Couple Accused in Elizabeth Smart Disappearance Face Federal Indictment

A couple accused in the 2002 abduction of teenager Elizabeth Smart were indicted Wednesday on federal charges on top of the state counts they already face.

A federal grand jury indicted Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Eileen Barzee each with one count of interstate kidnapping and one count unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines. The counts each carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman said in a statement that he sought the indictment to keep open the option of federal prosecution. The statute of limitations on federal kidnapping charges would have expired next week had Tolman not obtained the indictment.

In 2003, federal officials involved in the Smart investigation decided to let Salt Lake County prosecute the case.

David Finlayson, one of two attorneys for Barzee, 62, said he didn't think the indictment would "change the nature of the case at this time."

"They made it clear that that they are going to let the state prosecute," he said.

A telephone message left for attorneys for Mitchell, 54, was not immediately returned.

Barzee and Mitchell have been found incompetent to stand trial and are held in the Utah State Hospital. Each may be subject to forced medication. Both are facing counts including aggravated burglary, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and attempted aggravated kidnapping.

Federal officials are not expected to take Barzee or Mitchell into custody or seek a hearing before a federal magistrate at this time.

Elizabeth Smart was 14 when she was taken from the bedroom of her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint and held captive for about nine months. Smart was found in 2003 walking along a suburban street with Barzee and Mitchell.