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Jurors heard evidence Friday that Brian David Mitchell on trial for kidnapping and sexually assaulting the then-14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in 2002 is a longtime pedophile with a history of using religion to justify his crimes.
LouRee Gayler testified she was between 12 and 14 years old when Mitchell, her stepfather, would show her pictures of nude women while they prayed alongside her mother, Wanda Barzee.
"I'd open, and then close, my eyes," said Gayler, who testified Mitchell would lay the pictures on the bed, then nudge her to make her look. "I felt it was wrong."
And when Mitchell came to her room to say good night, Gayler said, "He'd caress me way too much. His hugs were too long. He'd brush up against my breasts." At other times he would kiss her on the lips, despite her requests to stop, or thrust his pelvis at her.
Mitchell and Barzee took no pains to hide their sexual relations from Gayler, and Barzee often discussed her sex life with the girl.
"Religion was used as an excuse for their behavior," Gayler said. "They could treat anybody anyway they wanted and repent so they didn't have to answer to their wrong doings."
Gayler, now in her 30s, also provided testimony supporting the prosecution claim that Mitchell is a master manipulator not an insane religious zealot as his defense asserts.
"He'd play games … with the people closest to him mind games to get more dominance," Gayler testified. "Power was important to Brian. He could never get enough."
Gayler testified Mitchell acted differently depending on whom he was dealing with.
"I actually liked who he was at church," she recalled, "but at home there was nothing but torment and chaos."
She said Mitchell and Barzee controlled almost every aspect of her life, and she was "under lockdown at all times," except for church activities and her job at a theater.
A rare exception was when she was allowed to have friends over for her 14th birthday. The fun was short-lived: Mitchell kicked everyone out after seeing a scene in the movie "Goonies" in which a statue of Michelangelo's David is knocked over and the penis breaks off.
"I was humiliated," Gayler recalled. "I filled brown paper bags with feces and peanut butter and syrup and I bombed my house."
Soon after, her parents served Gayler her beloved pet rabbit, Peaches, for dinner, after telling her it was chicken. She found out she had eaten her pet when she couldn't find Peaches the next morning.
"Wanda started laughing hysterically and said that I ate her for dinner," Gayler said, adding that Mitchell was in a nearby room "watching with glee."
The rabbit, Gayler testified, "was the only thing that loved me unconditionally."
Gayler said she fled that home soon after her rabbit was killed and cooked.
"I found my father again, waited for [Mitchell and Barzee to go to work] and I left as fast as I could," she said.
Testimony of another sadistic event involving animals came from Heidi Woodridge, a stepdaughter from Mitchell's second marriage to Debbie Mitchell.
Woodridge testified that in the early 1980s, when she was between 9 and 12 years old, Mitchell put a number of dead mice under the burners of the oven to frighten her mother, Debbie Mitchell. Woodridge said her mother was "petrified of mice … she'd scream and jump up on a chair or table" whenever she saw a live mouse.
Mitchell put the mice in the oven following a heated argument with her mother "about some bread [Mitchell] was baking," she said. Her mother screamed and Mitchell "kind of smirked," she said.
Woodridge also testified that she once caught Mitchell hiding in a bathroom linen closet while taking pictures of her in the bathtub.
Heidi Woodridge's sister, Rebecca Woodridge, claims Mitchell sexually abused her multiple times and forced her to touch his penis, according to a written agreement between attorneys that was read to the jury.
Mitchell married Rebecca Woodridge's mother in 1981, and the sexual abuse began weeks later and continued for four years, according to the stipulation. RebeccaWoodridge initially went public with the story of her abuse following Smart's rescue and Mitchell's arrest in March 2003.
Also Friday, an expert in religious texts testified that Mitchell's writings are cobbled together from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and other religious works.
"Very few references are new," Daniel Peterson, a professor of Islamic Studies at Brigham Young University, said of Mitchell's Book of Immanuel David Isaiah. "It's extremely derivative."
So much of Mitchell's book is borrowed from other sources that Peterson likened it to "how a student would compose a term paper."
Clinical psychologist Richart DeMier testified Thursday he diagnosed Mitchell with paranoid schizophrenia in part because of his religious delusions about waging an apocalyptic battle with the anti-Christ and having a child with Barzee, 67, even though she has had a hysterectomy.
But Peterson told jurors on Friday, "I don't find [Mitchell's ideas] bizarre, I find them culturally understandable."
He said the notion of an end-times battle against the anti-Christ is fairly mainstream. But he acknowledged that naming a particular person to the savior's role as Mitchell did with himself is "a little unusual."
As for Mitchell's belief that Barzee could bear children, Peterson pointed to Mary giving birth to Jesus without having relations with a man. Peterson added, "Every splinter LDS group claims to have a prophet."
Other witnesses Friday included Steve Scott Dean, Mitchell's brother-in-law, who testified that he felt Mitchell's biggest problem was his refusal to get a job. Dean described how Mitchell would don robes, beg for money in downtown Salt Lake City, then return to his mother's to watch TV and raid her fridge.
"He never acted insane in any way," Dean told reporters.
Alysa Landry testified she was acquainted with Mitchell and Barzee for several months in 1998, while she was engaged to the son of lymphol-ogy founder C. Samuel West, of Orem. She said Mitchell was adept at selling $350 lymphology kits and she never thought Mitchell suffered from a mental illness.
The trial will continue Monday and is scheduled to end Friday.
Pamela Manson and Cimaron Neugebauer contributed to this report.
Judge rules against Mitchell video release
A federal judge on Friday denied media requests for a video copy of law enforcement interrogating Brian David Mitchell following his arrest in March 2003 for the alleged kidnapping and sexual assault of Elizabeth Smart.
Prosecutors played the video in court during Mitchell's trial to demonstrate his ability to control the situation. Defense attorneys are arguing Mitchell was insane when he abducted Smart in 2002 and raped her repeatedly.
The Salt Lake Tribune and KUTV Channel 2 requested a copy of the video, but U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball cited a 1979 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in which the justices denied access to copies of audio tapes admitted into evidence at the Watergate criminal trial. The justices ruled the media had no right to physically access and copy tapes that had been played in open court when transcripts of the tapes were available.
"The court has provided considerable access to the [Mitchell] videotape through the trial and the release of a written transcript," wrote Kimball.
The Tribune and KUTV had argued there was a strong presumption in favor of public access to the video, which is likely to be used by jurors in deciding the case and involves the conduct of government officials. Both media outlets are considering whether to appeal the ruling.