Elizabeth's Road Home

<b><i>48 Hours</i></b> Has The Latest On The Family, The Suspects And The Investigation

Elizabeth Smart is home with her family at last, her long nightmare at an end. But many questions remain about the nine-month ordeal endured by Elizabeth and her family. 48 Hours Investigates gets the inside story on the investigation, and the heroic role in it played by her little sister, Mary Katherine, age 10.

Despite criticism of police handling of the case, top investigator Cory Lyman is smiling. "We'll gladly take the beating for this outcome, you know. We're so pleased that it turned out this way," he told CBS News Correspondent Jane Clayson in an exclusive interview for 48 Hours Investigates

48 Hours Investigates has been following this story from its beginning. Below is more of our exclusive coverage of the Smart case.

It may be proof that miracles can happen. Police say Elizabeth Smart, the young girl who vanished from her bedroom nine months ago, has been found alive, riding in the car of a drifter who once worked at the family's home.

The Smart family, including Elizabeth's siblings, shared their thoughts on the long ordeal of the search, in an exclusive interview two months ago with CBS News Correspondent Jane Clayson on 48 Hours. Here's her report.

On a recent winter evening, Elizabeth Smart should have been performing with Utah's most promising musicians. Though she wasn't there, the young harp player took center stage: her angelic face projected on a screen in the concert hall she once played in.

Her face has been inescapable in Salt Lake City, and so have the haunting questions that have lingered here for seven months: Who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart, and where is she now? Jane Clayson reports.

Elizabeth's mother and father reveal important new details about what happened in their home, and investigators share their theory of how the abductor might have escaped. And, for the first time, you'll hear from their children, Elizabeth's brothers and sisters: Charles, 16, Andrew, 12, Edward, 8, William, 4, and Mary Katherine, 10. Mary Katherine is the only eyewitness to the kidnapping. Their parents asked us not to show their faces close up during the conversation.

What would Mary Katherine say to her sister if she could? "I miss her and our whole family loves her and wants her to come back to us."

Before June 5th of last year, the Smarts led the kind of life most people would consider blessed: a happy marriage and six beautiful children.

Elizabeth is the oldest daughter. She loved music, and playing the harp. She began to play in kindergarten, and dreamed of going to Julliard one day. Her parents were proud of her dedication.

Mary Katherine shared Elizabeth's love of music. They played together often. It was just one part of their special bond. In a family of six children, the two sisters shared just about everything, including a bedroom.

"She would do anything for Mary Katherine. She adored her. I mean she they were very very close even though there are six years between them, they are very, very close sisters," says Lois.

On the evening of the kidnapping, Elizabeth and her parents attended an award ceremony at her middle school. She received many awards.

Later, at home, as the family got ready for bed, Ed made sure the doors were all locked. He didn't turn on the alarm. "We never set the alarm at night when we were all home," Ed says.

"If the children got up and moved, it would set the alarm off. And so we just, we're not going to bother with it," says Lois.

Before she went to bed, the family got together. "We had family prayers and as always they always come and give us a kiss good night and say, 'We love you'" says Lois.

"I just remember her coming over and giving me a big hug and a kiss and saying good night, and the two girls going off into their room, and that was the last time I saw her," says Ed, crying.

At about 1 a.m., detectives say, someone broke into the house. But Ed and Lois did not know anything was wrong for several hours, until just before 4 a.m., when Mary Katherine came in and woke her parents up. She told them her sister was gone. Her parents thought she was having a bad dream. Ed went from room to room, and didn't find her.

Says Ed: "I remember hearing Mary Katherine saying 'You're not going to find her. A man took her. A man took her with a gun.'"

They still believed that Mary Katherine was imagining things until Lois discovered a cut screen. "The moment of sheer panic was when the screen, when Lois saw that screen, was kind of the defining moment, when you know Elizabeth isn't here. You know maybe somebody really has taken her," Ed says.

As the search for Elizabeth began, her parents discovered why Mary Katherine waited two hours and 45 minutes before telling her parents about the gunman.

Says Lois: "(Mary Katherine) said that she was pretending that she was asleep, and could hear the man talking to Elizabeth. She said Elizabeth had stubbed her toe on the chair that was in her room, and she said 'Ouch' and the man said something to the effect, 'You better be quiet, and I won't hurt you.'

"He never threatened Mary Katherine but hearing those words effected her like he had, so she never said a word, and she acted as though she was asleep."

As she was about to be led away, Mary Katherine heard Elizabeth ask her abductor: 'Why are you doing this?' Mary Katherine told detectives she thought he heard him say he was after ransom.

According to her parents, Mary Katherine thought the kidnapper's voice seemed somehow familiar. But she couldn't pinpoint where or when she had heard it.

After the gunman left the bedroom with her sister, Mary Katherine could tell by the sounds of the floor creaking where Elizabeth and the abductor were still in the house. When she thought it was safe, she jumped up from her bed, but was stopped in her tracks.

She told her parents that she could see the kidnapper and Elizabeth down the hallway. She saw a gun. It looked like he was peering into the boys' bedroom.

"She was worried that he saw her and she hopped back into bed and just stayed there," says Ed.

Says Lois: "I want the world to know how brave and courageous she was. Because in a nine-year-old's mind, it could have been her whole family gone and she was the only one there. And she absolutely did the right thing. And I want her to know that. That we are so proud of her, she did the right thing."

"Had she, you know come running in or yelled, you know this, this person could have killed the entire family," says Ed. But Mary Katherine says she doesn't feel brave.

That morning, Ed went on television and asked the kidnapper to return his daughter. A massive search for Elizabeth began. After a few days, detectives broke the news that they were closing in on a solid lead.

Find out what they had uncovered, in Part II.