SALT LAKE CITY – The emotional estranged wife of the man charged with abducting Elizabeth Smart in 2002 said Friday that he began stalking young girls about a year earlier, and in hindsight she believes he used religion to manipulate her.
"He was a great deceiver," Wanda Eileen Barzee told jurors during her second day testifying in Brian David Mitchell's trial in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court.
Through tears and in a voice barely above a whisper, Barzee answered questions for more than six hours about her tumultuous 25-year marriage, saying she was totally dependent on Mitchell. She said she believed him each time he cited personal religious revelations or blessings to direct their actions, including the kidnapping of a young girl so he could practice polygamy.
She answered "no" when prosecutors asked if Mitchell had ever expressed regret for Smart's kidnapping.
Mitchell is charged with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines. If convicted, the 57-year-old former street preacher could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Barzee said Mitchell told her in fall 2001 they needed to find a girl to take because no one wanted to join the religious society he wanted to form.
"We were given the commandment to take young girls between 10 to 14 years old," said Barzee, who cried as she recounted the story. "He would go downtown and stalk young girls and find out where they live."
Barzee said she was devastated by the idea that a young girl would be taken by force but believed it was a commandment from God. She said an April 2002 revelation directed them to prepare for Mitchell to "go forth" to receive their first wife on June 4, 2002.
Smart was abducted at knifepoint on June 5, 2002, at the age of 14.
Now 23, Smart has testified that she was forced to enter a polygamous marriage with Mitchell, endured near daily rapes, was forced to use drugs and alcohol, and was taken to California against her will about four months.
Mitchell's attorneys don't dispute the facts of Smart's abduction but contend he suffers a mental illness and believes he has acted on commandments from God.
Federal prosecutors maintain Mitchell is faking mental illness in order to avoid prosecution.
During questioning by the defense Friday, Barzee said she believes her husband had suffered some mental health problems, although she later said she had never heard anyone say he needed treatment.
On the night of the kidnapping, Barzee said Mitchell became consumed with "fear and doubt" about the mission.
"I told him that if the Lord didn't open the way, then he didn't have to do it," she said.
But on cross examination, Barzee conceded that she also pressed Mitchell to go through with the abduction because God had commanded it.
Barzee said she and Mitchell adopted the religious names "Hephzibah" and "Immanuel" in November 2000. She said the names were selected after Mitchell gave her a religious blessing and said that the "keys of the Lord's kingdom had been transferred to his shoulders and that he was the righteous right hand of the Lord."
She said 2000 was also the year Mitchell said he had received a revelation to live the "celestial law" of polygamy.
Mitchell then took a pregnant woman as his wife and consummated the marriage without Barzee's consent, she said. The relationship didn't last and other attempts to persuade adult women to become Mitchell's plural wives were unsuccessful, Barzee said.
Her testimony came at the end of the trial's third week. Court will resume Nov. 29 after a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, and the trial is expected to last into mid-December.
Mitchell hasn't been in the courtroom. He is regularly removed for singing hymns and disrupting the proceedings, and he watches the trial on video from a holding cell.
Mitchell and Barzee both were twice deemed incompetent for trial in parallel state cases filed in 2003.
Mitchell was diagnosed as delusional, and his case went to federal court after a state judge rejected a petition to have him forcibly medicated with anti-psychotic drugs. A federal case ruled him competent earlier this year.
In 2006, Barzee was ordered to undergo forced medication at Utah State Hospital. Her competency status was restored after about 15 months of treatment, precipitating her agreement to plead guilty to a federal kidnapping charge last year. She's serving a 15-year sentence at a prison in Texas where she is being treated for mental illness.