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Woman pleads guilty, apologizes in 2002 Elizabeth Smart abduction

SALT LAKE CITY — A woman who helped her husband keep kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart enslaved for nine months agreed Tuesday to serve 15 years in federal prison after admitting her role in the abduction.

Wanda Eileen Barzee, 64, also agreed to testify against her husband, Brian David Mitchell. His attorneys say he is not mentally competent to stand trial on charges relating to the 2002 kidnapping of Smart, then 14.

"I'm so sorry, Elizabeth, for all the pain and suffering I caused you and your family," Barzee said in federal court, where she pleaded guilty to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. "It is my hope you will be able to find it in your heart to forgive me."

Smart, now 22, was not in the courtroom. She testified last month that Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet who wanted her to be a plural bride, snatched her from her bedroom in Salt Lake City in March 2002 and brought her to a remote camp, where he held her with Barzee's help.

Smart testified that Barzee was jealous of Mitchell's relationship with her, which included daily rapes, but that Barzee complied with his directives to keep Smart a captive, often in chains.

Barzee, Mitchell and Smart were spotted by a motorist on a street in a Salt Lake City suburb in March 2003, nine months after Smart was taken. Defense attorneys for Mitchell and Barzee argued that the two suffered from mental illnesses that prevented them from standing trial.

Barzee called herself the "mother of Zion" and claimed to receive messages from God through her television. Doctors said that, after several years in a mental hospital and a forced regimen of psychotropic drugs, Barzee was competent to stand trial on kidnapping charges. She would have faced a possible life sentence if convicted.

Mitchell, 56, was found mentally incompetent to face the charges in state court, but federal prosecutors hope to prove at a hearing starting Nov. 30 that he is sane enough to face charges in federal court.

Woman pleads guilty, apologizes in 2002 Elizabeth Smart abduction 11/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 10:32pm]
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