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Suspect mimicked Jesus by wearing robes, preaching

The small-framed, big-bearded man called himself Emmanuel and wandered the streets of Salt Lake City in white robes and linen cap, sandals and a walking staff.

Emmanuel, suspected of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart when she was 14, looked and spoke like a modern-day prophet, panhandling and preaching to the homeless as if he were a messenger from God.

"Sometimes he was a little incoherent," said Pamela Atkinson, a longtime homeless advocate in Salt Lake City who had many conversations with Emmanuel. "He was more of a talker than a listener."

The eccentric man didn't cause trouble, said Andrew Larsen, a salesman at Edinburgh Castle Scottish Imports. "I just thought he was trying to dress up like Jesus to appeal to the emotions of people."

Emmanuel is a Hebrew name for Jesus; the would-be messiah began life as Brian David Mitchell in suburban Salt Lake City.

Mitchell, 49, attended high school in the 1970s, was a devout Mormon, married and fathered four children.

Then things fell apart.

He and his wife divorced, and in the late 1980s, Mitchell married Wanda Ilene Barzee, who had several children. Barzee's daughter, Louree Gayler, was 12 at the time, and her new stepfather made her uncomfortable.

"He was kissing and holding me the wrong way," Gayler said. "But he never molested me because he wanted to see his other kids."

Gayler says she endured the situation for three years, then went to live with her father.

Mitchell might have kidnapped Elizabeth to "give my mom back something she lost," Gayler said. "Elizabeth resembles me at 15."

Mitchell had lost touch with his Mormon faith. Church records indicate he and Wanda were excommunicated, spokesman Michael Otterson said.

C. Samuel West, a self-described medical researcher in Orem, allowed the couple to live with him on and off for several months in the late 1990s. During their stay, West says he tried to persuade them to return to the church.

"When I started talking to him about the church, he took off," West said.

But some months later Mitchell and his wife returned. This time he was wearing his robes and telling tales of a handmade cart he pulled across the Golden Gate Bridge.

"He felt he was playing the role of Jesus," West said. Mitchell told him that "giving anything to him was like giving it to Jesus."

After several months, the Wests could no longer afford to support the Mitchells, and the couple went on their way. That left Mitchell without work, so he turned to panhandling and handyman services.

In August 2001, a kind homemaker employed him for a day _ Elizabeth's mother, Lois Smart.