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Dec 11 10 11:34 AM
December 10, 2010 A homeless preacher has been found guilty of kidnapping teenager Elizabeth Smart, whose abduction and nine-month ordeal gripped much of America more than eight years ago. (REUTERS FILE PHOTO)
SALT LAKE CITY - A homeless street preacher was found guilty Friday of the 2002 kidnapping of a Utah girl who was abducted from her bed in the middle of the night and endured a harrowing, nine-month ordeal in captivity.
A U.S. federal court jury in Salt Lake City convicted Brian David Mitchell, 57, on two counts: kidnapping and unlawful transportation of minor across state lines to engage in sexual activity.
The self-styled prophet, who had been ejected from court daily for disrupting the trial, loudly sang the hymn, “He Died, the Great Redeemer Died” in the packed courtroom as the verdicts were read in the high-profile U.S. criminal case.
Smart, who was 14 at the time of the abduction and is now 23, testified in graphic detail about her abduction at knife-point, rape and captivity. She exchanged smiles with her mother, Lois, in the front row of the courtroom gallery.
Mitchell’s step-daughter, Rebecca Woodridge, sobbed.
Prosecutors told jurors during the six-week trial that Mitchell kidnapped Smart from her Salt Lake City home on June 5, 2002, with the intent of forcing her to live as his bride.
Defense lawyers told the seven-man, five-woman jury that Mitchell was under the delusion he was acting on a commandment from God and should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Mitchell faces a maximum punishment of life in prison when he is sentenced on May 25.
Outside court, Smart said she was “thrilled” with the verdict. “I hope that not only is this an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened, and that we can speak out and we will be heard,” Smart said.
Smart was rescued on March 12, 2003, after passersby spotted her walking with Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, on a street in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy.
Barzee pleaded guilty in November 2009 to conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping and is serving a 15-year prison term. She cooperated with prosecutors in the case.
Dec 11 10 11:42 AM
By Stephen Hunt
The Salt Lake Tribune
For Elizabeth Smart, Friday’s guilty verdict for the man who kidnapped and sexually assaulted her at the age of 14 was a message for others.
"I am so thrilled with the verdict, but not only that I am so thrilled to stand before the people of America today and give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about what’s happened to them,"said Smart, 23, from the steps of the federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City Friday afternoon.
Smart was flanked by her parents and smiling broadly as she spoke about the conviction of Brian David Mitchell.
"I hope that this is not only an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened, and that we can speak out and we will be heard," Smart said. "Thank you to everyone for everyone’s prayers and support."
Her mother, Lois, spoke next.
"Doesn’t she glow," said Lois Smart of her daughter. "I think today is such a wonderful day...I think this is an exceptionally victorious day for us all, as mothers, as women, as daughters, that we can go forward and these things don’t have to happen to us and that there is a way to put those people behind us and that we can move forward with life."
Saying Friday’s verdict has been years in coming, Lois Smart recalled that her youngest son was just two years old when his sister was kidnapped.
"...he is now 12 and this has been his entire life, so we’re glad it’s over."
Ed Smart expressed his jubilation at Friday’s verdict with the statement: "It’s real."
"It has been so long in coming and we are so grateful as a family to have it come to an end," Ed Smart said. "I mean it truly is closure. I think it talks to our system works and where as a family we felt there were so many issues and so many problems during the nine months that Elizabeth was gone, she is home, she is well, and the system works."
A 12-member jury reached their verdict at 10:30 a.m. following five hours of deliberations that began Thursday evening.
Mitchell was convicted of interstate kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor to engage in sexual activity for holding Smart captive for nine months, including near-daily rapes and a trip to California and back. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on May 25, which allows time for a presentencing report to be completed.
Mitchell was present in the courtroom while the verdict was read, singing the LDS hymn "He Died. The Great Redeemer Died."
(To see past coverage, including transcripts of Elizabeth Smart’s testimony, visit http://breaking.sltrib.com/mitchell)
Defense attorneys had argued Mitchell was insane at the time he kidnapped a then-14-year-old Smart from her bed at knifepoint to make her a plural wife. A not guilty by reason of insanity verdict would have meant Mitchell, a self-described prophet preparing to battle the anti-Christ, would have gone to a mental health facility rather than prison.
U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen called Friday "a very historic and momentous day in the criminal justice history of this state."
"We are very pleased with this verdict. ... the success of this outcome is contributable to the exceptional effort of an extraordinary team."
But Christensen said she was most impressed with the extraordinary courage and determination of Smart, and the "candor, clarity and truthfulness" of her trial testimony.
"She is a remarkable young woman and again, the beginning and the end of this story," said Christensen.
Daisy Carlson, a neighbor of the Smarts and a family friend, brought a bunch of blue balloons and tied them to the stairwell of the Smarts’ home after she heard the verdict. She also brought white lilies, so that "Elizabeth can be at peace now."
She placed blue balloons all along the street when Smart was found in 2003.
"I did this years ago for her, and I wanted to do it again," Carlson said. "I just wanted her to relive the joy of the moment when she came."
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said: "Our hope is that the verdict may bring a small measure of comfort and peace to her and her family. Elizabeth is a courageous young woman who throughout court proceedings has been the epitome of dignity and grace, and certainly an example to us all."
Attorneys wrapped up the trial at 5:35 p.m. Thursday afternoon, handing the case to the five women and seven men who have sat through weeks of testimony. The jury deliberated Mitchell’s fate for three hours before adjourning for the night.
Prosecutor Alicia Cook said she "witnessed some of the finest lawyering that I have seen in my career."
In the face of damning evidence his client kidnapped, raped and degraded Smart, Mitchell’s attorney had difficulty saying anything positive about the 57-year-old, self-proclaimed prophet in his closing arguments Thursday.
"He is not a good person," Robert Steele told jurors.
Instead, Steele claimed that Mitchell was mentally ill and suffering from the delusion that he was commanded by God when he abducted Smart.
Rebecca Woodridge, Mitchell’s former step-daughter who has said Mithcell sexually abused her, said Friday’s verdict made her feel "sick to her stomach." Woodridge has insisted Mitchell was legally insane.
"He knew what he was doing, but was unable to control what he was doing," she said.
Woodridge said she will now try to "move on," and hoped the verdict would bring closure for the Smart family as well.
"I’m happy for her [Smart], but sad for Brian," she said.
During their closing arguments, prosecutors argued against the notion that Mitchell was insane when he committed the crimes. U.S. District Attorney Diana Hagen told jurors that, according to trial testimony, Mitchell disobeyed revelations from God "all the time."
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball instructed jurors Thursday that, for an insanity verdict, they must find Mitchell has presented "clear and convincing evidence that, as a result of severe mental disease or defect, he suffered from a delusional belief that he was acting under the direct command of God."
Attorneys for both sides presented witnesses and experts to bolster their arguments during the course of the 20-day trial. The trial’s most gripping testimony came when Smart, 23, told jurors about the night Mitchell abducted her and the harrowing time she spent with him and his wife, Wanda Barzee.
During her three days on the witness stand, Smart spoke in a matter-of-fact tone to jurors, who listened in rapt attention.
She described the camp in the mountains above her home that Mitchell had prepared, using a cable to tether her, and recounted how he raped her after pronouncing her a plural wife. She testified that Mitchell threatened the lives of her family if she tried to escape, and she shared with jurors the decision she eventually reached.
"No matter what it took, I would live," Smart testified. "I would survive and do everything he told me to do to keep my life and my family’s life intact."
