Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY -- A district court judge has found one of Elizabeth Smart's accused kidnappers competent to stand trial. Wanda Barzee also has pleaded guilty in the attempted kidnapping of Smart's cousin.
In court Monday morning, Barzee pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping, saying she was mentally ill at the time. In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors dropped other state charges relating to the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart.
"I think that Wanda feels that she's emerged from a mental illness circumstance that was very cloudy to one of more clarity, and desires to accept responsibility and move forward with her life," said defense attorney Scott Williams.
The attempted kidnapping charge stems from a case involving Smart's cousin. Charging documents say Barzee and her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell, tried to kidnap the girl, who was 15 years old at the time.
On July 24, 2002, Smart's uncle, Steven Wright, called police to report a break-in at his home. The crime scene was similar to the one when Smart was taken from her home. Wright said the intruder took off when the family heard noises and called police.
The 64-year-old Barzee was originally charged with six felonies in state court after her 2003 arrest. One of those was related to the attempted kidnapping.
Court papers say Barzee aided Mitchell in planning to take the girl from her residence to a mountain campsite, where Smart was being held.
Deputy District Attorney Alicia Cook says the deal is part of a global resolution. It includes everything that has happened in federal court, where Barzee already pleaded guilty in November to a number of charges in the Elizabeth Smart case and is awaiting sentencing. As part of that plea deal, Barzee will serve 15 years. She also agreed to testify against Mitchell.
Cook says the girl's family understands Monday's resolution.
"There are obviously some strong feelings about Ms. Barzee and the attempted kidnapping of their daughter. But they understand we are asking Ms. Barzee to cooperate in the prosecution against Mr. Mitchell. They think that is a good effort," she said.
Cook added, "Through this plea we were able to accomplish Wanda taking responsibility for the conduct involving both Elizabeth Smart and another victim who fortunately was not kidnapped but there was a kidnap attempt."
Barzee faces up to 15 years in prison when she is sentenced on the state charge May 21. She is scheduled to be sentenced on the federal charges May 19.
Prosecutors could recommend the sentences run together.
Williams says Barzee has emerged from mental illness that was very cloudy and has decided to take responsibility and move forward with her life.