Dad Says Elizabeth Smart Was Brainwashed

ByABC News
March 12, 2003, 9:26 PM

March 13 -- Elizabeth Smart, the Salt Lake City teen kidnapped from her bedroom nine months ago, was brainwashed by the drifter and self-styled street preacher who is suspected of taking her, the girl's father said today.

The drifter, Brian David Mitchell, calls himself Emmanuel and believes he is on a level with God, police said.

Mitchell, 49, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 57, were taken into custody on Wednesday when authorities found Elizabeth. Police said the investigation is still active and there may be more arrests of people who may have known who Elizabeth was but did not come forward.

Ed Smart, who relentlessly prodded police and the media to keep looking for his daughter, said today on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America that he believes Mitchell brainwashed his daughter to keep her from trying to leave him or contact police during the nine months he kept her with him.

"I can tell he did an absolute brainwashing on her," Smart said. "It's going to be difficult and it's going to be a long road but she's a strong girl and I know she's going to make it."

The Smarts had hired Mitchell to help them with work around their home, and at a news conference today, Ed Smart, who swung between tears, cries of joy and angry rants at Congress to pass federal Amber Alert legislation, recalled how he had worked beside the man he knew as Emmanuel.

"When I was up there on the roof with him I never could have guessed," he said. "He was so quiet. He was so soft-spoken. I could never have imagined such an animal was inside him."

In a press conference this evening, Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse would only say that Elizabeth's captors had "psychologically-impacted" her, but he would not further elaborate.

Hidden Practically in the Family's Backyard

Elizabeth, now 15, spent Wednesday night in the arms of her sister, 10-year-old Mary Katherine, who was the sole witness to the kidnapping and was the one who first put police onto the trail of Mitchell, Smart said.

"Elizabeth is happy. She's well," he said. "She's home."

As relatives visited with Elizabeth, President Bush called the Smart family to express the nation's joy over her rescue.

The girl told her family that she spent the first three months with Mitchell and his wife hiding in the mountains behind the Smart family home, even as hundreds of searchers scoured the area calling her name, her father said.

"She absolutely heard people calling for her," Smart said.

"She said she spent months right up here in the mountains, through August," the father said. "I can't believe it."

Police said that through interviews with Elizabeth, they believed her captors held her against her will at the mountain campsite and made her wear a wig, a full robe and veil.