Following her testimony, Smart has watched the rest of the trial, with her parents by her side.
Several members of Mitchell’s family also took the witness stand, describing his troubled upbringing and the bizarre behavior that followed.
Shirl Mitchell, his father, gave an often rambling testimony about Mitchell’s rebellious childhood. Shirl Mitchell discussed the book he spent much of his life working on, Spokesman for the Infant God or Goddess, and said his father had spent time at Utah State Hospital for mental illness. His son would write a smaller tome, The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, which he would use to justify his religious beliefs that he is destined to fight the Antichrist.
Mitchell’s mother, Irene, recalled her son getting into trouble and failing to graduate from high school. She testified about an incident in 1970 when Mitchell was referred to juvenile court for exposing himself to an 8-year-old girl.
Mitchell’s stepdaughters told jurors Mitchell had sexually abused them.
Barzee’s daughter from a previous marriage, LouRee Gayler, testified she was between 12 and 14 years old when Mitchell would show her pictures of nude women while they prayed alongside her mother, kiss her on the lips and thrust his pelvis at her. She also has testified that Barzee and Mitchell served her pet rabbit, Peaches, for dinner, telling her she was eating chicken.
Barzee, who has previously pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 15 years in prison for her role in the crimes, spent two days on the witness stand.
Barzee, 65, called her husband a manipulator, a liar and "a great deceiver." She told jurors his religious revelations controlled almost every aspect of their marriage and daily life. It was a revelation that he was to take seven plural wives as part of an assignment from God to restore the true church during an end-of-times battle with the Antichrist that led to Mitchell’s attempts at polygamy, she said.
But when Mitchell failed to convince adult women to marry him, he had another revelation instructing him to seek out 10- to 14-year-old girls for wives and take them by force, Barzee testified.
The final phase of the trial was a duel between experts and those who have observed Mitchell act delusional — and normal — during the three years he spent at Utah State Hospital.
The prosecution’s star expert witness, psychiatrist Michael Welner, told jurors Mitchell suffers from pedophilia, antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders and psychopathy — none of which qualify as severe mental defects that would render him guilty by reason of insanity. Welner and expert witness Noel Gardner, a psychiatrist with South Valley Mental Health, both pointed to Mitchell’s ability to control his appearance, demeanor and persona based on situations he finds himself in.
But two other experts, clinical psychologist Richart DeMier and state hospital psychiatrist and clinical director Paul Whitehead, came to different conclusions. DeMier testified that Mitchell was a paranoid schizophrenic, in part, because of his religious delusions about a battle with the Antichrist and having a child with Barzee even though she has had a hysterectomy.
Whitehead told jurors Mitchell suffers from a delusional disorder, which means his mental illness can be encapsulated and he can appear normal unless the delusion is triggered by religious ideas.
— Reporters Katie Drake and Bob Mims contributed to this report.
Dec 11 10 12:18 PM
Dec 11 10 12:37 PM
Elizabeth Smart smiled in court as Brian David Mitchell was convicted yesterday of kidnapping her and subjecting her to nine months of sexual and mental torture that included repeated rapes, forced consumption of drugs and frequent threats to kill her.
In finding Mitchell guilty, the jury rejected his legal defense that he was too mentally ill to be held liable for the crime.
Speaking for the first time since the verdict, Smart said she hopes her story helps other victims speak out about the crimes they've endured.
"I hope this will give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about what has happened to them," said Smart. "I hope that this is not only an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened."
Earlier in the day, Smart's lawyers expressed their happiness with the jury's decision and said the case hinged on Smart's brave testimony.
"This is a very historic and momentous day in the criminal justice history of this state," said Carlie Christensen, U.S. attorney for Utah. "We are very pleased the jury reached the verdict that they did."
"The beginning and end of this story is attributable to a woman with extraordinary courage and extraordinary determination and that's Elizabeth Smart," said Christensen. "That young woman had the ability and willingness to recall the graphic details of the nine month captivity."
"She did it with candor and clarity and truthfulness that I think moved all of us and gave a very powerful and credible story," she said. "She is a remarkable young woman."
Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet who was frequently removed from the courtroom because he would break into song, will be sentenced on May 25 and could face life in prison.
As the verdict was read, Mitchell sang religious hymns loudly while his lawyer tried to get him to be quiet.
Jurors, intent on remaining anonymous and identified themselves only by their numerical positions on the panel, told reporters that that the trial took an emotional toll on them. Still, they said they were "honored" to help Smart get justice after so many years.
"When you sit for hours at a time and listen to in credibly unbelievable things that happened to a young lady like Elizabeth Smart you have to be pretty callous to be able to walk away without having something sticking in your heart," said Juror No. 9.
Juror No. 14 said that after the first day of testimony jurors returned to the deliberation room and did not say a word while four of five of the members were crying.
"I'm privileged to have shaken her hand and given her a hug," he said. "I pray that Elizabeth can go forward with her life and enjoy every rich thing life has to offer."
Following the trial, Smart will leave Utah for Paris, France, to complete a Mormon church mission.
Mitchell's former stepdaughter, Rebecca Woodridge, told reporters that she was surprised at the verdict.
"I think he should have been found not guilty and been sent somewhere to find the reason that he does the things he does," said Woodridge. Jurors spent just over five hours deliberating before coming to a verdict just after 10:30 a.m.
While defense attorneys never argued that Smart was not kidnapped and repeatedly raped by Mitchell, they spent much of the trial arguing that Mitchell is not mentally sane and cannot be liable for his actions.
But the prosecution in their closing arguments claimed the Mitchell is faking mental illness.
"He's a predatory chameleon with the cunning to adapt his behavior to serve his needs and desires at any given moment," Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Hagen told the jury.
The trial spanned five grueling weeks, during which Smart took the stand to describe in frank language what happened during her nine-month captivity.
During the three days Smart spent on the stand last month, she gave excruciating personal testimony that painted Mitchell as a cruel religious zealot obsessed with sex.
Speaking in a controlled voice, her words tinged with anger, Smart called Mitchell selfish and a "hypocrite" who raped her at every chance he got even while proclaiming himself to be God's servant.
Smart, now 23, told the jury that Mitchell talked to her during her captivity about what would happen if police found them.
"He knew he would go to prison. But then he also said that I ... and the other wives ... would come and testify in his behalf," Smart testified. "And he said that he would be released and he would be killed and lie dead in the street for three days and then he would be resurrected and he would go on to fight the Anti-Christ."
She also spoke of being forced to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, which disgusted her.
Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped from her bed in Utah. She has said she was forced to "marry" Mitchell in an impromptu ceremony shortly after the kidnapping and that he would often beg her for sex, angering his accomplice Wanda Barzee, who was jealous of the attention Mitchell gave Smart.
Remaining poised throughout her testimony, Smart detailed her nightmarish nine months with Mitchell and Barzee. She said that at one point she was confronted by a police officer looking for Elizabeth Smart and he wanted to look under the veil Mitchell made her wear. She said she was so afraid of Mitchell's death threats that she didn't speak up and was heartsick that the officer wasn't more persistent.
The officer, Det. Ron Richey, has said he was devastated to learn later that he had been looking right at Smart and didn't do more to help her.
When she was finally rescued, she initially denied her identity out of fear that Mitchell would make good on his death threats.
Barzee pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping charges last year and was later sentenced to 15 years in prison.
At one point in the trial, Smart stormed out of the courtroom after a psychiatrist testified that she had baby names picked out in case she became pregnant by the man who held her captive.
Psychiatrist Paul Whitehead told the court that Smart had been "chastised" by Mitchell and Barzee, according to The Associated Press.
"Mr. Mitchell was talking with Miss Smart about having babies to the point where Miss Smart actually picked out a name in case that happened," Whitehead testified.
As Whitehead described Smart choosing a baby name, Smart left her front row seat in the courtroom and went to a private area. Her mother quickly followed.
Mitchell has been removed from the courthouse nearly every day for refusing to stop singing hymns, and one time was removed and the trial temporarily halted after he to appeared have suffered a seizure, collapsing in court.
Smart told the court that her kidnapper had grandiose religious illusions, referring to himself as the "Davidic King" or the "one mighty and strong," but many of the prayers he said out loud were for God to make Smart "perform her wifely duties." Mitchell's lawyer appeared to be trying to depict his client as severely mentally ill, whose extreme religious views and abusive practices indicate the depths of his insanity.
Smart said Mitchell held bizarre religious views, melding traditional Mormon philosophy with new ageism and his own doctrine that included a book he wrote, "The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah," which he made Smart read.
She said Mitchell forced her to pray for lengthy periods and said Mitchell would pray out loud for Smart to have sex with him.
"The things that he would say in his prayers were things that I would never have said," Smart said. "He would say, 'Please bless me,' that I would be able to cope with my wifely duties and be able to rise to the occasion and fulfill my wifely duties. That is about the farthest thing from my prayers."
Mitchell also had Barzee make up a book of hymns and would make Smart sing whatever songs he chose.
She testified that Mitchell declared that he was the one destined to fight the anti-Christ because he was the "one mighty and strong" and the "Davidic King."
"Nine months of living with him and seeing him proclaim that he was God's servant and called to do God's work and everything he did to me ... is something that I know that God would not tell somebody to do," she said. "God would never tell someone to kidnap her at knifepoint from their bed, from her sister's side ... never continue to rape her and sexually abuse her."
Lawyer Robert Steele also had Smart describe Mitchell's belief in a healing process he called lymphology, which involved touching places that hurt and "bouncing," jumping up and down. She said he was a restless sleeper who frequently got up during the night to bounce for several minutes, sometimes on one leg, before going back to bed.
Steele asked Smart on the stand if she ever saw Mitchell lose consciousness.
"Yes. We were in California at the time. He was in the middle of raping me and he experienced a seizure," she said calmly.
Smart made an effort to get help when she was allowed to go to a bathroom in a Hard Rock Cafe and tried to scratch "Help" on the bathroom wall.
She also contributed to her rescue after Mitchell took them to California. She told Mitchell that God wanted them to return to Salt Lake City. She suggested he pray on it, and said he could probably kidnap another wife from a Mormon camp for girls in the area.
Mitchell, she said, prayed about her suggestion and decided to return to Salt Lake City where Smart was eventually discovered and rescued.
Dec 12 10 11:04 AM
By Peg McENTEE
As Ed Smart left the courtroom, he glanced over, cocked a thumb and quietly said, “It’s real.”
I couldn’t help but laugh — it was the same thing he said to a crowd all those years ago when his daughter finally came home.
Except for the sentencing of Brian David Mitchell for kidnapping and interstate transport for sexual abuse of a minor, the Smart family’s 8½-year ordeal ended when the jury foreman spoke: Guilty. Guilty.
At first, Elizabeth Smart ventured just a small smile. Later in the day, she was incandescent. Her passage from captivity to freedom, and ultimately to justice, was complete.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about the day Elizabeth was taken at knifepoint from her home and subjected to what we much later learned was unrelenting sexual torture. It was shocking, and it sent our staff into one of the longest continual rushes of reporting that I’d ever experienced.
Later that week, working close to midnight and editing a story from a reporter in the field, something told me Elizabeth was gone. Forever.
Not much else in my life has made me happier than to know that I was wrong — not least because I had a blue-eyed, blond daughter who then was almost exactly Elizabeth’s age.
The whole story would unreel slowly and in increments. Investigators chased substantive clues and, sometimes, ephemera. The wrong man was tagged as the likely perpetrator, and he would die in prison before Elizabeth Smart came home.
Smart would be led from a campsite heartbreakingly close to her home to San Diego County, where many wondered about the robed trio and some tried to alert the police that something was wrong.
But in her quiet way, Elizabeth was studying Mitchell, learning his mentality and dirty tricks, and she used his own shrewd religiosity to bring them back to Utah, where two alert couples spotted them in Sandy.
A photograph of Lois and Elizabeth Smart that day, hands intertwined, will be with me forever.
But during those months, there was an undercurrent that persists today. The fact of an innocent 14-year-old girl being taken at knifepoint has become, in some minds, a symptom of a “submissive culture” that ill prepares its young to fight against those who would harm them.
Translated, that suggests that the devoutly Mormon Smart family was somehow “responsible” for the crime against Elizabeth.
Well, that completely underestimates, and devalues, the strength and courage the extended Smart family showed during the months that Elizabeth was gone and in the many years since.
When she might have retreated, Elizabeth Smart went to East High School, played her harp in public, worked at a bank and enrolled in Brigham Young University. Before and during her LDS mission in France, she has testified in open court. Her inner compass and strength is beyond question.
Lois Smart confronted Mitchell’s wife, Wanda Barzee, on the day of her sentencing. On Friday, the Mitchell verdict made for an “exceptionally victorious day” as mothers, as women, as daughters who can go forward and understand that “these things don’t have to happen to us.”
Lois did say to me once that her strength, and that of her daughters, is a legacy from her mother and Ed’s, as well as the tough, courageous women who crossed the plains to come to Utah.
And in the years since 2003, Elizabeth Smart has become something of a model for children who, like her, have been taken from their families and brutalized. Unlike Smart, all too many never have come home.
A few years ago, she collaborated on a small book titled You’re Not Alone — The Journey From Abduction to Empowerment.
In it, she and four other young adults who had been abducted, isolated and abused as minors described the crimes committed against them and offered practical advice on how to emerge from terror into a life worth living.
Her father has long been a strong voice in the public forum on child abduction and sexual abuse. He has raised money for the Internet Crimes Against Children task force in Utah and around the country and, among other things, has helped facilitate legislation relating to sex offenders.
Brian David Mitchell is to be sentenced on May 25, 2011. He could be handed what I consider a fair term of life in prison.
More importantly, the Smart family — and one day, I hope, every family that has endured such torment — can breathe again, sustained in their faith and fulfilled by justice.
Dec 18 10 10:27 AM
By Rosemary Winters
When Elizabeth Smart emerged from a federal courthouse Friday in Salt Lake City, she celebrated not only her own triumph but also the possibility of justice for all victims.
Eight years after Brian David Mitchell kidnapped her and subjected her to near-daily rapes, a jury found Mitchell guilty.
“I am so thrilled to stand before the people of America today,” said Smart, 23, “and give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about what’s happened to them.”
Advocates for survivors of sexual violence say Smart’s willingness to confront her offender under the nation’s gaze will help empower other victims and dispel the stigma often associated with rape. Other observers say they have been inspired simply by her courage, poise and strength.
“There is such shame associated with sexual violence, and to have it being talked about so openly and publicly is almost a relief to some,” said Heather Stringfellow, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City. “[Smart] held [Mitchell] accountable, and that’s a very powerful message.”
