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Wanda Barzee testifies in Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The trial of Brian David Mitchell continued on Thursday, as his brother was called to the stand to testify on behalf of the defense. Mitchell’s estranged wife Wanda Barzee also testifed on Thursday.
Wanda Barzee arrives at federal court (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Wanda Barzee arrives at federal court (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The trial of Brian David Mitchell continued on Thursday, as his brother was called to the stand to testify on behalf of the defense. Mitchell’s estranged wife Wanda Barzee also testifed on Thursday.

As the court proceedings began Brian David Mitchell was once again escorted from the room for his distracting hymn singing.

Brian’s brother Tim Mitchell was then called to the stand.

Mitchell, who works as a mental health counselor, answered questions from Robert Steele, Brian’s public defender.

Tim testified that Brian was a creative person, and seemed to have funnier interesting projects going on than others in the family.

Tim testified that he looked up to Brian and that he was close to him.

Tim testified that as Brian got older, his projects would get more complex, like model rockets, a hot air balloon, a parachute and a roller coaster he tried to build in the family’s backyard.

Tim Mitchell told the court it was “emotionally upsetting” to be testifying in his brother’s trial.

Mitchell recounted his experience of when Brian set up a ‘nudist colony’ and was caught sunbathing naked by his sister.

Tim testified that during his teen years, there “upsetting things” that came up involving Brian and the family, including times when he became agitated and upset.

Tim testified that once Brian got a whipping in the bathroom at the hands of his father.

Tim testified that Brian’s projects would cause conflict with his parents, and that he would often tease his younger siblings which also upset his parents, and the conflicts escalated.

“My dad would take him from the house and drop him off downtown and make him come home,” said Tim. “He (Brian) would say that’s fun and do something downtown.”

Tim testified that Brian would sometimes be sad and remorseful about the discipline.

Tim said Brian bit him while pretending to be an animal, which also got him into more trouble with the parents.

Time also testified about Brian’s girlfriend Karen who got pregnant and lived with the family.

Tim remembered Karen being a nice person, and that she and Brian loved each other, even though they both fell into alcohol abuse while still in their teens.

Tim said the drinking and partying led to the young couple’s divorce. Tim testified of an experience in which he and his mother went to the young couple’s home and found their baby son Travis crying and alone in the locked apartment with a messy diaper.

Tim Mitchell testified that Brian moved into the family home with the two children after the couple split up, and that one day, Brian disappeared with the children and took them to New Hampshire.

Tim testified that he went back to the east coast to visit Brian and his kids in 1978. Tim said Brian lived with the kids in an apartment, was working as auto dealership repairman, and had a girlfriend named Allison, who did not live with them.

Tim said it seemed that Brian was taking good care of the kids and that they were loved, but also noted that Brian was drinking, smoking, and using marijuana.

Tim recounted how Brian eventually moved back in with the family in Salt Lake City and that he cleaned up his act with regard to his substance abuse.

Tim told a story of how he and Brian took a trip to southern Utah and how Tim had shared his spiritual experience with his older brother, who claimed to be atheist at the time. Tim said that while they were arguing about religion while sitting at campfire, Brian became tearful and said, “I think what you’re saying is true. I sort of lost of my way.’ He had a package of cigarettes and tossed them into the fire and said, ‘I want to change my life too.”

Tim testified that Brian took his conversion to the LDS Church seriously, even as he left for an LDS mission.

While Tim was on his mission, he said he received letters from his mother who was worried about Brian because he’d met Debbie and cut off contact with the rest of the family.

After returning from his mission, Tim said Brian had changed his personality. He was suspicious of everybody.

Tim testified that Brian claimed his mother wasn’t supportive of his relationship with Debbie, and that he seemed to act out of paranoia towards the family.

Tim said things worsened between Brian and Debbie and they got divorced while he was away at college.
Tim testified about Brian’s marriage to Wanda Barzee, and said they seemed to get along with other family members at first, and that he was emotionally stable.

“They seemed loving. They treated each other kindly, nice. Wanda had smile on her face. She had a funny laugh. She had a slightly nervous disposition. There was something different about her,” said Tim.

Tim Mitchell tells about Brian's odd behavior

Tim Mitchell (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Tim Mitchell (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Tim testified that Brian’s children moved in with the couple, although they were eventually put in foster homes.

Tim also testified of a time when his mother got a letter from Brian, who was upset with her, and purported to be “in charge of my family.”

From that point onward, Time said things started to deteriorate again with Brian and the family.

Tim spoke of the limited contact he had with Brian over the next few years.

“I went to a Christmas holiday get-together. He came up and hugged me and he kissed me. I thought he was acting different. There’s something different about him. I thought he was trying to be perfectly righteous. He said it was something in the bible that had governed this. Then, we heard he left his job and went to Idaho and was living in a trailer,” said Tim.

“One day, we were in Logan in a grocery store and I looked up and he was there. I said ‘Hey Brian,” and I thought that’s weird, what’s he doing here. He was a little reserved, cautious towards me,” said Tim.

“A Couple of weeks later, they showed up in the house, wearing hiking shoes, and a backpack. He said they had been wandering around the country and basically he said they were homeless. He said they had been back to Virginia, back east. And I said ‘What are you doing, going around?’ He said Wanda had a spiritual gift for music…and they’d go to these churches and asked if she could do an organ recital. He said he’s on a ministry for the homeless. I said ‘If you want to go on a mission put in your papers and go on a humanitarian mission.’ He said something from the Bible. He had some justification and I said, ‘You’re going in the wrong way.’ I said, ‘You’re being deceived by a false spirit.’ All of a sudden, Wanda said ‘I have a bad feeling here in this home.’ Brian said, I do too,’ and it was late at night and they took off. That was about 12 to 13 years ago. Then he’d be gone 8 months to a year at a time. Then he’d show up at my mom’s house and stay there and then be gone again,” said Tim.

“One time he said my name is not Brian, it is ‘Dah-veed’ and Wanda is ‘Ebrahah.’ He wanted me to call him this new name and I kept calling him Brian, and he said, ‘I told you my name is Dah-veed.’ He was getting weirder and weirder,” said Tim.
“I’m not going to call you ‘Dah-veed’ because I think you’re going in the wrong direction and they took off. I sent him letters encouraging him to get some help. I thought it was mental illness. I sent him a letter and was worried about him thinking he was getting increasingly emotionally disturbed,” said Tim.

Tim Mitchell testified that he had limited interactions with Brian up until the Smart kidnapping. He also testified that he’d been interviewed by Dr. Michael Welner regarding his brother’s mental state.

“I told him that Brian exhibited as symptoms as a teenager that appeared to be bipolar disorder,” said Tim.

Steele asked, “Did you feel you were being listened to?”

“Yes. The only thing I sensed was he was asking questions based on what he believed,…and there were times he was interpreting things I believed. There’s a lot of things I know of Brian but there’s also a lot of things I don’t understand of Brian,” said Tim.

In cross-examination, Alicia Cook asked Tim Mitchell about Dr. Welner.

“Do you know of different interviews Dr. Welner made in this case?”

“I heard he got paid some $500,000 so I’m sure he made quite a few,” said Mitchell.

Cook reviewed Tim’s contact with Brian after he’d returned from college, and asked about a letter he sent to him.

Mitchell said he didn’t remember if Brian expressed remorse over what had happened to his children, but said he didn’t want them living with his mother.

Cook also questioned Tim about Brian and Wanda’s diet and ministry.

Cook asked Tim if he thought Brian had a mental illness through the conversations he had with him.

“No,” he said.

Cook also asked Tim, “did you ever write a letter saying that Brian had been using his religious beliefs to justify his behavior?”

“Yes,” said Tim.

Former religious contacts testify

Betty and Thomas McKnight (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Betty and Thomas McKnight (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Pastor Kristian Erickson (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Pastor Kristian Erickson (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
A pastor named Kristian Erickson, who serves at Christian Lutheran church and a school in Murray.

Erickson testified that he wondered about Brian David Mitchell’s mental stability, that he might be delusional.

The pastor told Mitchell to leave his congregation and referred him to agencies that could offer him help.

Defense attorney Parker Douglas called Betty McKnight to the stand.

McKnight and her husband knew Brian and Wanda in 1995 when they lived in Kooskia, Idaho on a commune farm.

McKnight said her husband was the Mitchell’s home teacher, and that Brian and Wanda were living at the farm in their fifth wheel camper trailer before moving to their property.

McKnight said some families living on the commune were living polygamy.

“One time after coming back from Salt Lake Wanda was “really glowing” and I asked her what happened and she said “Brian gave me a special blessing. He told me I was one of the chosen people. And when the Lord came back I would be playing [the organ] for him. I felt she wanted to please the Lord. I thought maybe Brian manipulated her that way by promising this. I thought it was an unusual blessing. I don’t know why he did this maybe it was his way of trying to get control of her,” said McKnight.

McKnight said Brian and Wanda eventually sold their truck and other possessions and left Idaho with very few belongings as they went hitchhiking to Colorado.

In cross-examination, the prosecutor asked McKnight if she thought Mitchell was suffering from mental illness.

“No,” said McKnight. “They were well kept, dressed nicely.”

McKnight also testified that Mitchell did not give money from the sale of their truck to the poor and that they left Idaho because they were unhappy.

Betty’s husband Thomas McKnight as then called to the stand.

McKnight pokes of religious conversations he had with Brian, saying that Mitchell tended to be domineering when he talked about religion and spoke of a “final encounter.”

McKnight said Brian often dominated conversations to the point of brow beating.


McKnight recounted one time in which a neighbor had a sick cow and Brian ‘healed’ it, saying it was possible to heal animals this way. The cow was bloated and later died, according to McKnight.

McKnight testified that Mitchell had a grudge towards the church’s leadership, and eventually got rid of most of his possessions and left.

In cross-examination, the prosecutor asked McKnight if Brian was jealous of Wanda’s musical talents.

McKnight testified that Wanda had the talent and that Brian was trying to match her.

McKnight also testified that he felt sorry for Wanda and thought Brian found it easy to control her.

McKnight also told the court that he didn’t think Brian was suffering from mental illness, but seemed like he was a little determined in his viewpoints and very zealous.

Wanda Barzee testifies

Brian David Mitchell (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Brian David Mitchell (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Barzee attorney Scott Williams (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Barzee attorney Scott Williams (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Robert Steele (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Robert Steele (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
After a lunch break, Brian David Mitchell’s estranged wife Wanda Barzee was called to testify.

Barzee testified that she met Mitchell in 1985 at a group counseling session.

In the session, Barzee said Mitchell held her hand when she shared some of her depression problems with the group.

The pair was inseparable from that point, according to Barzee.

Barzee testified that her bishop recommended the counseling to meet people with same problems.

When the defense attorney Robert Steele asked about the problems she and Brian were experiencing, Barzee became distressed, breathing heavily, almost panicking.

Steele allowed Barzee to take some time to compose herself before continuing.

Barzee spoke of her marital troubles and custody battles with her then-estranged husband, and how Brian was supportive, becoming her best friend.

“He said he was abused also,” said Barzee.

Barzee said Mitchell called often and he would sometimes call at 1:00 in the morning.

“He was supportive of my situation,” said Barzee.
Steele said Mitchell’s psychological situation improved when he advanced in the LDS Church.

“He was active in church long enough to become elder, get the priesthood,” said Barzee.

Barzee said she and Brian needed church leadership approval to date, since they were both still married to other people.

Barzee said she and Brian went to church together.

Wanda also explained her struggles with her ex-husband, and how she had a child that was “abusive” to her. Barzee said she was on antidepressant, and couldn’t see her kids.

Barzee said Brian was around during her custody battles.

“He was always around and he…told me how he needed me,” said Barzee.

“What did you think he needed u for?” asked Steele.

“I thought we were friends. He gave me more support than I gave him. He didn’t need me much,” said Barzee.

“Did you know Brian was having mental problems?” asked Steele.

“He was in counseling,” said Barzee.

Barzee testified that she and Brian had a 9-month courtship and were married the day his divorce was final.

