Weblog: Was Smart's Kidnapper Motivated by Religion?

Alleged abductor's religious beliefs got "stranger and stranger every day."

Christianity Today/March 10, 2003
By Todd Hertz

Nine months after being abducted, 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart has returned home. Smart, taken by knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home June 5, is reportedly healthy and alert. However, there are signs that the abduction took a psychological toll. Yesterday morning Smart's father said he had no doubts that Elizabeth was brainwashed by Brian David Mitchell, who was excommunicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I think maybe she has been converted to a weird thing," said the girl's uncle, Tom Smart. Speaking last night to reporters, he added that Elizabeth may be suffering from Stockholm syndrome, a psychological defense mechanism in which hostages and victims of abuse begin to care for their abusers or captors.

Smart was held by Mitchell, who called himself "Emmanuel," and his wife, Wanda Ilene Barzee. They traveled by foot and bus and camped outdoors. They also often appeared in public together 'with Smart often hidden under a veil and robes' but the girl apparently did not try to contact anyone for help. When officers approached her Wednesday in Salt Lake City, she denied being Elizabeth Smart. After being asked several times, she began weeping and answered, "Thou sayest."

Reports this week have indicated that Mitchell considered himself a polygamist and may have kidnapped Smart to become his second wife. However, the Associated Press reports that the girl's aunt this morning said, "That's not actually information that we've been given at this point."

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting today that seven weeks before Smart disappeared, Mitchell's mother was so scared by his increasingly strange religious beliefs and violence that she phoned the police. She then filed protective orders against the couple who she says grabbed her by the arms and threatened her.

According to the story, Mitchell had been living with his mother for six years but she had recently become disturbed by his actions. She said he had been getting "stranger and stranger every day." According to the sheriff 's report, he wore purple robes and told his family in a 27-page letter about his beliefs that he would start his own church.

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