Spokesman- Teen did what was necessary to survive; kidnap probe

Sunday, March 16, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY -- Elizabeth Smart "did what she had to do" to survive her kidnapping ordeal, according to a family spokesman Saturday, who stopped short of confirming reports that her alleged abductor took her as his second wife.

"As far as the polygamous allegations and this wedding are concerned, Elizabeth did what she had to do in this situation and had she not done that, the outcome would be completely different," spokes-man Chris Thomas said. "We can't second-guess her actions."

Meanwhile, investigators in Salt Lake City were seeking clues but remained mum, and Elizabeth's parents stayed out of public sight Saturday. Thomas said they needed a break from the media glare.

But new pieces emerged about the path Smart and her alleged captors -- Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee -- may have taken in the days before they were found Wednesday near Salt Lake City.

In North Las Vegas, Nev., police reported that they questioned three "transient" people that were likely the trio outside a Burger King there on Tuesday. They were questioned but not arrested.

Those three didn't have identification, but gave their names as Peter Marshall, Julitte Marshall and Augustine Marshall -- the same aliases Mitchell, Barzee and Elizabeth gave when they were picked up the following day in Sandy, Utah. Officers there recognized the girl, despite her claims that she was the couple's daughter.

Mitchell was arrested twice during the time Elizabeth was missing -- once in Salt Lake City on suspicion of shoplifting Sept. 27 and again for trying to break into a San Diego County church. Mitchell pleaded innocent to the shoplifting charges Friday.

Couple suspected

Mitchell and Barzee, a homeless couple who say they had revelations from God, also are suspected in a second attempted abduction -- that of Smart's 18-year-old cousin, Jessica Wright -- seven weeks after Elizabeth was taken in June.

"We're not making any statements until the police tell us it's all right to talk, but maybe later," said Stephen Wright, Jessica Wright's father.

Mitchell's affinity for polygamy has become a focus. In a 27-page manifesto written last year, Mitchell offers a rambling justification for the practice and suggests he and Barzee were on a mission to find at least seven more wives.

It remained unclear whether either was cooperating with investigators. Thomas said Elizabeth spoke with detectives Friday and will likely be interviewed again soon. Elizabeth's parents are carefully avoiding asking her about the ordeal, Thomas said.

"They are trying to let Elizabeth move at her own pace. If she wants to talk about something, they'll talk about it," he said.

Elizabeth seems to be acclimating well to her return home, he said.

"Under the circumstances she is doing as well as can be anticipated. She is a little distracted," Thomas said. "Her supportive family is the best therapy at this point, and she seems to be responding very well."

On Friday, Vicky Cottrell, a social worker who has known Wanda Barzee for 28 years and is executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Utah, met with Barzee in jail Friday.

In an interview Saturday, she said Barzee told her that on Thanksgiving Day 2000, the couple received a revelation that Mitchell was to have seven more wives. Barzee spoke about the need to take younger wives because older women would not be submissive enough to marry him, she said.

"That's the very saddest part of this whole thing -- they picked and they chose, and they didn't ask permission," Cottrell said. "They just took someone that was very innocent."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: