Kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart told a court today that she stopped resisting the kidnapper who raped her daily after repeated near misses by rescuers who were so close by that she could hear them calling her name.
Smart, now 23, testified in the trial today of accused kidnapper Brian David Mitchell that she pleaded with him and tried to prevent the rapes that occurred more than once a day while chained to a tree in Mitchell's forest hideout.
She was often tempted to scream out for help, especially when she heard rescue workers calling her name, she testified. Smart said Mitchell told her that if she yelled or screamed he would "duct tape my mouth shut and anyone who came in he said he would kill."
Finally her mindset changed where she decided to survive she should go along with their beliefs, said Smart. " [I told myself to] do everything he told me to do to live. I did that until the very end."
Smart's testimony riveted the Salt Lake City courtroom.
"I was crying a lot and I didn't realize what was happening at first," Smart said from the witness stand. "I begged him not to. I did everything I could to stop him. I pleaded with him not to touch me."
Smart, who was 14 at the time she was abducted, was no match for Mitchell's alleged attacks.
It's been eight years since Smart was snatched from her bed in Salt Lake City and forced to spend nine months on the run. After passersby reported spotting Smart in a Salt Lake City suburb, authorities arrested Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, charging them with Smart's kidnapping and sexual assault.
Now living in Paris while she works on a Latter Day Saints mission, Smart maintained her composure on the stand today at Mitchell's trial, appearing calm and collected, showing very little emotion while offering the public more insight into what happened during her kidnapping.
Smart said that she would lie on her stomach to try and make it harder for Mitchell to rape her, but that he did it anyway, despite her pleas.
"I felt like prostitutes had a better life than I did," said Smart. ""I told him I was just a little girl. A 14 year old girl against a grown man doesn't even out so much."
Kidnapping Survivor Elizabeth Smart Recounts Nine-Month Torture in Court
Often praying herself to sleep, Smart testified that she spent six weeks tethered to a tree by a metal cable that was tied around her ankle so she couldn't escape.
Mitchell would constantly remind her that her kidnapping was "the work of God."
"He said that I was very lucky and that I was being saved from the world," said Smart. "I had been called by God to be his wife."
Smart also recounted the details from the night she was kidnapped, telling the juror that she had taken the time to go around the house and close the windows before going to sleep.
"There was a window in our kitchen that I did not close because the smell of burned smoke still filled the air," said Smart.
The window had been left open to let out the smell of burned potatoes from her mother's cooking earlier that day. It was the very same window that Mitchell would allegedly climb through just hours later.
Describing how she woken up, Smart said, "There was a strange man's voice and I could feel something cold against my neck."
"I remember his saying I have a knife to your neck. Don't make a sound or I will kill you and your family. Get out of bed," said Smart. "I knew how deadly the situation was. I was scared. Extremely scared."
Ordering her to put on tennis shoes instead of slippers, Smart testified that Mitchell told her he was taking her "hostage for ransom."
"I was shocked. I felt I was having a nightmare. It was just incredible fear," she said.
As Mithcell was leading her down a path away from her home, he held the knife to her back, according to Smart. When a police car passed by about 10 feet away, Smart recalls Mitchell telling her, "If this is the work of God, let this police car pass."
Smart said Mitchell told her if she screamed out he would kill her. He pushed her into a bush and the police car passed by.
"I remember saying if he let me go right then we wouldn't press charges. He said he knew exactly what he was doing," said Smart.
"I remember praying and pleading to find a way to escape," she said.
Testimony by Smart is expected to resume Tuesday.
Brian David Mitchell on Trial After Judge Ruled He Faked Mental Illness
Smart's mother Lois Smart took the stand ahead of her daughter and told the court how she hired Mitchell to do work around the house in 2001, knowing him only as "Immanuel."
"He looked like a clean-cut, well-kept man that was down on his luck, who just needed some help to get on with his life," she testified.
Later, she recalled being woken up by her younger daughter Mary Katherine, then 9, who slept in the same room as her older sister. Mary Katherine told her mother that Elizabeth had been taken.
"She said a man has taken Elizabeth with a gun and that we won't find her," Lois Smart testified.
After running into the kitchen, Lois Smart spotted a screen sliced open.
"My heart sank," she said, "and I yelled out to Ed, 'Call 911, she's gone.'"
The kidnapping of the girl made national headlines, the idea that a child could be ripped from her own bed playing on fears of parents across the country.
For years after Smart's rescue, the prosecution of Mitchell was delayed with his defense attorneys arguing that he was not mentally competent to stand trial. In March, a federal judge declared that Mitchell was faking mental illness and ordered him to stand trial.
Smart testified during Mitchell's October 2009 competency hearing that Mitchell forced her to walk three miles to a canyon where an impromptu marriage ceremony was performed between her and Mitchell. She told the court at the time that she was raped daily, and Mitchell prevented her from escaping by tying chains around her ankles. The chains were attached to nearby trees.
"There wasn't an actual 24-hour period he wasn't able to rape me," she said last year, going on to describe how Mitchell began to rotate between her and Barzee when Barzee became jealous of his attention.
"Wanda would get very upset with him," said Smart. "She'd say 'All you do is lust after her.'"
Mitchell became known for his outbursts and courtroom oddities during the hearing and was repeatedly removed from the courtroom after spontaneously bursting into song.
Barzee, a mother of six, pleaded guilty in November 2009 to federal kidnapping charges. Later sentenced to 15 years in prison, also asked the Smart family for forgiveness.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.