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New Details in Elizabeth Smart Case Released

March 19, 2003  | 

Prosecutors have released new information on Elizabeth Smart's treatment by her captors during the nine months following her disappearance.

"We are not dealing with just a religious zealot, we are dealing with a predatory sex offender," District Attorney David Yocom said Tuesday as he announced charges against Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.

Mitchell, 49, and Barzee, 57, were charged with aggravated kidnapping, sexual assault, adn burglary in Elizabeth Smart's June 5 abduction. They were also charged with aggravated burglary and attempted aggravated kidnapping for allegedly trying to abduct Elizabeth's 18-year-old cousin.

Prosecutors say Mitchell, a drifter and self-professed prophet who wrote in a religious tract that God commanded him to take seven wives, entered Elizabeth's bedroom using a knife to cut a window screen. Elizabeth, dressed in pajamas, was forced at knifepoint to walk four miles up a mountain trail behind her house to a concealed campside, according to prosecutors' allegations in court papers.

Mitchell threatened to harm or kill the girl's family members if she resisted, the papers said.

When Elizabeth reached the campsite with Mitchell and Barzee, Mitchell "raped or attempted to rape her, or commit forcible sexual abuse against her," with Barzee's help, Yocom said. At some point, the girl was restrained with a cable around her foot that was tethered to a tree, he said.

The couple held Elizabeth at the campsite until Oct. 8 with little or no shelter, water, or food, prosecutors said. They then took her to California, where they stayed until March 5, according to court papers.

Attorney Larry Long, who initially claimed to represent Mitchell, said Mitchell told him that he considers Elizabeth his wife and that her disappearance was a "call from God." But according to Yocom, Mitchell said Long wasn't his attorney and had no authority to speak for him.

Elizabeth's family members have said they believe she was brainwashed, preventing her from escaping despite several opportunities to do so.

Prosecutors said Elizabeth may be asked to testify at trial, although her family would rather not have her take the stand because they want to protect her privacy.

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