Smart was brainwashed, family says

Teen was under control of kidnappers and not able to flee them, relatives say

The Baltimore Sun/March 17, 2003

Salt Lake City -- With prosecutors expected to file charges soon against a nomadic homeless couple in the disappearance of Elizabeth Smart, her family waged a concerted effort yesterday to portray her as having been incapable of escape during months of wandering streets and canyons almost within sight of her home.

Responding to increasingly direct questions about what happened to Elizabeth, now 15, after she was taken at knifepoint from her bed June 5, relatives attending a church service yesterday morning took pains to explain that although they had not pressed Elizabeth for details, they were certain that she had been brainwashed by the man she knew as Emmanuel.

"She had no ability to control her life," Charles Smart, her paternal grandfather and a retired heart surgeon, told the congregation at a crowded Mormon church near the Smart home. "She was completely controlled by Emmanuel."

They would not respond to rumors that Elizabeth had been "married" to her apparent captor, whose real name is Brian D. Mitchell, in a campsite ceremony just hours after her abduction. Mitchell's legal wife, Wanda I. Barzee, who was arrested with him Wednesday, told a friend Friday in a jailhouse conversation that a divine revelation had instructed her husband to take at least seven more wives.

"Elizabeth is still as pure and still as wonderful and still as much a child of God as she ever was," her grandfather said, describing Elizabeth in biblical terms as a "lost sheep" who had at last returned to the flock.

Neither Elizabeth nor her parents, Edward and Lois, attended the church service at the Federal Heights Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where the Smart family has worshiped for years.

Addressing a persistent subject of conjecture here, a spokesman hired by the family emphatically told reporters before the service that Elizabeth is not pregnant and never was.

"Elizabeth is a survivor, and Elizabeth did whatever she had to do to survive," said Chris Thomas, the spokesman. "We don't know the evil things that were done to her."

Thomas, while insisting that Elizabeth was "laughing and playful," said she occasionally appeared slightly distracted, as though something were on her mind. He said she has been practicing the harp and taking bubble baths, was eager to return to school and had several friends visit her at home.

Thomas said that the family had been deluged with up to 100 book and television movie offers and that they would be considered in the coming weeks. "The question is, do you let someone else tell the story, or do you tell the story?" he asked. "There are some people who may exploit the family, and that's unfortunate."

As he spoke outside the church, dozens of pale-blue balloons bobbed in the breeze, a remnant of the glee that greeted Elizabeth's discovery.

Charles Smart said yesterday that Edward Smart, seeking to understand what his daughter had endured, had spoken with Patricia Hearst, who in the apparent grip of the Stockholm syndrome grew to empathize with her kidnappers three decades ago.

Meanwhile an attorney for Mitchell told a television station yesterday that his client considers the 15-year-old his wife and "still loves her."

"He wanted me to tell the world that she 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," said Larry Long, an attorney for Mitchell, in an interview with Salt Lake City's KUTV.

Long told the station that Mitchell asked him yesterday to be his lawyer. He was speaking for his client for the first time. Calls to Long's office from The Associated Press were not returned yesterday, and calls to his home went unanswered.

Long said Mitchell did not consider Elizabeth's disappearance a kidnapping, but a "call from God."

Long also suggested that giving a light sentence to his client - whom he referred to as "the perpetrator" - could send a signal to kidnappers that they should keep their captives alive.

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