Girl's Kidnapper Begs for Forgiveness

Brian David Mitchell allegedly snatched Elizabeth Smart seven years ago

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images (left) and AP
    Wanda Barzee (right) pleaded guilty Monday to kidnapping Elizabeth Smart.

    A woman charged in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart pleaded guilty Tuesday as part of a deal with federal prosecutors and asked Smart to forgive her for all the pain she had caused.

    Wanda Eileen Barzee apologized in court in Salt Lake City, saying she was "humbled as I realize how much Elizabeth Smart has been victimized and the role that I played in it."

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    Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted seven years ago, describes harrowing details of her captivity, which included several months in an abandoned trailer in Lakeside. (Published Friday, Oct 2, 2009)

    "I am so sorry, Elizabeth, for all the pain and suffering I have caused you and your family," Barzee, 64, said. "It is my hope that you will be able to find it in your heart to forgive me."

    Smart, now 22 and preparing to serve a mission in Paris for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was not in court, but her father, Ed Smart, made a statement there.

    "I just hope that Wanda realizes what she did and that it was absolutely wrong and absolutely horrible," he said.

    Barzee, who wore a black skirt and black flats, pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

    Sentencing for Barzee was set for May 19. She could have faced a life sentence for the kidnapping charge and up to 15 years for the other count. However, under the plea deal, she is expected to receive 15 years in prison, with credit for about six years already served.

    Barzee will be returned to the Utah State Hospital until her sentencing. She also will plead guilty in state court under the plea deal to one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping and will cooperate in the case against her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell.

    Smart was 14 when she was taken at knifepoint from the bedroom of her Salt Lake City home, sparking a search that riveted the nation. Nine months later, in March 2003, Barzee and Mitchell were arrested after they were spotted walking on a suburban street with Smart.

    During her time with her alleged abductors, the three were spotted in Lakeside, in San Diego County, wearing white robes and staying in an abandoned trailer. Mitchell, who was arrested for breaking into a Lakeside church, gave authorities a fake name, pleaded guilty and was eventually released. Sheriff's deputies said they ran his fingerprints, but Mitchell had no outstanding warrants and they had no reason to believe Smart was in the San Diego area.

    Barzee's role in the abduction has garnered less attention than Mitchell's.

    At a hearing last month, Smart said that within hours of the abduction, Mitchell took her as a polygamous wife and then raped her. Smart said Barzee washed the teen's feet and dressed her in robes before the ceremony.

    Smart described Mitchell as "evil, wicked, manipulative, stinky, slimy, selfish, not spiritual, not religious, not close to God."

    She said he held her captive with a cable attached to her leg that had a 10-foot reach. That line was attached to another cable strung between two trees.

    Smart said Mitchell plied her with alcohol and drugs to lower her resistance.

    "He said that he would kill anybody that would come into the camp, or kill me if I ever tried to escape or yell out," Smart had testified.

    Smart said Mitchell was motivated by sex and used religion to get what he wanted.

    Barzee often became upset over Mitchell's relationship with Smart, but that sentiment would never last, Smart said.

    A 10-day competency hearing in Mitchell's case is set to begin Nov. 30 in federal court. Mitchell, 55, and Barzee were indicted on federal charges in March 2008.

    Mitchell, a one-time itinerant street preacher, is accused of taking Smart as a wife in order to fulfill a religious prophecy included in a 27-page manifesto he wrote called "The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah."