On June 5, 2002, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, abducted 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah. Police eventually rescued Elizabeth - after she had been living with her captors for nine months. The couple brainwashed Elizabeth and sexually assaulted the teen on a daily basis, often forcing her to drink alcohol in excess.
Details surrounding Elizabeth's abduction and imprisonment remain unusual. Mitchell took Elizabeth to parties, in disguise, and they walked around the people of Utah unnoticed. She was right in front of everyone's eyes, even as a nationwide search mounted for the missing girl. Elizabeth’s abduction story became one of perseverance after authorities found her, as she became an advocate of strength to other victims of sexual assault.
Mary Katherine was just 9 years old when Mitchell and Barzee kidnapped her older sister. The girls shared a room, and Mary Katherine woke up during the kidnapping but pretended to be asleep. She is the only witness to the abduction. She waited until she thought the captors were gone and got up to tell her parents - but almost ran into Elizabeth and her kidnapper in the hallway: "I thought, you know, be quiet, because if he hears you, he might take you too, and you're the only person who has seen this.”
She returned to bed. A few hours later, she went and told her parents. When they went to the police, Mary Katherine's details weren't reliable. She thought the man had threatened her sister with a gun, but it was a knife. She thought he was wearing light clothes, but he was wearing black. She also thought his voice sounded familiar but wasn't sure from where.
Investigators believe Mitchell may have abducted Elizabeth to make her one of his wives. The kidnapper reportedly considered himself a polygamist. Mitchell set his eyes on Elizabeth while doing work with her family and became fixated on her.
According to Elizabeth, Mitchell revealed he hoped to make her his second wife, and he was planning to acquire at least five.
Mitchell and Barzee held Elizabeth captive for nine months. They kept her not far from her home at a campsite - only 3.5 miles away. After the kidnapping, she had no way to reach or contact her family. Reportedly, they initially tied Elizabeth to a tree, and she once heard a family member calling for her.
She explained how the kidnappers threatened to kill her family, so she felt she couldn't try to escape.
Mitchell alleged he kidnapped Smart because he believes he is a religious prophet. His religious views reportedly combine parts of Mormonism with New Ageism. He wrote his own religious doctrine, The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah. According to Elizabeth, Mitchell prayed and chanted while he forced himself on her. He also sang religious songs he composed himself.
Elizabeth told investigators at Mitchell’s trial he believed his purpose is to fight the anti-Christ. She also maintained Barzee called herself "God Adorneth" and claimed to be one of Mitchell's disciples.