In Utah, 29 percent of women older than 18 have experienced some type of sexual assault, according to a 2007 survey by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. One in nine sexual assault incidents is reported to the police.
Survivors often fear they won’t be believed or that their own behavior will be questioned, said Alana Kindness, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“I’ve been really impressed with [Smart’s] candor and her ability to express herself and talk openly about her experiences,” Kindness said. “It does give an opportunity for people to see that you can talk about it and that you can talk about it and be supported.”
After Smart began her testimony in Mitchell’s trial on Nov. 8, detailing her repeated experiences of rape as a 14-year-old girl, the Rape Recovery Center saw a spike in calls and drop-in visits for a two-week period, Stringfellow said.
“I hadn’t anticipated the fact that so many people would be triggered by listening to her testimony and reading about the case,” she said. “We’ve been overwhelmed by calls to our crisis line and people who needed assistance because her experience reminded them of their own.”
Mitchell’s violence against Smart, an “all-American girl,” highlights how tragically common violence against girls and women is, said Theresa Martinez, a sociology professor at the University of Utah.
“The way the family handled it, the way she handled it has given us a vision of healing,” Martinez said. “[Smart] can be a positive role model for young people. If such things are going to happen, people need to understand they can come through such an experience and survive.”
Smart and her parents have not been advocates by example alone. Ed Smart has championed the creation of a national alert system for kidnappings and family preparedness to prevent child abductions.
In 2006, Elizabeth Smart and her father lobbied Congress to pass a law to create a national sex-offender registry. She watched President George W. Bush sign the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act into law.
In 2008, Smart shared her experience and words of encouragement in a booklet published by the U.S. Department of Justice, “You’re Not Alone,” for survivors of abduction.
“It is important to remember that just because something bad happened to you, it doesn’t mean you are bad,” Smart wrote. “You are still entitled to every possible happiness in life.”
Fifteen-thousand copies of the pamphlet were published. Nearly half a million digital copies have been downloaded online.
After Friday’s verdict, Smart’s mother, Lois, spoke of the power of mothers, women and daughters to move forward, leaving their offenders behind.
“It is an exceptionally victorious day for us all,” she said.
Since her abduction, Elizabeth Smart has graduated from high school, studied music at Brigham Young University and soon will return to serving an LDS mission in Paris, France. She has projected a calm and confident demeanor in her public appearances.
“[Mitchell] could have totally ruined her life. Yet she had the strength to say, ‘No. I’m going to define my own life,’ ” said Kalyn Denny, a Salt Lake City resident and retired teacher who has followed Smart’s story. “I can’t imagine that any young girl wouldn’t be totally in awe of her courage and her determination.”
For Denny, 62, the day Smart was found and returned to her family on March 12, 2003, is burned in her memory. In the same way Denny remembers where she was when she heard about the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and John Lennon, she remembers the day another teacher hurried into her classroom at West Bountiful Elementary to share the remarkable news that Smart had been found alive.
“We were both just so excited. Neither one of us could believe they found her,” Denny recalled. “I don’t think brave even begins to convey the strength that [Smart] showed. She was just amazing.”
Dec 19 10 10:45 AM
December 18, 2010By stephen hunt
The Salt Lake Tribune Rebecca Woodridge, Brian David Mitchell's former step-daughter.Despite his convictions last week in federal court for kidnapping and sexually assaulting Elizabeth Smart, Brian David Mitchell “seems exactly the same,” according to a jail visitor. “He knows he was found guilty ... but he doesn’t believe he is guilty of anything, he doesn’t feel he did anything wrong,” Mitchell’s former stepdaughter, Rebecca Woodridge, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday. “He says he was acting on behalf of the Lord. And I think he truly believes that.” A U.S. District Court jury on Dec. 10 rejected the defense’s assertion that Mitchell, 57, was insane when he abducted Smart from her Salt Lake City home in June 2002, and raped the then 14-year-old girl — who was taken as a plural wife — almost daily until she was rescued nine months later.
But Woodridge feels Mitchell is mentally ill and is one of the few people who attended Mitchell’s 21-day trial as a show of support for the defendant. She says she is the only person, except for defense attorneys, who visits Mitchell at the jail.
“He smiles and says hi and asks how everything is,” she said. “But he still looks sick, health-wise.”
Her commitment is surprising given that she claims Mitchell sexually assaulted her from age 7 until she was 11 years old — abuse that coincided with Mitchell’s marriage to Woodridge’s mother, Debbie Mitchell.
“I’m not 100 percent sure why I do it,” Woodridge says of her dedication to the man who molested her.
“My forgiveness for him is a huge part,” she said. “The other part is he doesn’t have anybody. If I can be the one person he has, I can give him that.”
She added that as part of her healing process, she plans one day to confront Mitchell with what he did to her. “I’m waiting for the right time,” she said.
Mitchell is locked down 23 hours a day, and spends most of his time reading books he checks out from the jail’s in-house branch of the Salt Lake County Library.
Unified Police Lt. Michael DeNiro said Mitchell has been moved to several areas in the jail, depending on whether he is having a medical or mental heath issue.
At the present time, DeNiro said, Mitchell is on a “mixed medical and mental health unit,” where he can be closely supervised.
DeNiro said he could not comment on Mitchell’s medical issues. But Woodridge said Mitchell is on the medical unit because of recurring seizures, which she said began in January.
Mitchell brought his trial to a halt for a day when he suffered an apparent seizure in the courtroom the morning of Nov. 20, just prior to the jury being brought in and seated.
Woodridge says he routinely refuses medical treatment. But Mitchell has given jailers no other problems.
“He hasn’t given us any problems,” DeNiro said. “He is polite and answers to his name — his real name.”
DeNiro was referring to Mitchell’s use of a number of aliases, including Immanuel David Isaiah, a name he used in connection with penning a book in which he claims to be a prophet of God who was selected to restore polygamy to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mitchell is expected to remain at the jail until he is sentenced May 25 by Judge Dale Kimball. The judge could send him to a federal prison for up to life.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Smart — who testified for three days during the trial and then watched the rest of the trial with her parents — has returned to France to complete her LDS Church mission. Her obligations to the church will be completed in time for her to speak at Mitchell’s sentencing hearing.
Dec 24 10 10:24 AM
By HEATHER STRINGFELLOW
The past few weeks have found the staff and volunteers of the Rape Recovery Center scrambling. The calls to our 24-hour crisis line and visits to our Salt Lake City office have skyrocketed. It isn’t that we ever sit around waiting for clients, but our current challenge in aiding sexual assault victims is unique.
For this, we credit Elizabeth Smart.
Those of us who work with survivors of sexual violence — women, men and children — say “atta girl!” to Elizabeth. For nearly nine years, Elizabeth’s family, legal authorities and the entire community have rallied behind her. They rightfully supported her throughout a seemingly endless journey that ended with the conviction of her abductor, Brian David Mitchell.
What a thrill it was to see Elizabeth after the trial, exuding courage and sharing her victory with the entire world.
Her story resonates with so many victims of sexual assault. Yet her story is quite unlike the majority of cases we see in our work. In fact, according to “Rape in Utah,” a 2007 study commissioned by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, only 10 of 100 sexual assault victims in our state ever report to police. Our own agency data reveals that only one of those 10 cases ever gets filed, and only a handful of those end in a guilty verdict.
