SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – Brian David Mitchell, the man accused of kidnapping then-14-year-old Elizabeth Smart, was “possessive” and “controlling,” his jailed wife testified at his trial, adding that the couple’s first year of marriage was “hellish.” Wanda Eileen Barzee, shackled and clad in black-and-gray prison-issued pants and top, described an abusive relationship driven by her and Mitchell’s extreme religious views that structured not only how, but where, they lived.
Barzee spoke softly and rambled through questions as a witness called by Mitchell’s defense on Thursday. She said her first year of marriage to Mitchell “was hellish,” and that Mitchell was “possessive of me and controlling.”
The two met in 1985 at a divorce-therapy group.
“I poured my heart out with what was bothering me,” Barzee testified. She told Mitchell of her previous, abusive 20-year marriage. Mitchell “held my hand,” she said. “We held hands from then on.”
“Brian would say he would become consumed in fear and doubt,” Barzee, 65, said of their initial time together, but “he would never talk to me about what he was fearful of.”
“He would get angry and we would get in an argument, and he would leave the house before he got so violent that he would hurt somebody or destroy something,” she said.
A Latter-day Saints bishop blessed Barzee, she said, and told her that “Satan was going to do everything in his power to stop” the couple, and that the “Lord would give me patience to work with Brian and work out our problems.”
She said that, with the bishop’s help, the couple fought less.
“I started to be more silent, and I learned to be submissive and obedient,” she testified.
Mitchell and Barzee moved from Heber, Utah to Northern Idaho to live in an LDS commune in 1994.
Mitchell regularly disagreed with the group religiously, Barzee said, and the couple moved to property near Kooskia, Idaho owned by Thomas and Betty McKnight in the spring of 1995.
Mitchell again argued over the LDS faith, this time with Thomas McKnight, Barzee said.
McKnight testified earlier in the day, saying Mitchell urged him and others to read “The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah,” Mitchell’s religious manuscript. “I found it personally to be kind of a hodgepodge of … I couldn’t make sense of it,” McKnight said.
Also called by the defense to testify was Mitchell’s younger brother, Tim, a mental health counselor.
He recalled an “intelligent” and “resourceful” older brother who had a knack for building rockets and model airplanes in his youth.
Tim said his brother struggled with drugs and alcohol as he grew older, and his relationship with his family waned.
His parents and five siblings became increasingly concerned when Brian met Barzee.
“All of a sudden, we heard he doesn’t have a job anymore, and he’s moved up to Idaho, and he’s living in a trailer up there,” Tim Mitchell testified.
As Mitchell and Barzee began their trek across the country after leaving McKnight’s property and selling all of their belongings, Tim said he told them, “I think you’re going off on the wrong way, I think you’re drifting away from the church. I think maybe you’ve been deceived by a false spirit.”
The brothers stopped talking in 1997, about five years before Smart’s abduction. Brian had told his brother to call him “Daveed,” a request that Tim refused.
“I started feeling that this is really starting to look like a mental illness and I sent a letter encouraging him to get some help,” he said.
Mitchell and Barzee criss-crossed the country, with Barzee playing organ recitals along the East Coast, and the couple settling, for a time, in the Santa Cruz Mountains outside of Palo Alto, Calif.
Mitchell allegedly kidnapped Smart to take her as his second wife in Salt Lake City in 2002. She testified that, during her nine months with the couple, Mitchell raped her daily, and he and Barzee regularly forced her to drink alcohol and watch them have sex.
Smart was found by police in Sandy, Utah when the three returned from Southern California after Mitchell’s alleged attempt to kidnap another young girl failed.
Mitchell, 57, was deemed competent for trial and is charged with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines. He faces life in prison if convicted.
“I know the world thinks I’m crazy,” Mitchell allegedly told an FBI agent after his arrest. “But I’m not crazy. I’m just doing God’s will.”
Barzee was also deemed competent after authorities forced her to take anti-psychotic drugs. She pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping charges last year and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Her testimony resumes Friday morning.