SALT LAKE CITY – The man charged in the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart told investigators that heaven was his home and God had delivered him a young girl to become as his wife, according to recordings of a police interview after his arrest.
Brian David Mitchell, 57, told police his name was Immanuel David Isaiah. He referred to Smart by the religious name "Shear Jashub" but refused to say he had kidnapped her.
"By the power of God she was delivered to us," Mitchell said repeatedly to police.
The account came during a two-hour tape played for jurors Monday as Mitchell's federal trial on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines entered its third week.
In the recording, Mitchell fends off questions about Smart's abduction and whether they had sex by spinning religious phrases and comparing his situation to that of apostles who suffered for following Jesus Christ, or to the persecution heaped on Christ himself.
"It mattereth not what you are saying and how good you think this case is against me, because God has the power to deliver me," Mitchell said during the interview.
Smart was 14 when she was taken from her home at knifepoint on June 5, 2002. She was recovered March 12, 2003, after motorists spotted Smart on a suburban Salt Lake City street with Mitchell and his now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee.
In her testimony last week, Smart said Mitchell used a jagged-edged knife to threaten her life and that of her family, before taking her and keeping her tethered on a metal cable. She said she endured nearly daily rapes during her nine months of captivity, was forced to use drugs and alcohol, and was taken against her will to California.
Now, 23, Smart also said Mitchell proclaimed he was a religious prophet who would usher in the second-coming of Jesus Christ.
"You want to accuse me of being a diabolical, evil criminal. ... I am a servant of the Lord," Mitchell insisted to police. "She's had a glorious experience."
Police scoffed at Mitchell's responses and said Christ would not have lied about his identity, threatened to kill children or taken a young girl by force to have sex.
FBI agent George Dougherty called Mitchell a hypocrite and a fraud in the interview.
"You are not a servant of Jesus Christ and you need to get over that," Dougherty said, his voice rising.
Although he becomes argumentative during the interview, Mitchell remains mostly calm, deftly engaging in a verbal parry with the detectives. He speeds up or slows down his speech to match the pace detectives keep as they hurl questions at him. Mitchell frequently closes his eyes when he speaks, or he turns his back to detectives. He sings hymns during breaks in the interview and when he tires of the questioning.
Also Monday, prosecutors questioned four people who encountered Mitchell, Smart and Barzee while they wintered near San Diego and as they hitchhiked back to Utah in early March 2003.
In each instance, witnesses said they never heard Smart speak but the expression in her eyes was blank or fearful.
Trevelin Colianni saw the trio at a Burger King in Las Vegas and said he noticed them because of the their strange dress — Smart was wearing a gray wig and sunglasses — and because Mitchell never let go of Smart's wrist. Colianni called Las Vegas police but later saw the three on the street walking away from the restaurant.
"It was a look that I'll never forget," Colianni said, describing Smart. "She looked very frightened, very nervous. She looked like her face was quivering ... like a 'help me' look on her face."
Mitchell's attorneys have not disputed the facts of the abduction but contend that he is mentally ill and can't be held responsible for his actions.
In a parallel state case, Mitchell was diagnosed with a rare delusional disorder and deemed incompetent for trial.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball, however, ruled that Mitchell was competent for the federal proceedings.
Prosecutors contend Mitchell is faking psychiatric symptoms. He has been removed from the courtroom each day of the trial for disrupting the proceedings by singing hymns. He watches the trial on closed-circuit television from a holding cell.