Accused kidnapper’s wife testifying at Smart trial

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The estranged wife of the man charged with the abduction of Elizabeth Smart testified Thursday that the beginning of their 25-year marriage was hellish because he was so controlling.Wanda Eileen Barzee took the witness stand to testify for the defense at the trial of Brian David Mitchell.”He was possessive and controlling, and there would be arguments,” an emotional Barzee said in a quiet voice.Her testimony was continuing.Mitchell, 57, is charged with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.Barzee, 65, pleaded guilty to the same charges in November 2009 and is serving a 15-year term at Carswell, a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is being treated for mental illness.She agreed to cooperate with the case against Mitchell in a plea agreement with prosecutors.Mitchell’s attorneys don’t dispute the facts of Smart’s abduction and captivity, but contend Mitchell is mentally ill. Federal prosecutors maintain Mitchell is faking mental illness in order to avoid prosecution.Now 23, Smart has testified that she was forced to enter a polygamous marriage with Mitchell, endured near daily rapes, was forced to use drugs and alcohol and was taken against her will from Utah to California for about four months.At her federal sentencing, Barzee asked Smart for forgiveness and said that seven years after the June 5, 2002, kidnapping she finally understood it had been wrong.Many observers expected Barzee might testify for the prosecution. But nothing in the plea agreement dictated which side might use her as a witness, her attorney Scott Williams said.”There very well may be an advantage to the government by having her called by the defense,” Williams said. “Cross-examination provides more leeway for eliciting the points you want to make.”It wasn’t immediately clear what defense attorneys would ask, but Williams said Barzee has a lot of information about the defendant and the circumstances that led to the charges.Mitchell and Barzee were both twice deemed incompetent for trial in parallel state cases.Mitchell was diagnosed as delusional, and his case went to federal court after a state judge rejected a petition to have him forcibly medicated with anti-psychotic drugs.In 2006, Barzee was ordered to undergo forced medication at Utah State Hospital. Her competency status was restored after about 15 months of treatment – an event that precipitated her plea agreements in both state and federal court.Williams said Barzee continues to receive treatment in prison.”Her mental health condition appears to be the same as it was when she was sentenced,” he said.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!