The self-styled "Prophet of God" suspected of kidnapping Salt Lake City teenager Elizabeth Smart might have been driven by a revelation telling him to gather seven young wives into a polygamist family, police and media reports said Friday _ with Elizabeth and possibly her cousin as the first "wives."
The reported revelation might explain what drove Bryan David Mitchell, 49, who is accused of abducting the then-14-year-old Elizabeth from her Salt Lake City home in June. During the nine months Elizabeth lived and traveled with Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Ilene Barzee, 57, there was no ransom demand and no contact with the Smart family.
Mitchell and Barzee are jailed without bail pending charges of aggravated kidnapping, police said.
A mental health worker, Vicki Cottrell, visited Barzee in jail Friday. Cottrell told the Deseret News Barzee had described a revelation the couple received in the fall of 2000 telling them to gather seven "young wives" into a family. Cottrell speculated Elizabeth Smart was taken to be the first of these wives.
This theory might help explain an announcement Friday from Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard. The Sheriff's Office, he said, suspects Mitchell might have been responsible for the attempted late-night break-in at the home of Jessica Wright, 18, a cousin of Elizabeth Smart. That break-in, seven weeks after Elizabeth was abducted, might have been an attempt to kidnap Jessica, the sheriff said.
The screen on Jessica's bedroom window was cut with a knife, the sheriff said, and a chair was found outside the window. The break-in at the Smart home also involved an intruder standing on a chair to cut away the screen window with a knife. In the Wright case, shouts from inside the house sent the intruder racing away. The incident was attributed to juvenile delinquents, the sheriff said, but questioning of Elizabeth on Wednesday led investigators to focus on Mitchell.
Mitchell, who walked the streets of Salt Lake City in a long white robe preaching the words of Jesus Christ, had been a low-level official of the Mormon Church before he was excommunicated. Like a minority of Mormons here, he criticized the church hierarchy for its decision, over a century ago, to end the practice of polygamy.
Mitchell called himself "Emannuel" or "Immanuel," a Hebrew word meaning "God With Us." He published a 27-page tract, The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, that says the "blessing of polygamy" should be restored to Mormon believers.
In the jail, Barzee made a point of telling Cottrell, her friend, that she "would never let anything bad happen" to Elizabeth, but seemed not to recognize the pain Elizabeth's disappearance for nine months had caused the Smart family. Barzee also told Cottrell that Elizabeth was once left alone for the night.
"She knew not to wander off," Cottrell said, describing that as a quote from Barzee.
For the past two days, Elizabeth has been going through the tens of thousands of letters and e-mails that came to her home expressing hope for her safe return, her family says.
She didn't go to a party Friday that thousands of people attended in a park in Salt Lake City, but she sent a handwritten poster reading, "I'm the luckiest girl in the world! Thank you for your love and prayers. It's a wish come true!! I'm home! I love you all."
_ Information from the Associated Press and New York Times was used in this report.