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Profile of Wanda Barzee: Brian Mitchell's Wife

By , | Posted - Mar 14th, 2003 @ 12:57pm



SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Two days after her arrest, Wanda Barzee remains the mystery woman in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart.

Police have said little about the excommunicated member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taken into custody along with her drifter husband, Brian David Mitchell. But her family says Barzee -- a 57-year-old former professional cake decorator and beautician -- changed dramatically after meeting Mitchell and that she became completely devoted to the self-proclaimed prophet.

Police say Barzee played some role in the June 5 kidnapping, fleeing into the foothills above the Smart's Salt Lake City home with her husband, where they camped for two months.

She was with the two as they traveled back and forth to San Diego and may have been alone with the teen while her husband served six days in a California jail for vandalizing a church.

Amid the dark-suited men and floral-dressed women working at the LDS church headquarters, the couple stuck out. Barzee was often seen panhandling with her husband, both dressed like extras from a Christmas nativity scene.

On the streets, Barzee was known as "God Adorn Us," said Ed Snoddy, a homeless outreach worker who met the couple three years ago.

Barzee's life has been filled with turmoil. As a child she was molested and her first husband was violent, said one of her sons, Mark Thompson.

"I can still see him hitting her," Thompson, a 32-year-old construction worker, said of his parent's relationship.

Mitchell's father also spoke about Barzee's first marriage.

"She'd come from a very troubled marriage, a very violent husband. So they were two walking invalids, psychologically," said Shirl Mitchell. "She was always very deferential to him."

Barzee fled that first marriage, leaving behind her six children. Thompson, then 11, said he does not remember her saying goodbye. But four years later they repaired their estranged relationship and he moved in with his mother and her new husband, Mitchell.

"I lived with them until they went all crazy and homeless," he said.

Although they were becoming "more fanatical," it was one night about a dozen years ago that Thompson remembers in particular. He was shaken awake by the couple in the wee hours.

"They said 'We saw angels. They talked to us,"' he said. After that, his mother and stepfather were always praying. The two started shunning modern medicine and relied solely on herbal remedies, he said.

"I was like, 'Whoa, I've got to move,"' Thompson said. "I told my friends that they might even sacrifice me or something. It was the look in their eyes."

Shortly after that, the couple sold their possessions and began living on the streets.

Before the conversations with angels and prophets, Thompson said the couple were often combustible and yelled when they fought.

"She kinda controlled him in ways," he said. "She would yell at him like, 'Get out of my kitchen' and he was always like, 'Yes dear."'

Thompson remembers his mother as loving, but also selfish and "in her own world."

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

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