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Elizabeth Smart Trial Update: Wanda Barzee Testifies about "Hellish" Marriage to Brian David Mitchell

Brian David Mitchell (AP/Douglas C. Pizac, file)
Elizabeth Smart Trial Update: Wanda Barzee Testifies about "Hellish" Marriage to Brian David Mitchell
Wanda Barzee, estranged wife of Brian David Mitchell (Jeffrey D. Allred, AP Photo/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY (CBS/AP) Brian David Mitchell's estranged wife, Wanda Barzee, who pleaded guilty to kidnapping Elizabeth Smart in 2002, testified Thursday that her first two years of marriage to Mitchell were "hellish" until she learned to be submissive and obedient, and that the couple's life was dictated by "the Lord's will" as Mitchell interpreted it.

PICTURES: Elizabeth Smart

In November 2009, Barzee pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines, the same charges now facing Mitchell, and is serving a 15-year term at Carswell, a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is being treated for mental illness.

Barzee testified that she and Mitchell met in a divorce-therapy group in 1985 where she talked extensively about her abusive 20-year marriage to another man.

"I poured my heart out with what was bothering me," Barzee testified, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. "Brian ... held my hand. We held hands from then on."

Barzee gave a portrait of two men. One is kind and supportive. The other is erratic, demanding, and appears to be increasingly taking direction from religious revelations he claimed to experience, according to Barzee's testimony.

Elizabeth Smart Trial Update: Wanda Barzee Testifies about "Hellish" Marriage to Brian David Mitchell
Brian David Mitchell (AP/Douglas C. Pizac, file)

"He was possessive and controlling, and there would be arguments," an emotional and visibly nervous Barzee said in a quiet voice. That all changed once Barzee began to get guidance from scriptures and their LDS church bishop that taught her submission and obedience, she testified.

PICTURES: Elizabeth Smart

Barzee testified that Mitchell believed he was directed by God to change jobs, move to Idaho and then sell the couple's possessions so that they could hitchhike across the United States.

"Brian went for a walk one day [in 1995], and there wasn't any way to pay for our trailer, so he came back and said it was the Lord's will that we sell everything we own and buy backpacks and tents and sleeping bags and go hitchhiking across the nation," Barzee testified, according to the Tribune.

Barzee is expected to continue her testimony Friday and will likely talk about the even more drastic life altering "revelation" of Mitchell's - taking seven wives, beginning with 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart.

The taking of plural wives was regarded as part of Mitchell's assignment from God to restore the true church to Earth during an end-of-times battle with the Antichrist, the paper reported.

Many observers expected Barzee might testify for the prosecution. But nothing in her plea agreement dictated which side might use her as a witness, her attorney Scott Williams said.

"There very well may be an advantage to the government by having her called by the defense," Williams said. "Cross-examination provides more leeway for eliciting the points you want to make."

Mitchell faces life in prison if convicted of the federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines.

COVERAGE OF ELIZABETH SMART ON CRIMESIDER