SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Prosecutors charged a self-proclaimed prophet and his wife yesterday with aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, disclosing for the first time details of the girl’s nine-month ordeal.
Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee also were charged with burglary and attempted aggravated kidnapping – a charge stemming from what prosecutors said was an attempt to later abduct Elizabeth’s 18-year-old cousin.
“We are not dealing with just a religious zealot, we are dealing with a predatory sex offender,” District Attorney David Yocom said in announcing the charges.
Mitchell, 49, and Barzee, 57, could receive life in prison if convicted. They were scheduled to be arraigned today, and bail was set at $10 million each.
Before yesterday’s charges, no details had been released about any abuse Elizabeth, now 15, might have suffered during her disappearance.
Prosecutors contend Mitchell, a drifter whose writings promote polygamy, entered the Smart home June 5 after using a knife to cut a window screen. Elizabeth was forced at knifepoint to walk up a mountain trail behind the Smart family home to a concealed campsite, according to court papers.
Mitchell threatened to harm or kill the girl’s family members if she resisted, the papers said. “She was under the threat of death,” Yocom said.
Prosecutors said that when the trio reached the campsite, Barzee tried to remove Elizabeth’s pajamas. When the girl resisted, Barzee threatened to have Mitchell forcibly do it, they said.
Mitchell then “raped or attempted to rape her, or commit forcible sexual abuse against her,” with Barzee’s help, Yocom said.