Polygamy Theory Probed in Utah Girl's Kidnapping
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - Investigators on Friday tried to piece together the nine months Elizabeth Smart spent away from home as reports surfaced that she may have been forced into a polygamous relationship with the fanatical street preacher suspected of abducting her.
Police and family members said that Elizabeth, who was taken from her bedroom at knife-point, suffered from profound psychological stress during her random travels through Utah and California and ultimately fell under his sway.
Prosecutors were expected to bring charges against Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee on Friday amid lingering questions over the extent of Elizabeth's ordeal and the failure of police to focus earlier on the drifter.
Salt Lake Police chief Rick Dinse said that Mitchell was a "self-proclaimed polygamist" and had left behind a manifesto spelling out his unconventional beliefs. Dinse has declined to say whether Elizabeth was sexually assaulted.
Investigators expected the manifesto to shed light on Mitchell's motives and possibly even spell out his plans for Elizabeth, who he apparently targeted after working briefly at the Smart home.
NBC news reported Elizabeth told police that after her abduction last June she was forced into a "polygamous relationship" with Mitchell.
Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart, has said that Mitchell was "fixated" on his daughter. But the family say they have been reluctant to press Elizabeth for details, focusing instead on surrounding her with love and a sense of security.
Mitchell's control over Elizabeth was so complete that when first confronted by police on the day of her rescue the 15-year-old -- who was wearing flowing white robes, a veil, dark sunglasses and a scarf -- insisted that her name was "Augustine."
When the officers pressed her, she reportedly blurted out: "I know who you think I am, you think I'm that Elizabeth Smart girl who ran away."
Officers told reporters they finally broke through by taking Elizabeth away from Mitchell, 49, and Barzee, 57. As they pressed Elizabeth again, tears welled up in her eyes and she responded: "Thou sayest."
Ed Smart believes that Mitchell "brainwashed" his daughter and her uncle, Tom Smart, said that she was a victim of Stockholm Syndrome and would require counseling.
The Stockholm Syndrome refers to prisoners taken hostage who then identify with their captors, based on what happened in 1973 during a prolonged Stockholm bank robbery. America's most famous example of the syndrome was heiress Patricia Hearst, who was kidnapped by the radical Symbionese Liberation Army and ultimately joined them.
Family members say Elizabeth, an accomplished harp player, good student and devout Mormon, has been recovering remarkably well from her abduction. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that she is embarrassed by the publicity surrounding her case and is eager to return to school.
SISTER TOLD POLICE MITCHELL MAY HAVE BEEN KIDNAPPER
Elizabeth's 9-year-old sister, Mary Katherine, witnessed the abduction and told police in October that the kidnapper may have been Mitchell. But police downplayed his significance as a possible suspect and did not release a sketch of him until February.
Family members have said that police did not take seriously enough the convictions of Mary Katherine, who is now 10 and never wavered from her story. Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said he wants a review of the investigation.
Dinse said Mitchell took Elizabeth into the mountains above her home for two months after the abduction and later traveled with her and Barzee to San Diego, where he spent six days in jail in February under another name. San Diego police did not connect him to her kidnapping.
Mitchell, Barzee and Elizabeth returned to Salt Lake and were spotted on Wednesday afternoon by passersby who recognized Mitchell -- though not the missing girl whose picture was plastered across their city as a kidnap victim.
Before leaving for San Diego sometime last October, the three were spotted repeatedly around Salt Lake City and lived for two weeks in an apartment just miles from Elizabeth's home and blocks from the police station.
Pictures have surfaced of all three at a neighborhood rave party in September and a local man videotaped them sitting at a picnic bench at the city's Liberty Park.
Recommended for you
Join the discussion
PoliceOne top 5
- DC cops' body cams won't be on while they monitor inauguration demonstrators
- Slain Fla. officer's cuffs used to arrest suspect
- Pa. cop sues Wal-Mart over termination for carrying gun on duty
- Details emerge in shooting of Ariz. trooper by driver he sought to help
- Texas cops don cowboy hats with uniforms