Accused kidnapper's wife says he wanted 350 wives

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The woman imprisoned for helping her husband kidnap Elizabeth Smart in 2002 told jurors in emotional testimony on Friday that he abducted the Utah teen after claiming that God had commanded him to “take” young girls as part of a plan to ultimately have 350 wives.

Wanda Barzee, testifying for a second day in the trial of her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell, said the homeless street preacher began stalking 10- to 14-year-old girls about a year before kidnapping Smart, after getting what he called a “revelation”.

“We were commanded to take 14-year-old young women. We were to snatch them out of the world and train them in the ministries of God,” Barzee, 64, told the court.

She said Mitchell told her that they needed to take seven women or girls into their home, then seven more -- and that that number would keep multiplying until “he was going to have 350 wives in the end.”

Barzee, who is serving a 15-year prison term for her role in Smart’s kidnapping and was brought to court in shackles and prison garb, said that in April 2002 Mitchell had another “revelation:” that he would obtain a wife on June 4 of that year.

Smart, who was 14 at the time, was taken from her upscale Salt Lake City home at knifepoint in the early morning hours of June 5, 2002.

Barzee, 64, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor and was sentenced in May.

As part of her plea agreement she is cooperating with authorities in the case against Mitchell, 57, who is charged with kidnapping Smart with the intent of forcing her to live as his young bride.


Prosecutors declined to call Barzee as a witness before resting their case earlier this week. But she was put on the stand by defense attorneys -- who are expected to argue their client was insane at the time of Smart’s kidnapping.

Mitchell was not in court for Barzee’s testimony after U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ordered him ejected for loudly singing Christmas Carols as jurors were brought in.

The defendant, who has been removed by the judge nearly every day for disrupting court, can watch and listen to the proceedings from an adjacent room.

Barzee, who cried throughout much of her testimony, told the jury that some five weeks before the kidnapping Mitchell told her to prepare their makeshift campsite in the foothills above Salt Lake City, setting up the tent where Smart would be raped and a bucket where she would go to the bathroom.

Mitchell, meanwhile, purchased the cables that he would attach to Smart’s ankle to keep her from running away.

Barzee said she and Mitchell had heated arguments over his plans but that she ultimately decided she had to obey.

Smart, now a young woman of 23, has returned to Utah for the trial from Paris, where she is on a mission for the Mormon church, and has watched the proceedings from the courthouse gallery, surrounded by family members.

She testified during the prosecution case that Mitchell kidnapped her at knife-point from the bed she shared with her sister Mary Katherine, marched her several miles into the foothills above her Salt Lake City home, and raped her.

Smart described her time with Mitchell and Barzee as “nine months of hell,” during which she was raped nearly every day.

Smart’s baffling disappearance made international headlines in 2002, and the search for the missing girl gripped much of America.

She was ultimately rescued on March 12, 2003, after passersby spotted her walking with Mitchell and Barzee on a street in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy.

Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jerry Norton and Peter Bohan