Suspect in Smart case called competent

Associated Press/October 17, 2009

Salt Lake City - A state court judge said the Utah State Hospital has determined that the woman charged in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart is competent for trial.

The hospital’s finding - provided in a report three days ago to Judge Judith Atherton - was announced in Salt Lake City’s Third District Court yesterday. It could mean the case of Wanda Eileen Barzee is headed toward trial, although Atherton first must rule Barzee competent.

Atherton set a Nov. 19 hearing to give Barzee’s lawyers time to have their specialists review the hospital’s findings.

But if defense experts dispute the state hospital’s report, the court could hold another competency hearing, or Atherton could issue a ruling based on the report, which is considered case evidence.

Barzee has been receiving court-ordered psychiatric treatment since May 2008 after twice being deemed incompetent to stand trial.

Barzee, 63, and her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell, 55, face charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated burglary in the June 2002 kidnapping of Smart in Salt Lake City.

Barzee appeared in court yesterday but did not speak.

But in an August letter written to her mother, Dora Corbett, Barzee said that based on her own conversation with a doctor and a social worker, she expected she would be deemed competent.

Barzee and Mitchell face the charges of kidnapping, sexual assault, and burglary in the state courts. A federal grand jury also has indicted the two on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor.

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