- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY, March 13 (UPI) — Elizabeth Smart, after being abducted at knifepoint, was apparently either too afraid or too bonded to her alleged kidnappers to try to escape during the nine months she was a captive of a scruffy wandering street prophet and his wife, authorities have indicated.

Details of the Salt Lake City teenager's alleged kidnapping and the ordeal that followed trickled out of police headquarters Thursday as police and FBI began chronicling the group's travels and travails between the time of Elizabeth's disappearance last summer and Wednesday when she was found in nearby Sandy dressed in a long robe and veil covering nearly her entire face.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse told an afternoon news conference that he was still convinced Elizabeth had been kidnapped and held against her will, although he begged off answering the key questions of why she was kidnapped and why she had been unable to get away as she was allegedly shuttled around the country by Brian "Emmanuel" Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.

"It is premature as to what the motive was," said Dinse. "A lot of our earlier hesitancy was so we would not harm the investigation, and in this case, it's the prosecution. I'd like to stay away from the motive."

Mitchell and Barzee remained in the Salt Lake jail and could face formal kidnapping charges as early as Friday, according to Dinse.

The chief declined to comment on a Seattle Times report that Mitchell, a drifter and self-appointed prophet, believed that God had chosen the unsuspecting teenager to be his next wife.

"I can't confirm or deny that; that will come out in time," said Dinse.

The Times, citing a police source in Salt Lake City, said Mitchell told investigators that he wanted Elizabeth to become his wife after first laying eyes on her while he did a one-day handyman stint at the Smart's suburban home in 2001.

"It was a religious thing," the source told the Times. "This guy just wanted another wife, and God told him this was the one."

Regardless of the possible motive, speculation was rampant in the media Thursday that Elizabeth had fallen under the influence of the psychological phenomenon known as the Stockholm syndrome, which causes hostages or victims of abductions to become dependent on their captors and, eventually, builds a bond of intense loyalty with them.

"There is no question she was affected psychologically by this," said Dinse.

Police noted that Elizabeth had been somewhat evasive with police who stopped the oddly dressed trio Wednesday in the nearby suburb of Sandy and had reportedly given a false name at first. And, since her recovery, witnesses have come forward to tell reporters that they had unknowingly encountered Elizabeth and she had made no effort to ask for help or to escape.

Police confirmed Thursday that they had located a camp site just three miles from the Smart home where Elizabeth was believed held for up to two months after her abduction as a search by scores of volunteers drew national headlines.

"Just because she didn't make any escape attempts, doesn't mean she didn't want to," ventured Dr. Judith H. Friedman, a Los Angeles psychotherapist who specializes in family issues. "I don't know the whole story, but her life may have been threatened — or worse, they may have threatened a family member."

"Her knowing that they had the power to abduct her would probably help in convincing her of that," Friedman told United Press International. "Plus, he may have had the charisma of Charles Manson."

Elizabeth's best opportunity to flee may have been last month when the three camped for a while in Southern California, during which time Mitchell was jailed for six days for a San Diego County church break-in.

With Mitchell locked up, Elizabeth would have been watched by only the 57-year-old Barzee, but she apparently made no effort to get away.

Mary Suazo, a clerk at a convenience store patronized by the trio, called them polite but "creepy different."

"They (Elizabeth and Barzee) would hang their heads," Suazo told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "They wouldn't even look at you."

A Salt Lake City man said Wednesday that he had seen Elizabeth with Mitchell last October when they spent a few nights at his apartment, just a block from police headquarters.

"It didn't cross my mind that it was Elizabeth Smart," Daniel Trotta conceded to the Salt Lake Tribune. "I wouldn't have suspected anything."

Trotta said the two women with Mitchell, who he knew from the health food store where he worked, wore the same veils on their faces they had on when they were stopped in Sandy Wednesday.

Another Salt Lake City resident produced photos he said he took of the veiled Elizabeth at a crowded party that Mitchell and his group had crashed.

After deflecting some difficult questions as to why Elizabeth had not been found earlier and why so much effort had been expended investigating Richard Ricci as a possible suspect, FBI agent Chip Burrus said that everyone owed a debt of gratitude to the Smart family for continuing to put their ideas forward into the public domain.

"The sky is a little bit brighter in Utah today," Burrus happily declared.

(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)

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