Upstanding citizen Ed Smart lives happily with his wife and five children in Salt Lake City. Until youngest daughter Mary Katherine is the traumatized sole witness to the kidnapping from their home of sister Elisabeth. After treating Ed and eldest Charles as prime suspects for statistics' sake, undermining initially wide community support, they concentrate on jailed pedophile Richard Ricci. For years, the investigation goes nowhere, even after if becomes clear Ricci is probably Innocent. The lunatic kidnapper, homeless handyman turned mini-sect prophet 'Emmanuel', and his blindly-devoted airhead wife meanwhile indoctrinates 'adopted, chosen' Elisabeth, but fate and his alcohol demon bring him to the footlights.