Lawyer: Mitchell thinks Elizabeth is wife

Charges may be filed Monday
CNN, Mar. 17, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN) — The attorney for a self-proclaimed prophet in police custody and suspected of abducting Elizabeth Smart told a local television station his client considers the 15-year-old girl his wife.

“He wanted me to tell the world that [Elizabeth] is his wife, and he still loves her and knows that she still loves him, that no harm came to her during their relationship and the adventure that went on,” attorney Larry Long told KUTV, according to the station’s Web site.

Long told KUTV he met with his client, Brian David Mitchell, 49, in the Salt Lake County Jail on Sunday.

The revelation by Long followed efforts by Mitchell’s relatives over the weekend to defend the homeless man.

On Wednesday, police arrested Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Ilene Barzee, 57, in Sandy, Utah, after residents recognized the bearded and robe-clad Mitchell as the man police had named as a suspect in the case. Mitchell was walking with two veiled women — Barzee and Elizabeth.

Police say Elizabeth was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom during the night of June 5, 2002.

Authorities in Utah have said Brian Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet who called himself “Emmanuel,” and companion Barzee could face charges of aggravated kidnapping. Charges were expected to be filed against the two on Monday.

Attorney Long also told KUTV reporter Brian Mullahy that he found his client to be “intelligent, very knowledgeable, very coherent and … articulate in his expression of his views.” He said Mitchell was eating very little food, and only fruit.

Asked about Smart’s kidnapping, Mitchell “would object to the terms abduction and kidnapping” and considered his actions “a call from God,” Long said, according to

Relatives defend suspect

As details about the case emerged, Mitchell’s father over the weekend took to task those who would condemn his son.

Shirl Mitchell, the suspect’s father, said there was no justification for the alleged abduction but that his son’s actions should be put in perspective.

“Brian is the one who got that girl back safely … Now, that’s quite an accomplishment,” the senior Mitchell told CNN over the weekend.

“How many of these fiends, degenerates, take little kids and dismember their bodies or kill them outright and bury them. Now when they’re getting to be overcritical of Brian, they should remember that,” he said, urging that Mitchell not be “dumped out as garbage.”

Mitchell’s father, 83, who described himself as a voyeur and the author of two volumes about his personal theology that include explicit sexual content, also acknowledged showing his son pictures of genitalia at the age of seven or eight.

The father said he believes his erotic literature contributed to an after-school episode of indecent exposure when Mitchell was a teenager.

A few weeks in juvenile detention, bouts with alcohol and drugs — including an LSD trip that put him in the hospital — were other contributing factors, the elder Mitchell said. He added that the family suspected Brian Mitchell was abused in daycare.

Calling himself “too impulsive” as a parent, the father also catalogued early incidents in his own troubled relationship with Mitchell.

“He slapped one of the neighbor kids with a hose, hurting the kid, making the kid cry. So I went out and slapped him with [the hose] and probably said ‘how do you think that feels.’ That was too harsh,” he said.

Vacation? Short break? Day trip? Get Skip-the-line tickets at GetYourGuide.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 17, 2003.
Last updated if a date shows here:


More About This Subject


Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission -- at no additional cost to you -- for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate, Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this research service free of charge.

Speaking of which: One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at