Suspects in Smart case could be charged Tuesday

Attorney: Mitchell considers Utah teenager his wife

CNN/March 16, 2003
By Jeanne Meserve

Salt Lake City, Utah -- A spokeswoman for the Utah U.S. attorney's office said she expected charges to be filed Tuesday against a man and woman accused in the disappearance and return of Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart.

Melodie Rydalch said Brian David Mitchell, 49, and his wife, Wanda Ilene Barzee, 57, could be charged by midday.

Prosecutors delayed filing on Monday what were expected to be kidnapping charges against Mitchell and Barzee. The two remained in jail.

Authorities had indicated that they could face charges of aggravated kidnapping Monday, which is punishable in Utah by six years to life in prison.

Also Monday, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson announced an independent review of the Smart investigation and the police department's handling of four area women's deaths.

Although the review of the Smart case will not begin until any legal proceedings have ended, the other case reviews will start soon.

In all of the homicide cases, the mayor said, investigators made a public commitment to a suspect who was never charged. Three of the killings remain unsolved; another man was convicted of the fourth killing.

He asked the independent panel that will study the cases to examine the attention paid during the Smart investigation to Richard Ricci, who was being held at the Utah State Prison in Draper on a parole violation when he died of a brain hemorrhage.

Although Ricci was never named as a suspect, he was the subject of extensive police questioning.

Tip led to missing teen

Acting on a tip Wednesday, authorities found and arrested Mitchell, who had been named a suspect, and Barzee in a Salt Lake City suburb. They also found Elizabeth, who had been missing for nine months and had turned 15 during that time.

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

Mitchell and Barzee were taken into custody hours after they returned from San Diego, California, where Mitchell had been jailed for six days in February on suspicion of breaking into a church.

During a court appearance before his release, Mitchell described himself as "a minister of the Lord" and referred to Elizabeth as his "daughter."

However, Mitchell's attorney told a Salt Lake City television station that 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," Larry Long told KUTV, according to the station's Web site.

Long told KUTV that he met with his client in the Salt Lake County Jail on Sunday.

He also told KUTV that he found his client "intelligent, very knowledgeable, very coherent and ... articulate in his expression of his views." He said Mitchell was eating only fruit, and very little of that.

Asked about Elizabeth's disappearance, Mitchell "would object to the terms abduction and kidnapping" and considered his actions "a call from God," Long said, according to

Father defends suspect

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

Shirl Mitchell said his son's alleged 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 last 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 age 7 or 8.

The father said he believes his erotic literature contributed to a neighbor girl's allegation that Brian Mitchell exposed himself to her when he was a teenager. He added that the family suspected Brian Mitchell was abused in daycare.

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