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Police Find Knives Used by Smart Kidnapping Suspect

Police Find Knives Used by Smart Kidnapping Suspect

Posted - Mar. 21, 2003 at 1:10 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Investigators who searched campsites where Elizabeth Smart said she was held captive for two months found several knives, one at each of the hidden camps.

Police are trying to determine which of the knives self-styled prophet Brian Mitchell allegedly used to abduct the girl last June, a source close to the investigation told The Associated Press on Friday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mitchell kept a knife at each of several hidden camps, moving from camp to camp to avoid thousands of volunteers who searched the Wasatch foothills after her abduction.

The knives were recovered after the girl pointed out her camps from a helicopter last weekend.

At one of the camps investigators found a hole dug in the ground and covered with boards where they believe Elizabeth and her captors shielded themselves from helicopters equipped with infrared sensors, which can detect body heat, the official said.

Elizabeth also was held for a time by a cable tethered to a tree.

Mitchell has been accused of taking Elizabeth at knifepoint from her bedroom by slicing a window screen at the home. His wife, Wanda Barzee, also was charged Tuesday for the kidnapping.

Mitchell took the girl as a plural wife, prosecutors have said. Police last week recovered a 27-page manifesto in which Mitchell talks about assembling seven wives. He was charged with sexually abusing Elizabeth, now 15.

The network of camps was found scattered on the upper slopes of west-facing Dry Creek Canyon, about 3.5 miles from the Smart home, where Elizabeth had a view of the city. Her father, Ed Smart, has said Elizabeth could hear searchers calling her name, but didn't respond because she feared for her life.

Richard Townsend, director of the state crime lab, said Friday that his lab has received a "boatload of evidence" from the police investigation.

"We're in the early stages" of assessing evidence "from shoe impressions to weapons to clothing. It continues to funnel in. We're only beginning to start our analysis," he said.

Townsend said the circumstances of Elizabeth's abduction were startling even to law enforcement veterans.

"Utah pumps out some dandies. When we get a strange case, it's really strange," he said.

Nine months after her abduction, Elizabeth was found March 12 walking with Mitchell and Barzee in the Salt Lake suburb of Sandy. Dressed in robes, the trio was returning from a winter in San Diego.

Prosecutors said the couple held Elizabeth for her first two months with little food or water at the makeshift camps, recognizable in some cases only by a fire ring.

Mitchell, a frequent panhandler in downtown Salt Lake City, did odd jobs for the Smarts for five hours in November 2001. He was hired by Elizabeth's mother, Lois Smart, who encountered the drifter outside a downtown mall.

For months, police focused on the late Richard Ricci, a career criminal who also worked as a handyman for the Smarts in 2001. Ricci was arrested for parole violations and was in prison when he suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage last August.

Investigators have drawn criticism for concentrating on Ricci even after Elizabeth's younger sister told authorities in October that Mitchell could have been the man that took her sister.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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