Steele asked Wanda about the source of the arguments she had with Brian after they were married.

“I don’t remember,” said Barzee.

Wanda also testified that Brian didn’t think they should have kids because their marriage “wouldn’t last” if they did.

Barzee testified that the couple had a “painful, diffcult” first year together, but that her Bishop gave her blessings to help her work through their problems.

Barzee testified that Brian told her he was “full of fear and doubt” and would at times become angry or violent. He would leave house to avoid becoming too violent.

Barzee testified of one occasion in which Mitchell became so angry he took a television set and threw it on sidewalk outside their home.

Barzee said that when Mitchell left the home after becoming too angry he would leave for a short time and come back. One time, Barzee testified that Mitchell left for a several hours during a rain storm. Hen he came back, he apologized, saying he was “…sorry he nearly destroyed me.”

Wanda said there were fewer arguments after first year.

Barzee said she was trying to get a temple divorce (unsealed marriage) and that caused a lot of stress and problems. “The bishop said it was Satan’s power,” said Barzee.

Wanda testified that Mitchell was “less fearful” after sealing they were able to get sealed to each other. A counselor told them she needed to take control of the couple’s problems.

“What does it mean when Brian said he was ‘consumed by fear and doubt?” asked Steele.

“He would scream into pillow,” said Barzee.

Barzee said the marriage got better in 1988, because her “walls” had come down and that she had “been through the refiner’s fire.”

Barzee said Mitchell became less fearful and angry and that the marriage improved after he advanced in his church callings.

Barzee spoke of Mitchell’s callings to the stake high council and serving with the bishopbric. Barzee said when Mitchell was released, he was aspiring for higher position, and thought he should be bishop.

Marital troubles. travels

Wanda Barzee and Brian David Mitchell in The Salt Lake Temple: A Centennial Book of Remembrance, 1893–1993 (Benchmark Books/Sunstone)
Wanda Barzee and Brian David Mitchell in The Salt Lake Temple: A Centennial Book of Remembrance, 1893–1993 (Benchmark Books/Sunstone)
Barzee said that while Mitchell worked at O.C. Tanner, she stayed at home and was a dutiful housewife.

Barzee testified that her young daughter came to live with them for 3 years until she went to live with her dad at 14 years of age.

Wanda testified that she concentrated on her music while Brian worked, practicing on her organ 6-8 hours a day.

Barzee said she studied under Clay Christiansen and played an organ recital in 1982.

Wanda said she quit her musical studies for a while after she had more psychological problems.

Barzee said she and Brian had little contact with extended family members, except at holidays and other family gatherings.

During that time, Barzee said Mitchell’s children and some of her kids lived with them.

Wanda said Brain was called as a veil worker in the Salt Lake Temple before she wa able to join him. “We did the couple part of the endowment…we enjoyed it,” said Barzee.

Wanda said she and Brian were sincere in their beliefs at the time.

Barzee said there were times when the couple had a hard time communicating and of one tiem when Brian became so angry he left the house angry and went to friend’s house. “He said he would come home when he was good and ready,” said Barzee.

Wanda said she stayed with her mother for a while and called Brian, who was surprised she was gone. Afterward, Barzee said she and Brian went to see the bishop, who counseled them to get along by working together.

Barzee said something clicked, and they got along better. They were fighting less, but she said, “I just learned to be more silent, I learned to be more submissive and obedient to my husband.”

Barzee said Brian’s promise to make a wedding ring for her at O.C. Tanner caused some friction when he didn’t deliver right away, and took to prayer whenever she got angry about it or Brian’s response to her nagging. Wanda said she realized she had to be submissive and wait for a long time.

Barzee spoke of her organ playing and how she was certified to play at Assembly Hall on Temple Square.

Wanda testified that she and Brian prayed a lot, but that he was often critical of her in his prayers.

One of the criticisms cited by Barzee was her television habits. “He was always critical of me…of the shows I wanted to watch,” said Barzee. If I started to watch a show, he would punish me, leave room. He was particular on shows he wanted to watch…he would let me watch only videos he chose.

Barzee said Mitchell especially didn’t approve of the movie 9 to 5, which she liked a lot.

