The deceptions of a religious rapist

Elizabeth Smart around the time of her kidnapping.


Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee when they were younger.

Elizabeth Smart, her rapist kidnapper Brian David Mitchell, and deception

On June 5, 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped at knife-point from her bedroom in Salt Lake City and held by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee.

They did not want a ransom. Mitchell, calling himself the religious prophet Immanuel, said that God told him to enter into multiple marriages. He "married" Smart and then repeatedly raped her and threatened to kill her if she tried to escape.

Smart was discovered and freed after nine months.

Initially, Mitchell and Barzee were both ruled incompetent to stand trial, until Barzee pleaded guilty and Mitchell went to trial.

Brian David Mitchell’s mugshot.


Wanda Barzee’s mugshot.

I've taken these excerpts from the testimony Elizabeth Smart gave on October 1, 2009. These particular questions and answers in Smart's testimony were about Mitchell's deceptive behavior.


Q. Okay. Did you ask him why he was taking you?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. What did he say?
A. He said he was taking me hostage and holding me for ransom.
Q. Would you later learn that that was a lie?
A. Yes.


Q. Did you observe him use religion to help others, or did he use it to get what he wanted?
A. To get what he wanted.


Q. Did you observe him manipulate or try to manipulate others?
A. Yes.
Q. And what would he do to try to manipulate others?
A. He would not… there was one younger man in particular who, he worked at Wild Oats... He worked there, and he used to just run things across the scanner so it looked like he was scanning them, but wasn't. And he just put them in a bag and give them to Brian David Mitchell.
Q. And did he go to him because he could get advantage from him?
A. Yes.
Q. And what was that advantage? He would scan them?
A. He wouldn't actually scan them. He just made it look like he was scanning them. So in other words, he was stealing from the store.


Q. And what happened with the Kemps?
A. He said that he went to this LDS meeting and that they were just very kind to him. And after the meeting, they invited him into their home for Sunday dinner.
Q. Was he in regular clothes?
A. Yes.
Q. Did he indicate to you that he pretended to be someone else to them?
A. Yes.
Q. And what did he say?
A. He said that he pretended to be an investigator in the church, and that by doing that they'd invited him into their home. (An investigator in the LDS Church is someone that is interested in learning more, that they're investigating the beliefs of the LDS doctrine.) And he saw a picture of a young girl on the piano, and he asked them if it was their granddaughter, and they laughed. And the wife said, no, it's my daughter.


Q. Did you ever observe him to sing in order to manipulate someone or a situation he was in?
A. Yes.
Q. Was he capable of turning the singing off and on when he needed to?
A. Yes.


Q. Elizabeth, did you ever get the sense that the defendant enjoyed or got a kick out of fooling others?
A. Yes.
Q. What did he do or say that gave you this impression?
A. He would just say that, like he'd be laughing and just say, oh, they think they're so smart. They think they're guiding me to the light when really they don't know that I'm the Davidic king, that I know all this. I could dance circles around them. They don't know who they're dealing with.


Q. Was the defendant honest?
A. No.
Q. Did you observe him lie?
A. Yes.
Q. Was lying difficult for him, or did it come easy?
A. It was easy.
Q. Was he convincing?
A. To many people, I think so.
Q. Were you convinced?
A. No.
Q. Others were convinced by him?
A. Yes.
Q. Did he indicate to you that he had the Kemps deceived?
A. Yes.


(Mitchell took Smart to California, and then she tricked him into returning to Utah:)

Q. And he decided to come back to Salt Lake. What did he tell you about that?
A. Well, it wasn't completely him. It was actually mainly me. I had hope because California, I felt it was so far away and so cut off that nobody would ever find me. And even if it took 20 years to find me, I mean, I just felt the chances would be better in Salt Lake. And so I just asked him about it. And I said I felt like - because he had used religion to justify, I mean, pretty much anything he wanted to get away with, and so I decided to try to use his tactic. And I said, I think, like, I just have a very strong feeling about going back to Salt Lake. What do you think? Like, what do you feel like God's telling you? And then he eventually was like, yeah. But how are we going to do it? And he had told me about how he had hitchhiked all over the place. And I said, well, why don't we hitchhike back? I mean, you said that I had to experience all things, you know, sink below all things to rise above all things. Well, shouldn't hitchhiking, shouldn't I experience that, too? And so then that's how the decision was made to hitchhike back to Salt Lake.


Q. After reflecting on that particular part, the marriage ceremony, what do you believe was the importance of that?
Q. Was this a common pattern with the interaction you observed between Wanda and the defendant?
A. Yes.
Q. That he would do something religious in order to appease Wanda?
A. Yes.
Q. Was it always, though, to get something he wanted?
A. Yes.
Q. Things such as sex, drugs, alcohol?
A. Yes.


Q. Elizabeth, was the defendant during your nine months, was he a hypocrite?
A. Yes.

Elizabeth Smart.

Transcript of Elizabeth Smart's Testimony, Daily Herald>>

The testimony of Elizabeth Smart, The Salt Lake Tribune>>

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