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The wife of Brian David Mitchell took the witness stand in U.S. District Court Thursday, describing to jurors the beginnings of a volatile relationship that would lead to her role in the abduction and sexual assault of Elizabeth Smart.
Wanda Barzee testified she and Mitchell met in group counseling in a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward in the 1980s. On the day Mitchell came into the group, Barzee said, she shared the story of her first marriage.
"I was married to my first husband for 20 years, raising six children," Barzee testified. "It was a very abusive situation. I never did heal from that first relationship before I met Brian. ... Brian was so supportive to me. He became my best friend."
Barzee testified she was on anti-depressants at the time. Mitchell held her hand to comfort her in their counseling sessions, and after a nine-month courtship the two married on the day Mitchell's divorce from his second wife was finalized, she said.
But Barzee unflinchingly described the first year of her marriage with Mitchell as "hellish." The pair argued, she said, and Mitchell was very controlling. Barzee said her husband would often say he was "consumed in fear and doubt."
"He would never talk to me about what he was fearful of," Barzee told the court. "He would get angry and we would get in an argument and he would leave the house before he got so violent that he would hurt somebody or destroy something."
Mitchell would often scream into his pillow, Barzee said.
"He would just scream. Muffling the sound with the pillow, trying to make himself cry," Barzee said.
But Mitchell never cried, she said.
Earlier on Thursday, Mitchell's younger brother, Tim, took the witness stand.
As a child, Tim Mitchell told jurors he liked to play with his creative older brother and watch him take on grand projects like trying to build a roller coaster in the family's backyard.
But as the years led them into adulthood, Tim Mitchell said he watched his older sibling go through dramatic changes pointing to mental illness.
Each time he would periodically see his brother, Tim Mitchell testified, his sibling's problems and beliefs would become more extreme. Tim Mitchell led jurors through Brian David Mitchell's troubled marriage with the wife he married as a teenager after she became pregnant. He talked about a second failed marriage, and Mitchell's on and off again relationship with his family members.
But it was with during his brother's marriage to Barzee that Tim Mitchell recalled his brother's most extreme behavior. The couple traveled the country homeless, ate an all-fruit diet, believed in curing illness through a technique described as lymphology, and had an obsession with religion.
Now a mental health counselor at Bear River Mental Health, Tim Mitchell described one interaction with his brother during his marriage to Barzee about five years before Mitchell abducted a then-14-year-old Elizabeth Smart from her Salt Lake City home in 2002.
"I said, 'Hey, Brian, how you doing?' and he said my name is not Brian any longer," Tim Mitchell testified. "It is Daveed. And Wanda's name is Elladah. He gave me the impression that he had received some of revelation, kind of like Abraham. ... So he wanted me to call him this new name, this Daveed name. I just kept calling him Brian."
"The next time I was there, I said, 'Hey, Brian,' and he said, 'Tim, I've told you my name is Daveed.' I think he's just getting weirder and weirder. I said, 'I'm not going to call you Daveed because I don't believe that. I think you're going off the wrong way.' He got Wanda and left the house. They would try to avoid me whenever I was there. I sent him a letter there and I was thinking this is really looking like mental illness. I sent him some letters encouraging him to get some help. My mom said, 'Brian, read your letter.'"
Read Thursday's testimony live at http://tinyurl.com/3xrcz2v
The case against Brian David Mitchell
Mitchell is accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart, then 14, at knifepoint from her Federal Heights home in the early hours of June 5, 2002.
Smart has testified he forced her to march to his camp in the nearby foothills, where Mitchell's wife, Wanda Barzee, was waiting. Mitchell then performed a "marriage" ceremony, which he said made her his plural wife, before he began raping her over the next nine months, Smart testified.
The trio traveled to Southern California in the fall of 2002, then returned to Utah in early March 2003. On March 12, several people called police saying they had spotted the missing girl on State Street in Sandy. When police arrived, they arrested Mitchell and Barzee and returned Smart to her parents.
Mitchell's prosecution has been delayed mostly due to issues surrounding his mental competency.
He was initially charged in state court, but that case came to a halt in 2008 when a 3rd District Court judge declared Mitchell was incompetent to stand trial and said he couldn't be forcibly medicated to try to restore his mental health.
Federal prosecutors succeeded in getting Mitchell declared competent earlier this year, in part by presenting testimony from people who had interacted with Mitchell at the Utah State Hospital when his guard was down to show that his silence in the presence of doctors and his disruptive hymn singing in the courtroom were an act.