SALT LAKE CITY – Elizabeth Smart told jurors Monday how she was awakened with a cold knife on her throat and initially thought her 2002 abduction was a nightmare.
She took the stand on the first day of testimony in the Salt Lake City federal trial of Brian David Mitchell, who is charged with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor.
The case resumed after an appeals court rejected a request to move the case out of Utah.
Mitchell's lawyers say he was mentally ill, but prosecutors say he knew what he was doing.
Smart was 14 when she was taken. She was found nine months later.
Smart says she remembers hearing a man's voice and feeling something cold across her neck, and that he threatened to kill her and her family if she didn't leave with him.
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The man accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart in 2002 was influenced by an escalating mental illness and extreme religious beliefs that made him think he was doing what God wanted him to do, his lawyer told jurors Monday at the start of his federal trial.
Brian David Mitchell's trial on kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor charges resumed Monday after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver rejected a request to move the case out of Utah.
Smart, now 23, was 14 when she was kidnapped from her home at knifepoint in June 2002. She was found nine months later with Mitchell, 57.
In opening statements Monday, his lawyer, public defender Parker Douglas, didn't dispute the facts but took issue with the prosecution's allegation that Mitchell is a calculating person who planned the kidnapping.
Mitchell has an escalating mental illness and extreme religious beliefs that were coloring his actions long before the kidnapping, he told jurors.
"His life here is marked by an intense idiosyncratic set of beliefs. This is, as you will see, a pattern with Brian, a search for a deep connection and a belief that he has found something that has given him a certainty and a meaning in life," Douglas said.
If he is convicted, Mitchell could spend the rest of his life in federal prison.
Smart was found in March 2003 after motorists spotted her walking in a Salt Lake City suburb with Mitchell.
Prosecutors have said Smart will provide jurors with lengthy, detailed testimony about her abduction, alleged sexual abuses during nine months of captivity, and threats she has said Mitchell made on her life and her family.
Her mother, Lois Smart, was the first witness Monday. Her sister, Mary Katherine Smart, was also expected to take the stand. She was sleeping beside Elizabeth Smart on the night of the kidnapping and provided police with the description of the man who entered the house that night, enabling a connection to Mitchell.
It was Lois Smart who hired Mitchell, then known only as a homeless street preacher named "Immanuel," to do handyman work at the family home in the fall of 2001.
Lois Smart told jurors Monday that she and her children encountered Mitchell on the streets of downtown Salt Lake City and one of her sons urged her to give him some money.
"He looked like a clean-cut, well-kept man that was down on his luck, who just needed some help to get on with his life. I gave him $5," she said.
Lois Smart also gave Mitchell the family's address and phone number, offering to hire him for odd jobs. Mitchell soon called her husband, Ed Smart, who had Mitchell come by a few days later to help fix a leaky roof, which went well, Lois Smart said.
"I do remember having a conversation with him, hoping that he would do more work. He seemed fine," she said.
Mitchell, who only did that one project for the family, was clean shaven at the time but now has a long graying beard to the middle of his chest and long hair to the middle of his back.
Lois Smart also recalled for jurors the night her daughter was taken. She was awakened by another daughter, Mary Katherine, who was 9 at the time. She had a baby blanket wrapped around her head and neck and looked like "a scared rabbit."
"She said a man has taken Elizabeth with a gun and that we won't find her. He took her either for ransom or hostage," Lois Smart recalled Mary Katherine Smart, now 18, saying.
The mother said she went downstairs to the kitchen and immediately noticed the window was open and the screen was cut in a U-shape.
"My heart sank and I yelled out to Ed, called 911, she's gone," Lois Smart said.
"It was utter terror. It was the worst feeling knowing that I didn't know where my child was. I was helpless."