Smart at around 2 a.m., police believe.
The girl's father, Edward Smart, had a tearful message to the assailant. "Please let her go, please … There's no reason you should have her," he said during a press conference late today.
Authorities have not received a legitimate ransom request, said Police Chief C.F. "Rick" Dinse. He announced a $10,000 reward for Elizabeth's return or the arrest and conviction of her abductor.
Dinse said police, working with state law enforcement agencies and the FBI, were searching the region as well as looking at areas in southeast Idaho and southwest Wyoming.
"Our impression is it was not random," Dinse said when asked if Elizabeth or the Smart family was targeted. But the police chief added it was possible that the crime may have been arbitrary.
Hours Passed Before Search Began
Authorities did not begin the search for Elizabeth until several hours after she was abducted. The man threatened Elizabeth and her 9-year-old sister, who shares a room with her. Because of the threat, the younger sister waited about two hours before telling her parents what had happened, police said.
"It looks like he came in through the window and came right upstairs to her bedroom," the girl's cousin, Nicole Smart, told ABCNEWS.com. At a press conference in Salt Lake City, police would not describe how the assailant entered the house.
Elizabeth was wearing red pajamas, and was allowed to take a pair of shoes with her.
Searchers have been looking for Elizabeth since early this morning, aided by helicopters and canine units. The family's home is for sale, according to The Associated Press, and police are investigating who might have toured the house.
Nicole Smart said the family had no idea who might have taken the girl.
Police described the suspect as a dark-haired white male, roughly 5 feet 8 inches tall. The man did not call Elizabeth by name and did not appear familiar with the house, police told The AP.
Elizabeth has blond hair and is 5 feet 6 inches tall.
"She's just really quiet, she's sweet, she's tall and skinny, and very talented," Nicole Smart said. "She's just really quiet and shy."