Kids of Elizabeth Smart's Kidnapper Call Wanda Barzee a 'Monster'

Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper once cooked their pet rabbit Peaches.

ByMARK MOONEY via via logo
February 2, 2010, 5:45 PM

Feb. 2, 2010— -- The children of one of Elizabeth Smart's kidnappers remembered their mother today as a "monster" who once, with a sly smile, served her youngest daughter her pet rabbit for dinner.

"I asked what's for dinner and she said chicken," LouRee Gayler told Oprah Winfrey on her show today. She remembered her mother Wanda Barzee and her second husband Brian David Mitchell just picking at their meals, "but she had a smile on her face the whole time," Gayler said.

When Gayler went to feed her pet rabbit the next morning, she found the cage empty.

"What happened to Peaches?" she asked her mother, referring to the pet. "You had it for dinner last night," she said her mother replied.

Gayler, the youngest of Barzee's six children, was 14 at the time and had some of the harshest memories of her mother and her two husbands. She recalled being so starved for affection that she would turn to her dog, stay in the doghouse with the pooch and eat dog food out the dog's bowl.

Her older brother Derrick Thompson, who wrote a book about his childhood entitled "Raised By Wolves," said he would escape the physical abuse and cold atmosphere in their home by staying in the large back yard, living there instead of in the house. He would use a pellet gun to shoot birds and cook them over a spit.

A sister identified only as Andrea remembered "brainwashing" sessions with her mother.

"We would be called up to her room, and she would sit there and drum into us, 'If you weren't a part of this family, then the family would be fine,'" Andrea said.

"I think the media portrayed my mother as being a victim of Brian David Mitchell, and I think one of the reasons I wanted to come on this show is to kind of expose her for the monster she is," Andrea said.

Mitchell and Barzee have been charged with kidnapping Smart from her home when she was 14 in June 2002. Smart, who was chained and repeatedly raped, was rescued nine months later.

Barzee has pleaded guilty to federal charges, but has not yet been sentenced. She is confined to a mental hospital while awaiting state charges in the Smart case. Mitchell has not yet been tried.

Wanda Barzee's Children Say She Shouldn't See Light of Day

Barzee's children either left home or were thrown out of the house by the time they were 13 or 14, they told Oprah.

Gayler said she left after the rabbit dinner, but it was the "last straw" after years of abuse. She wasn't allowed to watch any television except National Geographic programs and was made to kneel and pray for two or four hours a day.

She recalled one disturbing prayer session.

"My mom was praying and I was kneeling there, and Brian actually nudged me and he pulled out some photos of some nude women and laid them up on the bed, and it seems that they were trying to get me to participate with them that day," she said.

Gayler remembered a toy kitchen she was given as a little girl. "It was one of my favorite things," she said. One day she came home and it was gone, and her mother "got a sense of happiness about it. She had a smirk," Gayler said.

Rhonda McLeod, the oldest of Barzee's children, said she had the closest relationship with her mother and keeps in touch with her by mail.

"I've told her that I've forgiven her," McLeod said. She read part of a recent letter from Barzee in which Barzee said all of her children were "precious" to her.

Gayler shook her head and said the letter "kind of makes me sick."

When asked what punishment they believe their mother deserves, Andrea said her mother should be put away.

"I don't think she should see the light of day again," she said.

Barzee issued a statement to the show through her lawyer saying she couldn't comment because of her upcoming trial, but said she hopes to continue to repair relationships despite her "serious and unique circumstances."

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