AP, Mar. 12, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) — The drifter found with Elizabeth Smart lived by begging and believes he is a prophet who needs to preach to the homeless, his stepson said Wednesday.
Brian Mitchell was taken into custody Wednesday, but not immediately charged. He had been identified by the Smart family in February as someone who resembled the man Elizabeth’s younger sister told her parents abducted Elizabeth last June.
Mitchell, known to the Smart family as “Emmanuel,” was “capable” of kidnapping a child, his stepson, Mark Thompson, told The Associated Press.
Elizabeth’s mother, Lois Smart, has said she met Emmanuel in downtown Salt Lake City when he asked for money. She gave him $5 and hired him to help her husband work on the roof of their home in November 2001. He worked for about five hours and the family didn’t see him again, she said.
Mitchell’s sister called law enforcement with his identity after the Smart family held a news conference February 3 to circulate a sketch of him clean-shaven, Thompson said.
Photographs released by Mitchell’s family show him with a long beard.
Mitchell was a downtown fixture, frequently seen wearing white pants, a robe-like tunic and a brimless white hat that resembles a puffy turban or baker’s toque. One of the photos provided to law enforcement shows him in such a hat.
He often was seen panhandling and preaching to the homeless in downtown Salt Lake City before Elizabeth’s disappearance last June. He and his companion, Wanda Eileen Barzee, sold their belongings and started living on the streets in the late 1980s. Barzee also was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon, police said.
Mitchell’s family said he often spent time in a teepee in the mountains outside Salt Lake City.
Police initially suspected handyman Richard Albert Ricci, who had also worked at the Smart home, but he was never charged in the case. Ricci died after suffering a brain hemorrhage in August while in prison on an unrelated parole violation. He had denied any involvement in Elizabeth’s disappearance.