|“||Don't make a sound. Get out of bed and come with me, or I will kill you and your family.||”|
— Brian David Mitchell to Elizabeth Smart
Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee were a married duo of rapists who are the perpetrators behind the kidnapping of Elizabeth Ann Smart.
Brian David Mitchell was born on October 18, 1953, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the third of six children in a Mormon family. His mother was a teacher and his father a social worker. In order to teach Mitchell about sex, his father reportedly showed his adolescent son explicit photos from a medical journal, and, in order to teach him about independence, would drive Mitchell to unfamiliar parts of Salt Lake City, and drop him off, leaving him to find his way home.
At age sixteen, Mitchell exposed himself to a child and was sent to a juvenile hall. At nineteen, he married and had two children with Karen Minor, who was three years younger than him. After their divorce, Minor was awarded custody of both children, after which Mitchell temporarily fled with the children to New Hampshire. He resided in New Hampshire for two years, where he joined a Hare Krishna commune. Mitchell had a history of drug and alcohol abuse in his adult life; upon returning to Salt Lake City, he was inspired to seek sobriety by his brother, who had recently returned from a mission. In Salt Lake City, Mitchell had two additional children with his second wife, Debbie, who herself had three children from a previous marriage. Debbie alleged Mitchell was abusive during their marriage, and they divorced in 1984. After their separation, Debbie alleged Mitchell had sexually abused their three-year-old son; the claim could not be medically confirmed, but Mitchell's future visitations with his children were ordered to be supervised by the Division of Child and Family Services. One of Debbie's daughters from her previous marriage would also claim that Mitchell had sexually abused her for four years.
On the day Mitchell and Debbie's divorce was finalized, he married Wanda Elaine Barzee (b. November 6, 1945, in Salt Lake City), a forty-year-old divorcee with six children. Barzee had a troubled relationship with her children; one of her daughters would later refer to her as a "monster," and claimed that as a child, Wanda fed the child her pet rabbit for dinner. Together, Mitchell and Barzee were actively involved in the LDS Church, though Mitchell's religious views would become increasingly extreme. Mitchell and Barzee eventually left the church and he began going by the name "Emmanuel," claiming to be a prophet of God who experienced prophetic visions. Barzee started to go by the name "Hephzibah," and the two would panhandle and preach in downtown Salt Lake City. Mitchell presented himself in an image akin to Jesus, dressing in white robes and tunics, and growing a beard.
Kidnapping Of Elizabeth Smart
In the early hours of June 5, 2002, Mitchell broke into the home of Edward and Lois Smart in the Federal Heights neighborhood of Salt Lake City, where they lived with their six children. He abducted fourteen-year-old Elizabeth from the bedroom she shared with her nine-year-old sister, Mary Katherine, who was awakened but pretended to be asleep. Outside the bedroom of the family's boys. She crept back into her bed, where she hid for an undetermined time – possibly over two hours. Just before 4 a.m., Mary Katherine woke her parents and told them what had happened; thinking she had been dreaming, they did not believe her until they found a screen window that had been cut with a knife.
After her kidnapping, Smart was taken by Mitchell into the woods to an encampment outside Salt Lake City, where she was met by Wanda Barzee. According to Smart's testimony, Barzee "eventually just proceeded to wash my feet and told me to change out of my pajamas into a robe type of garment. And when I refused, she said if I didn't, she would have Brian Mitchell come rip my pajamas off. I put the robe on. He came and performed a ceremony, which was to marry me to him. After that, he proceeded to rape me." Mitchell claimed to be an angel and also told Smart that he was a Davidian God who would "emerge in seven years, be stoned by a mob, lie dead in the streets for three days and then rise up and kill the Antichrist." Smart, he insisted, was the first of many virgin brides he planned to kidnap, each of whom would accompany him as he battled the Antichrist
To keep Smart from escaping, she was shackled to a tree with a metal cable, which allowed her limited mobility outside of the tent she occupied. During her captivity, she was forced to take a new name, and chose Esther, after Esther of the Old Testament. It was later revealed during court testimony that Mitchell repeatedly raped Smart, sometimes multiple times daily, forced her to watch pornographic films, and regularly threatened to kill her. He often forced her to drink alcohol and take drugs to lower her resistance, and both starved and fed her garbage. Smart's abuse was facilitated with the assistance of Barzee, who Smart would later refer to as the "most evil woman" she had ever met.
In September 2002, Mitchell and Barzee left Salt Lake City with Smart, relocating to San Diego County, California, where they held Smart in an encampment in a dry creekbed in Lakeside. Mitchell and Barzee relocated with Smart several times to different encampments in San Diego County, often moving in the middle of the night. On February 12, 2003, Mitchell was arrested in El Cajon for breaking into a church and spent several days in jail over the incident
Smart accompanied Mitchell and Barzee in public on numerous occasions, but her presence was either obscured or unnoticed via various methods of concealment, which often consisted of her wearing a headscarf and veil over her face. In August 2002, around two months after Smart's kidnapping, Mitchell devised a plan to leave Salt Lake City with Barzee and Smart, possibly to Boston or New York City. Smart also visited grocery stores, a restaurant, and spent a week in downtown Salt Lake City with Mitchell and Barzee, but went unnoticed In the fall of 2002, she attended a party with Mitchell and Barzee and was photographed wearing a veil and robe among Mitchell and another party guest.
Rescue, Arrested, and Trial
In October 2002, Smart's sister Mary Katherine suddenly realized that the abductor's voice was that of a man the family knew as Emmanuel, an unemployed man whom the family had hired for a day to work on the roof and rake leaves
On March 12, 2003, Mitchell was spotted with two women in Sandy, Utah by a couple who had seen Mitchell's photos on the news. The women were Elizabeth Smart – disguised in a gray wig, sunglasses, and veil – and Wanda Elaine Barzee. Smart was recognized by the officers during questioning, and Mitchell and Barzee were arrested.
Wanda Barzee eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to concurrent terms of fifteen years in state and federal prison. However, due to the delays and mental evaluations, it took Mitchell's case almost eight years to come to court.
Mitchell's trial began on November 8, 2010. The defense acknowledged that Mitchell was in fact responsible for the crimes, but contended that he was legally insane at the time of the crime, and should therefore be found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI). The insanity defense for Mitchell was struck down on December 11, 2010, when the jury found him guilty of kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity. U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball sentenced Mitchell to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Mitchell is currently serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary, Tucson, a high-security federal prison in Tucson, Arizona.
In 2016, Barzee's federal imprisonment was terminated and she was transferred from the Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas to the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah to begin serving her state prison sentence. She was released on September 2018.
- Unspecified dates:
- Wanda's unnamed daughter (abused by Wanda)
- Unnamed child (flashed by Mitchell)
- The followings were allegedly abused by Mitchell:
- Debbie (Mitchell's second wife)
- Debbie's unnamed son (sexually abused)
- Debbie's unnamed daughter (sexually abused)
- June 5, 2002: Elizabeth Smart, 14 (abducted, drugged, raped repeatedly and starved; was rescued on March 12, 2003)
On Criminal Minds
- Season Three
- "The Crossing" - The duo was first referenced
- Season Four
- "Bloodline" - While the duo was not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, they appear to have been an inspiration for The Romani Family - Both teams were husband-wife, said to have "perverted" elements of their mother culture in order to justify their crimes, and their M.O. had the wife waiting outside while the husband broke into a previously selected family home, armed with a knife, and abducted one underage daughter to "marry" her in a sham ceremony. Also, in both cases, the key to solve the crime was the eyewitness testimony of another young girl.
- Season Six