SALT LAKE CITY – For the first time since her 2002 abduction by a self-proclaimed religious prophet captured worldwide attention, Elizabeth Smart spoke publicly about her ordeal Thursday, testifying in federal court that Brian David Mitchell repeatedly invoked religion to justify sexually abusing her for months.
Testifying in a hearing to determine whether Mitchell is mentally competent to face federal kidnapping charges, Smart, now 21, calmly detailed nine months of being shackled and repeatedly raped.
“Any time that I showed resistance or hesitation he turned to me and said, ‘The Lord says you have to do this, you have to experience the lowest form of humanity to experience the highest,’ ” said Smart, who was 14 when she was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City.
She said that Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, attached a cable around her leg and chained it to a tree at a campsite in a remote canyon in the mountains behind the Smarts’ house. She testified that she was raped several times a day, and that she once bit Mitchell to make him stop an assault. He chided her for the bite but didn’t stop.
Another time, when Barzee was becoming jealous of Mitchell’s attentions to her, Mitchell took Smart from the camp and asked if he could have sex with her. Smart testified that she said no.
“How did it make you feel to say no to him on that occasion?” U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman asked her.
“Wonderful,” she said.
Mitchell and Barzee were arrested in 2003 after being spotted with Smart on a street in a Salt Lake City suburb. They have been ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial in state court, so federal prosecutors filed kidnapping charges against them last year.
Mitchell was absent for Smart’s testimony. As he has throughout the hearings, he entered the courtroom singing a Mormon hymn and refused to stop when the judge ordered him to. U.S. Marshals removed him from the courtroom, and he watched the testimony via a video feed from a remote room.
Smart had told prosecutors she wanted her abductor in the room while she testified.