- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

His father called him "maladjusted." His mother took out a restraining order against him. He was excommunicated from the Mormon Church, twice divorced and feared by the children of his third wife.

Brian David Mitchell the 49-year-old panhandling "prophet" suspected of kidnapping Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart is a misfit who alienated anyone who tried to help him.

He couldn't hold a job and was repeatedly arrested for petty crimes, including two arrests in the nine months after Elizabeth was abducted. Social workers considered him delusional and in need of treatment.

Police say this is the man who broke into the Smart family home, took away their daughter, gained such psychological control over the girl that she never tried to escape, and eluded a nationwide search.

Living off handouts and whatever he could steal, the man who called himself Emmanuel became a fixture in downtown Salt Lake City.

"I've seen him around over the years," said free-lance photographer Dan Gorton, 30. "He definitely had some mental problems."

Mr. Mitchell preached that God would restore the "blessing" of polygamy to true believers and apparently believed that a prophet like himself was worthy of an angelic young bride.

When Lois Smart picked him up off the streets and hired him to do repairs at the family's home in November 2001, Mr. Mitchell spotted his angel the blond-haired Elizabeth, then 13.

Seven months later, police say, Mr. Mitchell broke into the girl's bedroom and kidnapped her at knifepoint.

Three days after the "miracle" return of the girl held captive for nine months, a disturbing picture has emerged of the man whom Elizabeth's father calls "an animal."

Brian Mitchell was one of six children. Like most Utah natives, he was raised in the Mormon Church.

The founders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preached and practiced polygamy, but the church repudiated polygamy as a condition of Utah's statehood more than a century ago. Yet the state is still home to handfuls of renegade "fundamentalist" Mormons who cling to the old ways; some men have girls as young as 13 among their multiple wives.

Mr. Mitchell's parents say he was an ordinary boy who became troubled as a teen, getting involved with drugs and alcohol. "He was maladjusted," his father told reporters.

At 19, he married a 16-year-old girl. They had two sons and divorced. He married again and had two more children. Mr. Mitchell became outwardly extremely religious, memorizing long passages of the Bible.

His second wife had a daughter from a previous marriage, Rebecca Woodridge, who said in an interview on NBC that Mr. Mitchell sexually abused her for five years, beginning when she was 8.

After that second marriage also ended in divorce, Mr. Mitchell soon married Wanda Ilene Barzee, now 58. She was arrested Wednesday along with Mr. Mitchell. A pianist and organist who once reportedly performed in the Mormon Tabernacle, Mrs. Barzee had three children of her own, including a daughter, then 12, who feared Mr. Mitchell might molest her.

"He'd come in at night and kiss me and caress my hair," Louree Gaylor told CBS News, saying that her stepfather also was sadistic. "I mean, he shot a dog in front of us, made me eat my own rabbit for dinner, things like that."

The girl fled at 15 and her mother was devastated. Mrs. Gaylor said Elizabeth may have been kidnapped "to give my mom back something she lost. Elizabeth resembles me at 15."

If Mrs. Barzee wanted Elizabeth for a daughter, Mr. Mitchell evidently had chosen the girl as his new wife.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse acknowledged Mr. Mitchell's polygamist views, but would not comment on whether the girl was abused by him. However, MSNBC reported that law-enforcement sources said Elizabeth told interviewers she was forced into a polygamist relationship with Mr. Mitchell after he "married" her in a bizarre ceremony after she was kidnapped.

Police yesterday said Mr. Mitchell was a suspect in a July 2002 break-in at the home of Elizabeth's 17-year-old cousin, which is now being investigated as an attempted kidnapping.

MSNBC reported that Mrs. Barzee told friends that Mr. Mitchell hoped to add more young girls to his planned harem of seven wives.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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