Elizabeth Smart testifies about day she was found
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Elizabeth Smart was so terrified of her abductor that on the day police found her, she told them she was someone else.
She took the stand at her alleged kidnapper’s trial for a second day Tuesday, telling jurors she was also too scared to speak up when a detective tried to question her in a public library months before she was finally freed.
Smart spent nearly six hours testifying in a steady voice before a rapt audience in U.S. District Court.
She told jurors Brian David Mitchell raped her almost daily and forced her to drink, use drugs and view pornography. Once she tried to flee, and Mitchell and his wife caught her and told her an angel would cut her down with a sword if she ever tried it again.
Mitchell, who knew Smart because her mother had hired him to fix the family’s leaky roof, is accused of kidnapping her from her bed in June 2002, when she was 14.
His attorneys say the homeless street preacher known as Immanuel was influenced by a worsening mental illness and religious beliefs that made him think he was doing what God wanted.
Smart testified Tuesday that when police finally found her in March 2003, wearing a wig and sunglasses and walking along a suburban Salt Lake City street with Mitchell and his wife, she told them she was Augustine Marshall, the daughter of traveling preachers.
Smart, now 23, said that was the story Mitchell had instructed her to tell if ever the three were approached.
Police separated them and peppered Smart with questions. They were tipped off by drivers who reported seeing the girl.
“I was very scared. I knew the threats that I had been told for nine months,” said Smart, who was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car. “I thought maybe at the same time that this is it. This is it, this is over.”
Smart also told jurors about a missed chance to tell police what had happened when a detective approached her at the Salt Lake City library in the early fall, a few months after she was kidnapped.
She was wearing a robe and a veil that covered her face, and the detective asked if he could look under it.
“He said he was looking for Elizabeth Smart,” Smart said.
Under the table, Mitchell’s now-estranged wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, squeezed her leg, a sign that Smart should remain quiet. Mitchell refused to let the detective talk to her, saying it was not allowed in their religion and only her husband would ever see her face.
The detective pressed.
“He asked if he could be a part of our religion for a day, just so he could see my face, just so he could go back (to the police station) and say, ’No it wasn’t Elizabeth Smart’,” she said.
Mitchell calmly refused, and the detective gave up and left.
“I was mad at myself, that I didn’t say anything,” she said. “I felt terrible that the detective hadn’t pushed harder and had just walked away.”
Afterward, Mitchell sped up plans to move the trio away from Utah, so Smart would not be discovered, she told jurors. They spent the summer in California before hitchhiking back to Utah the day before she was found.
The three pitched a tent in an Orem campground called Camelot, about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City, after getting a ride from a truck driver.
“The tent was set up and I was raped for the last time,” Smart said.
The Associated Press does not typically name victims of sexual assault, but the details of Smart’s case have become public.
She also told jurors that soon after she was kidnapped, Mitchell tried to abduct her cousin from another part of Salt Lake City.
“He decided it was time to go and kidnap another girl to be another wife,” she said.
The attempt was thwarted when Mitchell tried to get through a window but pushed over some knickknacks and awakened the sleeping household.
The following day, Mitchell forced Smart to metaphorically sever any remaining ties with her family by burning the red pajamas she had been wearing the night she was taken.
Smart said she dropped the pajamas into a campfire and watched them burn. Afterward, she found in the ashes a safety pin that she had used to keep the neck of the pajamas closed. She fastened it to a small piece of rubber from her tennis shoes — which Mitchell had thrown out — and hid it.
“I didn’t want to let go of my family, of my life,” she said.
Mitchell, 57, faces life in prison if he is convicted of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. The trial is expected to last at least five weeks.
Barzee pleaded guilty to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines and is serving 15 years in federal prison.