Charges Likely in Abduction of Utah Teen

The Associated Press/March 18, 2003
By Rebecca Boone

Salt Lake City -- Elizabeth Smart's family is calling on prosecutors to make sure they do not traumatize the girl during questioning about the nine months she spent with her captors.

The family met Monday with the Salt Lake County district attorney's office and asked that investigators involve Elizabeth only as much as they need to for a successful prosecution, Smart family spokesman Chris Thomas said.

"They have expressed their concerns for Elizabeth's well-being, and will hold the D.A.'s office accountable for any actions that might victimize her a second time,'' Thomas said.

Charges against Elizabeth's alleged captors were expected to be filed Tuesday morning, the Salt Lake County district attorney's office said.

It was not clear whether charges would be state or federal, or both. Christine Hodge, assistant legal secretary in the office of DA David Yocom, said she had no details other than that the filing would be in the morning.

Authorities say Elizabeth, now 15, was abducted from her bedroom at knifepoint by Brian Mitchell on June 5.

Mitchell, 49, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 57, and Elizabeth were found March 12 in Sandy, a Salt Lake City suburb.

Attorney Larry Long, who is representing Mitchell, said his client considered Elizabeth's disappearance a "call from God'' and took her as his second wife.

Long has suggested that giving his client a light sentence could encourage kidnappers to keep their captives alive.

Mitchell's father made a similar appeal Monday, arguing that any punishment should be tempered by the girl's survival.

"There's a lot of people that kidnap little kids and murder them,'' said Shirl Mitchell, 83. "He took care of the girl and she came back in good health.''

Thomas said Mitchell was wrong to believe he had any kind of relationship with the girl.

"Elizabeth was taken against her will at knifepoint, she's a minor, and whatever rationale Mitchell used to believe that she was his wife and loved him is grossly mistaken,'' Thomas said. "The definition of love is not degradation, humiliation, or robbing someone's life of control and respect.''

In another development Monday, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said he would name an independent commission to examine police handling of the case to provide "a fair, objective review.''

Investigators drew criticism for concentrating on potential suspect Richard Ricci even after Elizabeth's younger sister told authorities in October that Mitchell could be the man that took her sister.

Thomas said the family "hopes that those who made egregious errors will be held accountable and those mistakes will not be repeated.''

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