Guilty plea in infamous US kidnap
A woman has pleaded guilty to kidnapping 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in the US state of Utah in 2002. Wanda Barzee was charged along with her now-estranged husband Brian Mitchell of abducting the girl from her bedroom and holding her captive for nine months.
Barzee, 64, apologised to her victim saying she hoped Elizabeth Smart would find it in her heart to forgive her. She has agreed to testify against her husband under a plea deal which could see her serving 15 years in prison.
The abduction and subsequent search and discovery of Elizabeth Smart dominated the news media in the US at the time. Prosecutors say she was snatched from her bedroom at knifepoint by Brian Mitchell, an itinerant self-styled preacher who had carried out some handiwork at Miss Smart’s parents’ home.
She was reunited with her family after she was spotted – wearing a dark wig and a veil – in the company of Barzee and Mitchell about 10 miles (15km) from her home. Barzee had only recently been declared competent to stand trial after years in a mental hospital.
Pleading guilty in a federal court in Salt Like City to charges of kidnapping and transporting a minor, she apologised to the Smart family. “I’m so sorry, Elizabeth, for all the pain and suffering I caused you and your family,” she said.
Miss Smart was not at the hearing, but her father told reporters outside the court he felt the apology was “sincere”. Miss Smart has said that within hours of her abduction, Mitchell brought her to a remote camp where he took her as a polygamous ‘wife’ and raped her.
He has been found mentally incompetent to stand charges in a state court. But a competency hearing has been scheduled for 30 November 2009 where prosecutors will try to prove he is capable of facing trial in federal court.