Prosecutors say Smart was assaulted sexually

Mitchell, wife charged in abduction

bail for each has been set at $10 million

March 19, 2003|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

SALT LAKE CITY - Elizabeth Smart was tethered to a tree, threatened with her life and sexually assaulted after she was kidnapped from her family home last summer, prosecutors said yesterday after filing multiple felony charges against her alleged abductors.

Brian David Mitchell, 49, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 57, were accused of aggravated kidnapping, sexual assault and burglary. The couple are scheduled to be arraigned today in state court by a video link with the county jail. Each is being held on $10 million bail.

"We're not just dealing with a religious zealot. We're dealing with a sexual predator," Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom said of Mitchell, a self-professed prophet who claimed he took Elizabeth, now 15, to be his wife. Mitchell, a drifter and an excommunicated Mormon, wrote a rambling manifesto last year embracing the practice of polygamy.

Elizabeth was found March 12 with Mitchell and Barzee in neighboring Sandy, Utah, dressed similarly to Barzee in a white robe and head veil.

The charges mark the first time that the police said they had evidence that Elizabeth had been sexually attacked by her captors. While photographs of a smiling Elizabeth have appeared on front pages across the country, her parents, Ed and Lois Smart, have not allowed their daughter to speak publicly.

The district attorney announced the charges at a news conference yesterday. Yocom said he met with Elizabeth's parents yesterday and they told him they will cooperate in the case, including allowing Elizabeth to testify on the assault charges. A forensic psychiatrist has been interviewing the teen-ager about her 9-month ordeal, Yocom said.

The court papers offered only a few - but nonetheless telling - details about what happened to Elizabeth after she was kidnapped June 5. Elizabeth was awakened and taken out of the house at knifepoint, and forced to walk in her pajamas up a 4-mile-long mountain trail in the foothills above the family home, prosecutors said.

At the campsite, Elizabeth was assaulted for the first time, according to the court documents. During the assault, Mitchell threatened Elizabeth with a knife and threatened to hurt or kill her family, court papers stated. Barzee aided or abetted her husband, prosecutors said.

Mitchell sexually assaulted Elizabeth at least one more time, according to the charges.

The trio remained in makeshift mountain campsites not far from the family home through Oct. 8, "with little or no shelter, no plumbing, with no water supply, and with little or no food," the court documents stated.

Elizabeth, Mitchell and Barzee left Salt Lake City in October, spending time in Nevada and California before returning to Utah. Court papers offer no details of what happened to Elizabeth during that period.

Elizabeth's family said she did not try to escape because she had been brainwashed.

Mitchell and Barzee are also charged with the attempted July 24 break-in - using a knife to cut a window screen - at the home of one of Elizabeth's cousins.

The commotion awakened the 18-year-old girl and her parents, so the person fled, according to court papers. Prosecutors said Mitchell entered Elizabeth's house the same way.

The district attorney said he didn't anticipate any particular difficulties in prosecuting the case against Mitchell and Barzee, which has produced more than 20,000 pages of documents.

The case is strengthened, he said, by myriad sightings of the threesome around Salt Lake City and San Diego, and physical evidence retrieved by detectives at the local campsites, including the cable used to tether Elizabeth to a tree.

Yocom said there was no legal need to determine Mitchell's motive. He noted, however, that a lawyer who has since been dismissed by Mitchell reported that Mitchell wanted to take Elizabeth as his wife and rename her "Remnant Who Will Return."

Yocom said $10 million bail was sought because the state doesn't allow for no-bail custody.

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