Barzee finishes testifying in Elizabeth Smart kidnapping trial

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SALT LAKE CITY — Wanda Barzee testified Friday that her estranged husband, accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart, preyed on Barzee's vulnerabilities and religious devotion to control and manipulate her.

It was the second day of testimony for Barzee in the federal trial for Brian David Mitchell. She continued to testify about her and Mitchell's history leading up to the kidnapping of Smart.

Defense attorney Robert Steele asked Barzee, "Do you believe Mr. Mitchell has had mental health problems?" She responded with a simple, "Yes."

He would go downtown and minister and stalk young girls out and try to find out where they lived.

–Wanda Barzee

She became emotional testifying that Mitchell told her he had revelations about restoring the law of celestial marriage and they were given a command to take young girls between 10 - 14 years old in 2001.

Mitchell told her it was definitely a 14-year-old girl he was after and she says he gave her a priesthood blessing saying to take a young woman by force. She said she was devastated.

Barzee testified that it was in April of 2001 that Mitchell told her they had five weeks to prepare for the first young wife they would receive. Barzee said Mitchell bought a cable system and measured how far he would allow the 14-year-old victim to roam.

Barzee said she was stressed because she knew how drastic her life would change and that she struggled with the plan. She said she told Mitchell if the Lord didn't open the way he didn't have to do it.

Prosecutor: "He's a good liar, isn't he?" Barzee: "Yes."

Prosecutors started cross-examining Barzee and questioned her about Mitchell's controlling nature. At one point she tearfully said at one time Mitchell had the idea to cook her daughter's pet rabbit and feed it to her. Barzee told her daughter it was chicken.

Some of Barzee's family members, including her mother, were in court Friday. Her niece, Tina Mace, last saw Barzee in the 1990s. She said Barzee's testimony was sad but no excuse for kidnapping.

"To me it's pretty heartbreaking. To actually imagine her be talked into this belief system that he got her to believe in, it's just shocking. I'm still shocked," she said.

"I can see her believing in his beliefs. But when you kidnap somebody at knifepoint and tie her to a tree, that's just way overboard," she added.

He was a great deceiver.

–Wanda Barzee

Mace said she hopes Mitchell is sent to prison.

Barzee and Mitchell were accused of kidnapping Smart from her room in 2002 and holding her captive for nine months before being discovered. Barzee, who for years was found incompetent to stand trial, struck plea deals in both her state and federal cases after her competency was restored. She was sentenced earlier this year to federal prison in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Friday is the last day of court before a week-long break for Thanksgiving. The trial is scheduled to run through Dec. 10.


Story written with contributions from Pat Reavy and Sandra Yi.


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