Published On: Mon, Nov 8th, 2010

Elizabeth Smart awoke when she felt a cold knife on her throat

Elizabeth Smart awoke when she felt a cold knife on her throat. Then she heard a man threatening to kill her and her family if she didn’t leave with him.

“He said he was taking me hostage, for ransom. I was shocked. I thought I was having a nightmare,” Smart told jurors Monday, the first day of testimony in the trial of Brian David Mitchell, accused of kidnapping her from her bed in 2002 and holding her for nine months.

Smart’s mother, Lois, testified earlier that she hired Mitchell, then known only as a homeless street preacher named “Immanuel,” to do handyman work at the family home after she and her children ran into him downtown and one of her sons encouraged her to give him money.

Mitchell’s attorneys say he was influenced by escalating mental illness and extreme religious beliefs that made him think he was doing what God wanted him to.

Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 when she was kidnapped, described how Mitchell came into her bedroom. She had left a kitchen window open because her mother had burned potatoes for dinner.

“I remember him saying that I have a knife to your neck, don’t make a sound, get out of bed and come with me or I will kill you and your family,” she said.

Smart said she got up and he grabbed her arm, took her into a closet, had her put on tennis shoes and left the house, leaving behind her parents and siblings — including 9-year-old sister Mary Katherine, who shared her bed.

Smart said she and Mitchell left the house and hiked three to five hours up a hill to a campsite, where Mitchell’s now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, took her in a tent, sat her down on a bucket and washed her feet, Smart said.

Barzee also told her to take off her pajamas and underwear and put on a robe or “she would have the defendant come in and rip them off,” she said.

Smart said Mitchell entered the tent wearing a similar robe and married them by pulling a sentence from the traditional Mormon marriage ceremony, called a sealing.

“He said, ‘What I seal on this earth will be sealed to me in the hereafter and I take you to be my wife,” she said, adding that she screamed and he threatened to duct tape her mouth shut.

“He proceeded to fight me to the ground and force the robes up,” Smart said quietly, pausing, “where he raped me.”

“I begged him not to. I did everything I could to stop him. I pleaded with him not to touch me but it didn’t work.”

Mitchell chained her to a table, making it impossible for her to plea, she said.

Lois Smart testified that she was awakened by Mary Katherine, who had a baby blanket wrapped around her head and neck and looked like a scared rabbit, went downstairs and immediately noticed the kitchen window was open and the screen was cut in a U-shape.

“It was utter terror. It was the worst feeling knowing that I didn’t know where my child was. I was helpless,” Lois Smart said.

She also told jurors how her family met Mitchell in downtown Salt Lake City. He was clean-shaven at the time but now has a long graying beard to the middle of his chest and long hair to the middle of his back.

“He looked like a clean-cut, well-kept man that was down on his luck, who just needed some help to get on with his life. I gave him $5,” she said.

Lois Smart also gave Mitchell the family’s address and phone number, offering to hire him for odd jobs. Mitchell soon called her husband, Ed Smart, who had Mitchell come by a few days later to help fix a leaky roof, Lois Smart said. It was the only job he did for the family.

“I do remember having a conversation with him, hoping that he would do more work. He seemed fine,” she said.

In opening statements, public defender Parker Douglas didn’t dispute the facts but took issue with the prosecution’s allegation that Mitchell is a calculating person who planned the kidnapping.

“His life here is marked by an intense idiosyncratic set of beliefs. This is, as you will see, a pattern with Brian, a search for a deep connection and a belief that he has found something that has given him a certainty and a meaning in life,” Douglas said.

If convicted of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor, Mitchell could spend the rest of his life in federal prison.

Smart was found in March 2003 after drivers spotted her walking in a Salt Lake City suburb with Mitchell.

She is currently serving on a French mission trip for the Mormon Church but plans to resume her music studies at Brigham Young University next year.

Mitchell was again removed from the courtroom Monday for singing hymns, so he’s watching and listening from a holding cell.

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- Stories transferred over from The Desk of Brian where the original author was not determined and the content is still of interest of Dispatch readers.

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