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Wanda Barzee expected to plead guilty



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SALT LAKE CITY -- There's been a major development in the case against one of Elizabeth Smart's accused kidnappers. Wanda Barzee is expected to plead guilty to federal charges.

Barzee is expected to make that plea in federal court Tuesday morning. This was an unexpected hearing and will be Wanda Barzee's first appearance on federal kidnapping charges.

A decorum order issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball says Barzee will be arraigned and is anticipated to "enter into a guilty plea" as part of a plea deal with the United States.

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A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office would not release details of that plea agreement or say if Barzee would testify against her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell.

"I can't really think of any other reason why she would be, first of all, taking her case into the federal system and, second, sort of, so quickly," said local defense attorney Greg Skordas. "It just sounds like, based on that, that she must have resolved something so that she can help the U.S. Attorney's Office in its prosecution of Mitchell."

Skordas said we won't know for sure until that plea is entered, but it could be soon if competency hearings for Mitchell are supposed to wrap up by the end of this year. If Barzee does testify against him, it could mean a lighter sentence for her.

The state's case against Barzee has been delayed since 2004, when a judge ruled she was incompetent to stand trial. In May of 2008, officials at the state hospital began forcibly medicating her. In October, doctors at the hospital said Barzee's competency had been restored.

Her competency review hearing was scheduled to continue on Thursday, but it's unclear how the federal case will affect it. The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office would not comment on that.

Last year, a federal grand jury issued an indictment, charging Barzee and Mitchell with kidnapping Elizabeth Smart on June 5, 2002. They were found with her nine months later in Salt Lake City.

A federal competency hearing for Mitchell is scheduled to begin at the end of the month.

Ed Smart spoke with KSL Monday afternoon. He said he was asked not to comment on the developments in this case. The only statement he made was that he is behind the U.S. Attorney and grateful the case is moving forward.

Smart said he will be in court tomorrow and will make a formal statement after the hearing.

Barzee's attorney did not return our calls.

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Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi and Becky Bruce.

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Sandra Yi

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