Barzee said that Mitchell rewared her once by allowing her to throw darts at a picture of her ex-husband.

“I threw the dart; got him right between the eyes,” said Barzee.

Barzee described the ring Brian designed for her, which had a pearl (representing the Lord) sitting on leaf, a diamond (God’s love) and a thorn (adversity in my life).

Barzee spoke more of her organ studies and music.

Wanda testified that Mitchell once gave her a priesthood blessing in 1993 when they were released as temple workers. I the blessing, Barzee said Mitchell told her she had played the organ in the ‘pre-existence’ and that she was called not play for the world but only under the ‘Celestial Law.”

Barzee also spoke of Mitchell’s obsession with lymphology and how her back problems were healed by Dr. West’s treatments.

After leaving O.C. Tanner, Barzee said Brian quit his next job because his new employer was involved in making idols. Barzee said Brian thought it was the Lord’s will for him to teach lymphology.

Barzee said that Ezra Taft Benson and Dr. West wanted Brian to teach lymphology and that he should quit his job and live off the lymphology donations.

After one of her organ recitals, Brian said it would be her last, claiming that Wanda would play in heaven for ancestors, God, Jesus.

Wanda said they couldn’t make their house payment and the couple moved into 5th wheel camper trailer in Heber as Mitchell often went to Orem to study lympholgy.

Wanda said the lymphology helped with her health and that Brian said they didn’t have to pay taxes on the donations they got from teaching it.

While living in Heber, Barzee said the couple was still involved in the LDS Church but that Brian decided to stop going to meetings. Barzee said Mitchell thought they should be affliated with any religion, although she said he still believed in God.

“How do you know he still believed in God?” asked Steele.

“I don’t know that he did,” said Barzee.

While living in Heber, Barzee said Mitchell looked at a map and felt they should go north. “Lord would tell us where,” said Barzee.

On Labor day 1994 Barzee said the couple left Heber hauling a trailer camper with their truck. Barzee said Brian didn’t know how to pull the trailer and bent the axle on the trip. The couple was stuck at the bottom of a canyon until Brian gave a priesthood blessing in which the Lord told them to simplify and leave many of their belongings.

Barzee said they ended up at the Pleasant Valley commune farm in Idaho.

Barzee said other people living there thought their beliefs were ‘apostate,’ as Brian stood up to the others, saying their teachings were false.

Barzee said that after they were asked to leave the farm commune, they went to live at a local LDS Church leader’s property (the McKnights) where they helped take care of their farm.

One day, Barzee said Brian went for a walk and when he came back he said it was the Lord’s will that they should leave the trailer and go on a journey.

Barzee said they also could not make the payments on the camper.

Barzee said that she enjoyed their time in Idaho, and that at one time she felt impressed by the spirit to go back to church. She did and was eventually called as pianist for the Relief Society.

Barzee said they put their possessions up for sale and gave some of their things away before leaving on their hitchhiking journey to Missouri.

Steele presented evidence of Wanda’s journal from their journey.

Barzee testified that she was right handed, but felt impressed to start writing left handed, and practiced while Brian was “ministering.” Steele commented that her left-handed writing looked like calligraphy.

Steele had Barzee describe the hand cart Brian built for their journey, which took them to Mormon historical sites in Missouri, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

They eventually ended up in California, where they met a preacher-couple named Frank and Judy de Salvo, who also owned a guitar shop.

Barzee said Frank had revelation to that they should read a book called “Final Quest” and had a revelation they would not pull hand cart anymore. Barzee gave them money.

Barzee said she and Brian gave the handcart and most of their possessions to a Catholic charity.

Barzee spoke more their religious journey, and how they went to Adam-Ondi-Aman, Carthage jail, Liberty Jail, Nauvoo before we ending up at the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York

Barzee said Mitchell got a revelation to go to Boston, New York and Philadelphia to learn more about US history.

While in those “wicked cities” Brian arranged for her to play recitals in cathedrals in the big cities and that “Satan” once tried to stop her from playing during a Boston recital.

In New York, Barzee said no one heard her play until Mitchell welcomed the spirits in.
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