Let me share with you other common threads of most rape victims’ experiences (again, from the 2007 survey). One in three women in Utah will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Seventy-nine percent of the surveyed women reported being sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.
Most report being assaulted by an unspecified relative, followed by a friend or acquaintance. Indeed, “date rape” is real and prevalent in society. In contrast, rape by a stranger is rare — though it does make for dramatic television and novels.
Unlike Elizabeth Smart, most sexual assault victims fear coming forward. Those surveyed cited a sense of shame, and anxiety that they would not be believed. Many victims we see at Rape Recovery Center lack family and community support. In the daily routine of Utah’s criminal justice system, sexual assault victims do not get six weeks in court, their close relatives do not accompany them, and their stories are sliced, diced and doubted along the way. We who deal with sexual assault and its impact on victims and on society know this for certain: Every case matters. Every case that shines light on this issue makes a difference. Partly as a result of the Smart case, we know that visits to our organization and to others will keep climbing. But how will we meet victims’ needs in an economy that is barely chugging along?
The state Legislature does not fund rape recovery programs in Utah. Nor is there dedicated state funding for direct services to victims who lack health insurance. As the economy recovers, we hope our elected leaders will look seriously at creative ways to help heal victims of sexual assault. Might they create incentives or task forces like those that address gang violence and Internet crimes against children?
The Rape Recovery Center, relying only on private contributions and federal grants, sponsors workshops at middle and high schools on sexual assault prevention. Our state has much to gain by preventing rape and molestation. How gratifying it would be to see our lawmakers put money to that end.
If you were one of many who read the compelling — and frightening — testimony from Elizabeth Smart of her nine-month ordeal, you know that all sexual assault survivors deserve all possible support.
Heather Stringfellow was a sex crimes detective with the Salt Lake City Police Department and has been executive director of the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City for the past six years.
Dec 26 10 11:22 AM
Brian David Mitchell represents the worst of religion's influence on humanity.
As his trial recently made headlines, thoughtful people worried about religion's role in creating this pedophile and kidnapper. In fact, when Mitchell used his quasi-religious beliefs to justify victimizing Elizabeth Smart, religion itself came under fire.
While we decry the negative influence of religion on Mitchell, we must also marvel at religion's positive influence on Smart.In the aftermath of extreme abuse, her religious beliefs and faith in God helped her to cope, heal and transcend. If Mitchell represents the worst of religion's influence on humanity, Smart represents the best. In stark contrast with Mitchell's quirky courtroom antics, Smart demonstrated a courage and composure on the witness stand that amazed reporters. Many wondered about the source of her remarkable strength. She has been quick to credit her loving family and her faith in God while epitomizing resilience, perspective and hope that mature religious faith can confer.
In the local press, some commentators compared Mitchell to Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asserting that Smith also used claims of religious authority to victimize others.
If some people have trouble distinguishing the likes of Mitchell from Smith, Smart does not. In her testimony she denounced Mitchell as an evil hypocrite. Yet outside of the courtroom she currently serves as a volunteer missionary for the LDS Church, testifying to others of her trust in the church's teachings and founder.
Dennis Charney, M.D., Ph.D., dean of research and a professor of psychiatry at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, summarized research on prisoners of war who thrived instead of being destroyed by their experience. One of 10 resilience factors he found significant is "a personal moral compass or shatterproof set of beliefs." Daily prayer helped some of the most resilient POWs endure.
Other factors included humor, optimism, caring about others, active coping skills, exercise, social support, cognitive flexibility, facing one's fears and focusing on a hero or role model.
When my children were young I shared every mother's nightmare of something horrific happening to them — something akin to the abduction of young Elizabeth Smart. I hoped that if something bad were to happen it would happen to me, not my child. For one thing, I assumed that as an adult I would have a better chance of coping. I realize now that resilience is not merely a product of age but also of factors like a "shatterproof set of beliefs" that provide moral clarity and courage in the face of evil and confusion. Apparently even a sheltered 14-year-old can acquire such faith.
Smart may yet face challenges in sorting out all she has been through, but both her legal testimony in the courtroom and her spiritual testimony in the mission field have been clear. While Mitchell used his distorted religious ideas to justify kidnapping and abuse, Smart's religious faith and family support have helped her thrive in the aftermath of her long ordeal. Religious faith does not necessarily protect us from violence. In fact, among all the names for Deity — Creator, Savior, Messiah, Shepherd, Lamb, Mediator, Judge — God is never called "Preventer."
Faith in God helped Smart cope with violence, even violence hypocritically perpetrated in God's name. When asked by KSL-TV why she chose to serve a Mormon mission, Elizabeth said she wanted others to know what she knows:
"Whatever could happen to me, whatever happens to me, I will always be with my family," she said. "I know that there is a God and he loves us, and that no matter what people can take from you or do to you or harm you, they can't take that away from you."Wendy Ulrich, Ph.D., MBA, psychologist, author, and founder of Sixteen Stones Center for Growth
Dec 26 10 11:29 AM
By PEG MCENTEE
In committing to months, even years, of legal work, Elizabeth Smart never wavered in her insistence on seeing Brian David Mitchell tried and convicted for his horrific crimes against her.
After a federal trial that spanned six weeks, the jury filed into the court to deliver its verdict.
To Elizabeth’s left was her mother, Lois, their hands intertwined. At each “guilty,” they’d squeeze a little harder.
To her right was Mary Katherine Smart, her only sister, the one she slept, read, ran and played harp with — and the one whose sudden flash of memory helped Elizabeth come home.
All three have shown that intelligence, faith and abiding family love afforded a bulwark against the crimes that Elizabeth endured and the suffering of those left behind.
For those and many other reasons, The Salt Lake Tribune has named them Utahns of the Year.
Mary Katherine took the stand in early November, followed by her mother. Elizabeth spent much of three days on the stand, telling in excruciating detail of her kidnapping and the sexual abuse she endured for more than nine months.
As she spoke, it became clear that she had watched and analyzed Mitchell, then used that knowledge to bend him to her will — as he sought, and failed, to do to her. She recalled that after Mitchell raped her the first time, she felt marked, unclean and impure.
But then she started to think about her parents, Ed and Lois, her sister and brothers, and knew they would always love her. That she was a person of worth who would survive and rejoin her family.
Back home, her family kept up its practice of daily prayer.
“We wanted to know where she was,” Lois said earlier this week. “I remember the children praying that she’d be warm and have food. We would bless the abductor, that his heart would be softened and that he would bring her back or let her go. That she would come back.”
When she did, her entire extended family, and the community that had searched and prayed for her, too, rejoiced.
Even so, there were times when the pain of her memories cut deep, and Lois would say, “You can get through this, Elizabeth. You come from strong women. You can get through this.”
And there was another means of redemption. The late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley gave Elizabeth a blessing, telling her that she was not responsible for anything that had happened to her when she was under Mitchell’s control.
With that, Elizabeth re-immersed herself in life. She graduated from high school and went to Brigham Young University before leaving for a church mission in Paris.
Lois credits a long line of family women, on her side and in the extended Smart family, for the trio’s strength and faith. She told of how her mother, at age 3, was bitten on the knee by a rattlesnake at her parents’ Arizona homestead.
“Here’s where my faith comes in,” Lois said. “Her father gave her a priesthood blessing, that she could recover from it. She used a crutch for a year, but she did get better. My mother was a pillar of strength and faith in God, and she instilled that in all of her nine children.”
In her grandchildren, too.
Mary Katherine, now 18, testified about how, months after Elizabeth’s abduction, she remembered the name “Immanuel,” used by Mitchell the one day he worked at the Smarts’ home. Not long after, Elizabeth was spotted on a street in Sandy and came home at last.
Mary Katherine is a BYU freshman now, majoring in special education after spending her high school years working with children and adults with disabilities. She was quiet earlier this week as she sat close to her mother but let slip a quick wit.
A former teacher and arts specialist, Lois has, with her husband and daughter, worked for national initiatives on preventing child abduction. But she prefers staying home with her children, to be there when they need her.
There have been setbacks over the years. One was the thwarted prosecution in state court, where Mitchell was deemed incompetent to stand trial.
“I think that after so many years, and so many disappointments, it would have been easy to give up,” said Diana Hagan, a member of the federal prosecution team. “It was a great feeling to see them in court every step of the way, cheering you on to do what needed to be done.”
Best of all, Hagan added, was that the jurors didn’t buy the defense claim that Mitchell should be found not guilty by reason of insanity, that he thought he was called by God to kidnap Elizabeth and make her his wife.
Elizabeth Smart “always thought that was a lie,” Hagan said. It was, she added, vindication for a young woman blessed with a “subtle and mature mind.”
Throughout the years, Elizabeth Smart has worked on behalf of other victims of child abduction and sexual abuse. She collaborated on a pamphlet dedicated to helping other survivors and has indicated she’s interested in law school. Hagan said she’s delighted that Elizabeth is considering becoming a prosecuting attorney.
So here’s to the Smart women, these three and their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins — and, certainly, to the father, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and cousins who worked so hard to bring her home.
On Tuesday, I asked Lois what aspirations she has for her daughters.
“I want them to do exactly what they want to do,” she said. “I don’t want to put any limits or titles or labels on them. My mother taught me: They can do and be anything they want.”
So we all can honor the continuum of grace, courage and heart that lets Elizabeth tell others who’ve endured trials similar to hers that they can “move on after something terrible happens, and that we can speak out and we will be heard.”
Jan 19 11 8:15 PM
Insanity is a word that people hear all the time. It has become a word that encompasses a good many acts in this world. In the world of law it is meant to be a word that means a person is not responsible for his or her actions. This is the way that things sit right now in the trial of Brian David Mitchell.
Mitchell stands accused of kidnapping then 14 year old Elizabeth Smart from her bed, holding her for nine months while brutally raping her on a daily basis. Mitchell refers to himself as a prophet from God and contends that God ordered him to take Smart as his wife.
Now the defense in the case suggests that Mitchell is insane. They have said that no man who is sane could believe that he is a prophet and convince himself it is right to kidnap a young girl and marry her in an impromptu ceremony with his legal wife standing nearby.
But for eight years after Smart was rescued and Mitchell arrested, mental health workers have been testing the competency level of Mitchell. The ruling has been clear, he is not insane and is able to stand trial for his crimes.
But the defense still contends that Mitchell is not responsible. He has been doing a good job of proving this to the jury as well. Each day he is removed from the courtroom for singing hymns during the proceedings, something that the prosecution believes is a ploy.
Feb 12 11 11:01 AM
February 11, 2011UTAH STATE PRISON
A parole hearing has been scheduled for the woman convicted of her role in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, Fox 13 News has learned. Wanda Barzee is not expected to be at Thursday's parole hearing, however.Under Utah law, the parole board must hold an original hearing within a year of an inmate's conviction. Authorities tell Fox 13 Barzee will not be there -- she is currently in federal custody on charges related to Smart's kidnapping. Instead, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole has scheduled her hearing in absentia.Sources tell Fox 13 that Barzee signed a waiver and the hearing will go on without her. Members of Elizabeth Smart's family and Barzee's family can attend and speak as if she were there. Facts of the kidnapping will also be read into the record.The parole board then decides what to do with her, but Barzee is not likely to be released any time soon. She is currently serving a federal prison sentence for her role in the high-profile kidnapping running until 2018. Sources tell Fox 13 that Barzee has yet to begin serving her 1-to-15 year state prison sentence, and the parole board could set it to begin after she serves her federal sentence.Barzee testified in the trial of her husband, Brian David Mitchell, about her role in the kidnapping. Smart, then 14, was snatched from her bedroom back in 2002. She was held captive for nine months until she was found in the company of Mitchell, a homeless street preacher, and Barzee. Mitchell was convicted last year of kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes.He is scheduled to be sentenced in May.
Feb 19 11 9:16 AM
By Pat Reavy, Deseret News
Ed and Lois Smart asked the Utah State Board of Pardons and Parole to force Barzee to serve her full 15-year state sentence after she is released from federal prison, on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011UTAH STATE PRISON — A member of the Utah State Board of Pardons and Parole said Thursday he will recommend that Elizabeth Smart kidnapper Wanda Barzee be brought to the Utah State Prison after she serves her time in federal prison.
Barzee pleaded guilty in November 2009 to federal charges of kidnapping and illegally transporting then-minor Elizabeth Smart across state lines for sexual activity. As part of a larger plea deal, she then pleaded guilty in state court to the 2002 attempted kidnapping of Smart's cousin, Olivia Wright, who was 14 at the time.
Under state law, Barzee is allowed to have a review hearing before the parole board after one year. On Thursday, Barzee — who is currently serving time at a federal prison in Texas — signed a waiver excusing her from attending her initial parole hearing.
Elizabeth Smart's parents, Ed and Lois, were at the hearing and asked board member Robert Yeates to force Barzee to serve her full 15-year state sentence after she is released from federal prison.
"I never want her to have the chance of hurting another child again," Ed Smart said.
When Elizabeth was returned home, Lois Smart said her daughter "was not the girl she was when she left."
Smart used words like "strong" and "mature" to describe her daughter. She said she was raised in a strong LDS family and taught to respect people and be kind to her elders.
"That was all shattered when she came back," Lois Smart said.
Elizabeth told her mother that Barzee, a mother herself, was in on all the abuses that Elizabeth suffered during her nine months of captivity.
"She was not a mother that was kind and loving and thoughtful," Lois Smart said of Barzee. "Wanda Barzee was equally as guilty as Brian Mitchell."
Ed Smart echoed Lois' comments, telling the parole member that Barzee constantly yelled and ordered Elizabeth to endure abuses as much as Barzee's husband, Brian David Mitchell, did.
Even after Barzee plead guilty, Ed Smart said the letter Barzee eventually sent to Elizabeth was a "sorry apology" that was only two or three lines long. In court, he said Barzee showed "no sign of remorse" as she was "all smiles" when being sentenced.
Part of the reason the family agreed to the plea bargain, Smart said, was because they believed that Barzee would have to serve additional time at the Utah State Prison after she was released from federal prison.
Also in attendance at the hearing Thursday was Andrea Jenkins, one of Barzee's daughters. She did not speak during the hearing but — according to the Smarts — submitted a long letter to the parole board also asking that her mother serve her full time in state prison.
Yeates told the Smarts that he had also talked to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, which recommended that Barzee's sentence run concurrent with the federal sentence.
Upon hearing that, Ed Smart, who was back sitting in the audience at the time, shook his head and said, "Absolutely not."
"I can't even believe they would make that comment," he said.
Outside the parole board room, Smart said he was disappointed to hear the DA's office recommend a concurrent sentence and wanted to talk to them to find out if that information is accurate.
