How Did Abductors Control Elizabeth Smart?

ByABC News
March 13, 2003, 3:51 PM

March 13 -- How could abductors keep a girl like Elizabeth Smart from fleeing during nine months of captivity?

Though details about the teen's captivity are scarce, experts say her alleged abductors appear to have used physical and psychological coercion to keep her under control, and that it is possible that a young girl in her circumstances might have even decided she did not want to escape.

"Even though she wasn't physically chained, emotionally she could have been in psychological bondage," said Robert Butterworth, a child psychologist who focuses on trauma and disaster.

Elizabeth was spotted Wednesday in Sandy, Utah, and then reunited with her family, nine months after she was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City.

The 15-year-old girl was walking with Brian David Mitchell, a drifter who had worked briefly at the Smart family home, and Mitchell's wife, Wanda Barzee, police said. Elizabeth and Barzee were both wearing makeshift veils and all three were wearing wigs, police said.

The teen initially told police her name was Augustine, and said she could not remove her sunglasses because of recent eye surgery. Even after she was separated from Mitchell and Barzee, she did not give her real name.

"I know you think I'm Elizabeth Smart, but I'm not," Officer Troy Rasmussen recalled Elizabeth saying. After officers asked repeatedly, she admitted their suspicions were correct. Eventually, she responded, "Thou sayeth, I'll say it," which police said they took to be an admission.

She was clearly frightened, they said.

"She was obviously nervous, I could see her T-shirt pounding where her heart was," he said.


Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart, said he believed the couple had brainwashed his daughter.

"I can just tell that he did an absolute brainwashing job on her," Smart said. He said he was convinced Elizabeth feared for her life when she was taken in the early hours of June 5.

Since her rescue, witnesses such as Daniel Trotta have come forward saying they remember seeing Elizabeth, Mitchell and Barzee.