Brian David Mitchell was a Mormon fundamentalist who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart in 2002. He held her captive for nine months, during which time he repeatedly raped her. Mitchell was eventually convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault and sentenced to life in prison.
Mitchell was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1953. He was the third of six children in a Mormon family. His father was a social worker and his mother was a teacher. Mitchell had a difficult childhood. He was reportedly abused by his father and was often bullied by other children. He also struggled with mental health issues, including schizophrenia.
In 1985, Mitchell married Wanda Barzee. The couple had two children together. Mitchell was a controlling and abusive husband. He often beat Barzee and forced her to participate in his religious rituals.
In 2002, Mitchell kidnapped Elizabeth Smart from her home in Salt Lake City. He held her captive for nine months, during which time he repeatedly raped her. Mitchell forced Smart to wear a white robe and call him “Immanuel.” He also forced her to participate in his religious rituals, which included polygamy and child marriage.
In March 2003, Smart was rescued by police. Mitchell and Barzee were arrested and charged with kidnapping and sexual assault. Mitchell was eventually convicted of all charges and sentenced to life in prison. Barzee was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Mitchell is a complex and troubled individual. He is a product of a dysfunctional family and has a history of mental illness. He is also a religious fanatic who believes that he is a prophet. Mitchell’s kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart was a horrific crime, but it is important to remember that he is a human being who is also a victim of abuse and mental illness.
- Elizabeth Smart and Lisa Pulitzer. My Story. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013.
- Jon Krakauer. Under the Banner of Heaven. New York: Doubleday, 2003.
- The Elizabeth Smart Story. Directed by Paris Barclay, ABC, 2003.