Yeates told the Smarts he would likely recommend to the full, five-member parole board that Barzee be transferred to the Utah State Prison after she serves her time in federal custody and that she have another parole hearing within a year or two of arriving back in Utah.
Yeates said a Utah detainer is already on file and waiting for Barzee when she is released, meaning she will be transferred directly to the Utah State Prison once her federal prison sentence is served.
Barzee is scheduled to be released in 2018 from federal prison, but could be released as early as 2016 for good behavior.
Elizabeth was not at Thursday's hearing. She is in France serving the remainder of her mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is scheduled to return in time to speak at Mitchell's sentencing in federal court on May 25. Mitchell could be sentenced to up to two life sentences in federal prison.
Feb 19 11 9:29 AM
By stephen hunt
(Djamila Grossman | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ed and Lois Smart talk to the media after a parole hearing for Wanda Barzee at the Utah State Prison in Draper on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011. Barzee pleaded guilty in state court to aggravated kidnapping for her part in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping.(Djamila Grossman | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ed Smart testifies during a parole hearing for Wanda Barzee at the Utah State Prison in Draper on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011. (Djamila Grossman | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lois Smart testifies, while Ed Smart listens in the back during a parole hearing for Wanda Barzee at the Utah State Prison in Draper on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011(Djamila Grossman | The Salt Lake Tribune) Andrea Jenkins, daughter of Wanda Barzee, listens during a parole hearing for Barzee at the Utah State Prison in Draper on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011Draper • Ed and Lois Smart told the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole on Thursday they want Wanda Eileen Barzee to serve as much time as possible — in both state and federal prison.
Barzee, who is currently at a federal prison in Texas for her part in Elizabeth Smart’s June 2002 abduction, waived her presence at the hearing in connection with a state conviction for attempting to kidnap Elizabeth’s cousin in July 2002.
Last year, a state judge ordered the state time to run concurrently with the federal time.
But the parole board has the power to disregard any time Barzee serves outside Utah, which would essentially result in consecutive terms.
“If Elizabeth were here today, she’d tell you emphatically that Wanda should serve both sentences,” the victim’s father, Ed Smart, told board member Robert Yeates. Elizabeth wasn’t present for the hearing because she is serving a mission in Paris for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Lois Smart said that according to her daughter, Barzee was “equally guilty” with her husband and co-defendant Brian David Mitchell. Lois Smart said Barzee “encouraged him to rape her that first night, and in everything.”
Also asking that Barzee spend the maximum possible time behind bars is her daughter, Andrea Jenkins, who declined to comment but had expressed her wishes in a letter.
The full five-member board will make a decision within about four weeks. Yeates said he would recommend another hearing for Barzee after she finishes her federal time and is returned to Utah. Barzee will be released from federal prison by 2018.
Yeates had shocked the Smarts by revealing that because Barzee cooperated with federal prosecutors against Mitchell, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office is recommending concurrent terms.
After the hearing, Ed Smart said he was “very disappointed” with the DA’s Office. “They knew what our family wanted,” he said.
Blake Nakamura, chief deputy at the DA’s Office, apologized for any misunderstanding, saying it is office policy to keep victims informed of significant developments, including sentencing and parole recommendations.
Barzee, 65, landed in federal prison last May after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. She was sentenced to 15 years, but as part of a plea bargain, she received credit for the seven years she had already spent either at Utah State Hospital or the Salt Lake County jail.
In state court, Barzee was sentenced to a concurrent term of one to 15 years. She had pleaded guilty and mentally ill to a second-degree felony charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping in connection with Elizabeth Smart’s cousin.
As part of her plea deals, Barzee agreed to testify against her husband, Mitchell, which she did in December.
Barzee called Mitchell “a great deceiver” who used religious blessings and revelations to gain her cooperation in the kidnapping and rape of then 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart.
Barzee testified that Mitchell told her God wanted them to kidnap seven young girls to become plural wives as a way of restoring the true church to Earth during an end-of-times battle with the Antichrist.
Following a five-week trial last year, Mitchell, 57, was convicted of kidnapping Smart at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home in the early hours of June 5, 2002, and later taking her across state lines for sexual purposes. On March 12, 2003, after nine months of captivity that included being raped almost daily, Smart was rescued after being spotted in Sandy with Mitchell and Barzee.
Mitchell faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced May 25 by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball.
On July 24, 2002, Mitchell attempted to enter the Salt Lake County home of Smart’s 14-year-old cousin, but he fled after knocking something over and waking the intended victim’s 18-year-old sister. No one from the cousin’s family attended the Thursday parole hearing.
Feb 19 11 9:34 AM
For the second time in months, a high-profile Utah family is in the news with daughters’ accounts of sexual abuse.
But the story of the Brown daughters — Desirae, 32, Deondra, 30, and Melody, 26 — may be even more startling to some than Elizabeth Smart’s harrowing testimony of near-daily rapes by her abductor, Brian David Mitchell.
This week, the Brown women confronted their abuser — not a stranger who laid in wait outside their family home, but the man inside who was supposed to keep them from harm — their father. Keith Brown pleaded guilty to sexually abusing his three daughters as children.
“It illustrates the reality of what sexual violence in Utah does look like,” says Alana Kindness, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “People are surprised because they have an idea in their heads of what a sex offender looks like.”
But very few victims of sexual assault are attacked by a stranger — 13 percent, according to a 2007 survey of 1,800 women by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.
It’s much more common for the offender to be a family member. The survey found that was the case in 40 percent of child-molestation incidents.
“We can’t make a difference in holding offenders accountable if we’re unable to recognize and unable to accept that family members are committing these acts on the vulnerable children that they have access to,” Kindness says. “The fact that [Desirae, Deondra and Melody Brown] recognized the potential threat to other children and chose to come forward to make sure there was some accountability there was very courageous.”
In the state survey, nearly a third of Utah women said they experienced some type of sexual assault in their lifetime and for most — 79 percent — the first incident occurred before they turned 18. Only one in nine incidents was reported to police.
“It’s extremely hard to come forward and talk about it, especially when it’s a family member,” says Heather Melton, a University of Utah sociology professor. “When anyone comes forward, it’s empowering for [victims] to see there are other people out there.”
The Brown sisters are part of a successful piano quintet with their two brothers, The 5 Browns, that has released three top-selling classical albums. All five of the siblings attended the prestigious Julliard School in New York.
“They survived and they’ve thrived,” Melton said. “It’s very commendable that they [came forward], even so much later.”
Children who suffer sexual abuse may experience depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress that requires counseling, says Julie Bradshaw, director of the Center for Safe and Healthy Families at Primary Children’s Medical Center. She said the center often sees cases of incest, which can be especially difficult because children also have to deal with distorted parental relationships and the knowledge the offending parent did not protect them.
“There are some excellent treatments out there that work. That’s the good news,” Bradshaw says.
To prevent child sexual abuse, Bradshaw advises parents to have age-appropriate conversations with kids about what kind of touching is OK and what isn’t. She also says children need to know they can tell their parents about scary things. And parents can help children identify other adults they can trust.
Feb 26 11 10:57 AM
Wanda Eileen Barzee will not serve consecutive sentences for the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart and the attempted kidnapping of her cousin, but she will not be eligible for parole until at least 2018.
The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole calculates that, with good-behavior time, Barzee could be returned to Utah as early as August 2016. Last week, she had her first state parole hearing in absentia because she is serving federal time in Texas. She will get another hearing in Utah in June 2018.
If she serves the maximum sentence, she would be released in 2024.
Barzee, 65, is currently serving time in a federal prison for her part in Elizabeth Smart’s June 2002 abduction.
The state charges against her are for the attempted kidnapping of Elizabeth’s cousin in July 2002.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office also recommended concurrent terms, due in part to Barzee’s cooperation with the federal prosecution of her husband and co-defendant, Brian David Mitchell.
On Wednesday, the parole board said they agreed that the state time should run concurrently to the federal time.
Last week Elizabeth’s parents, Ed and Lois Smart, asked the parole board to run the terms consecutively, to give Barzee the maximum prison time.
The parole board said at that time they had the power to disregard any time Barzee serves outside Utah, which would essentially result in consecutive terms. But after examining the applicable statutes, the board determined that it can only ignore time spent by a Utah parolee who commits a new crime in another state.
Barzee landed in federal prison in May after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. She was sentenced to 15 years, but as part of a plea bargain, she received credit for the seven years she had already spent either at Utah State Hospital or the Salt Lake County jail.
In state court, Barzee was sentenced to a concurrent term of one to 15 years. She had pleaded guilty and mentally ill to a second-degree felony charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping in connection with Elizabeth Smart’s cousin.
Utah parole authorities said they plan to grant Barzee only about 18 months of credit for time served.
If she serves the maximum time in Utah, she would be released in January 2024.
Barzee testified that Mitchell told her God wanted them to kidnap seven young girls to become plural wives as a way of restoring the true church to Earth during an end-times battle with the Antichrist.
Mar 5 11 10:25 AM
Elizabeth Smart will be honored March 11 in New York City for having had the courage to fight, the power to survive and the leadership to inspire others.
Smart, 23, is among four women who will receive a DVF Award from The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, which recognizes and supports women who are using their resources, commitment and visibility to transform the lives of other women.
Ed Smart told The Tribune on Friday that he and his wife, Lois, will be on hand to see their daughter accept the award, which includes a $50,000 check.
Ed Smart said Elizabeth, who will be serving an LDS Church mission in France for about another month and a half, will fly in for the award ceremony, along with her mission companion.
He said his daughter is “very honored that she would be chosen, and very grateful for the opportunity of, hopefully, helping other people. She feels very blessed that she has been able to move forward and wants to see other victims to be able to do the same.”
He said she plans to use the award money to start The Elizabeth Smart Foundation, aimed at protecting children from abuse.
Ed Smart said his daughter’s foundation will focus on prevention, education and promoting radKIDS [Resisting Aggression Defensively], a program that teaches children about calling 911 and making defensive moves against attackers.
The foundation also will work with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional task force that investigates and prosecutes people who use the Internet to exploit children.
Ed Smart said he — as well as his friend, Chris Thomas, South Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Snyder and others — will administrate the foundation and “identify how we can best move the issues forward.”
The DVF Awards, begun in 2010, yearly honor four women who have demonstrated leadership, strength and courage in their commitment to women’s causes.
In June 2002, when she was 14, Elizabeth Smart was abducted at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home by Brian David Mitchell, a homeless street preacher who wanted to make her one of seven plural wives. She was rescued in March 2003.
According to the DVF Award website, Elizabeth Smart last year “triumphantly testified before her captor and the world about the very private nightmare she suffered for nine months and how she determined to survive and continue her life after tragedy.”
Mar 27 11 9:07 AM
Apr 20 11 6:28 PM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Taking the stand for the first time since she was snatched from her girlhood bedroom seven years ago, Elizabeth Smart testified Thursday that her captor raped her three or four times a day, kept her tied up with a cable around her leg, and threatened to kill her if she tried to escape.
Asked by a prosecutor to describe Brian David Mitchell, the self-described prophet accused of holding her captive for nine months, Smart replied: “Evil, wicked, manipulative, stinky, slimy, greedy, selfish, not spiritual, not religious, not close to God.”
Smart, now a 21-year-old college student, gave her horrifying account in federal court as part of a proceeding over whether Mitchell is mentally competent to stand trial.
The 55-year-old, one-time street preacher has been behind bars since 2003 – mostly in a state mental hospital – but has yet to stand trial. Twice he has been ruled mentally incompetent in state court, and he has often demonstrated bizarre behavior, including incessantly singing hymns in the courtroom and once yelling at a judge to repent.
Smart testified that within hours of her 2002 kidnapping at knifepoint, she was led away to a secluded mountain campsite and in a quickie ceremony became the polygamous “wife” of the older man.
“After that he proceeded to rape me,” Smart said, sharing for the first time publicly her account of the ordeal.
She said Mitchell showed her pornography and plied her with alcohol and drugs to lower her resistance to his sexual advances. Once, Smart said, she tried to fight Mitchell off by biting him.
On the stand for nearly two hours, Smart was poised, her voice never wavering. She did not come face-to-face with her alleged tormenter. Mitchell was removed from the courtroom for disruptive behavior – singing hymns – before Smart arrived, and watched the proceedings from a holding cell.
A federal judge ruled earlier this week that Smart’s testimony is relevant to the question of Mitchell’s competency. Mitchell’s competency hearing is not set to begin until Nov. 30, but Smart testified early because she is going on a religious mission for the Mormon church in Paris.
Smart’s parents and other family members were in the courtroom to support her. Her father Ed Smart had already heard much of the story but said later outside court he had learned a few new details. He did not elaborate.
“She actually wanted to face him,” Ed Smart said. “She asked if he could be muzzled and sit and watch.”
He praised his daughter’s composure.
“I was absolutely amazed at her strength,” he said, his eyes teary. “I don’t know how she could have done a better job than she did.”
Smart was 14 when she was abducted from her bedroom in the middle of the night. In a surprising turn that transfixed the country, she was rescued in March 2003 after a motorist spotted her walking the streets of a Salt Lake City suburb with Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee.
Smart testified that in the days immediately following the kidnapping, Mitchell held her captive with the help of a 10-foot (3-meter) cable bolted to her leg and tethered to a line stretched between two trees. She said Mitchell threatened to kill her if she yelled or tried to get away.
Smart said Mitchell would rape her three to four times a day. There was some respite – usually when Barzee became upset over Mitchell’s relationship with Smart – but it never lasted, Smart said.
Mitchell is charged in state court with kidnapping and sexual assault. Last year, he was indicted on federal charges of kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines. In both the state and federal cases, experts have split over Mitchell’s competency.
Mitchell’s lawyers maintain he is incompetent and suggested that evidence of his delusions can be found in his religious rambling and writings, including a 27-page manifesto he called “The Book of Emmanuel David Isaiah.”
Smart said he read from the book repeatedly during her captivity, often sang hymns and laced his conversations with religious language. Throughout her captivity, Smart was forced to wear a white, ankle-length robe, a head scarf and two veils across her face.
“He told me he was a prophet,” Smart said under cross-examination by Mitchell’s lawyer. “He said he was the voice of God on Earth and that he would reign over God’s children until Jesus came.”
But she also said his religious revelations seemed to come only when he wanted something, or when he was trying to calm Barzee. Smart said she believed Mitchell always knew that he could be punished for her kidnapping and understood how the court system worked.
She said he gave her an alias – Augustine Marshall – and told her what to say to police if they were ever questioned. He also bragged about skirting previous accusations of sexual abuse and fooling others, Smart said.
Never in nine months did Mitchell appear confused or out of control, Smart testified: “He was a very capable, intelligent human being.”
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