Sponsored by

Mitchell's family testifies in Elizabeth Smart case

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – Brian David Mitchell’s father, mother and sister were among the witnesses called by defenders to testify in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping and rape case on Wednesday.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – Brian David Mitchell’s father, mother and sister were among the witnesses called by defenders to testify in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping and rape case on Wednesday.

Mitchell was once again removed from the court for singing hymns before testimony resumed.

Mitchell’s father Shirl testified that his son’s problems began while he was in his mother’s womb, probably because he had been deer hunting when he was born.

Shirl Mitchell testified that Brian was often chastised for bad behavior as a child, which he believed led to his ‘alienation.’

Public defender Robert Steele questioned Shirl about the discipline that was used on Brian as a child.

“He was always teasing, creating turmoil in the family. Especially on his little sister. It got so chronic it may have been his contributor to his alienation,” said Mitchell.

Shirl Mitchell also testified of a time when Brian jumped out of a moving car to avoid punishment. At one time Shirl testified that he’d left Brian in a public park far away from the family’s home as a disciplinary action when he was 9 or 10 years old.

Steele questioned Shirl about his efforts to educate Brian about sex.

“It was ill-advised, because I knew better. I was not always careful about things. I had an old-fashioned book and diagrams of male and female genitalia. He got in trouble playing doctor with other kids in the neighborhood.

Steele: How old was he?

Mitchell: Probably 8 or 9.

Steele: Did you educate other children that way?

Mitchell: No. I believe it was a laissez-faire sort of thing.

Mitchell testified that Brian had a troubled relationship with his siblings and his mother, which escalated into physical violence at times.

Mitchell also testified that Brian was eventually shipped off to live with his grandma, where he spent his high school years.

Mitchell testified that he separated from his son after he got his GED.

Steele asked, “Was there incident where Brian got involved in juvenile court?”

“He exposed himself to a neighbor girl and her father reacted and reported it…it led to a series of permanent alienations of Brian,” said Mitchell.

Steele then showed a court exhibit of Shirl’s religious writings, including a 900-page long text called “Spokesman for the Infant Goddess.”

Prompted by Steele’s questions, Mitchell described how he’d spent a long time on the manuscript and how it caused some marital problems.

Mitchell testified that the book centered on nutrition and reproduction, and he was the “spokesman” referred to in the title.

Mitchell testified that he shared the book and ideas in it with Brian, who “went overboard” in practicing some of the nutritional ideas. “He went on a binge…confining himself to fruit and vegetable juice [making],” said Mitchell.

Mitchell also testified that he sent the manuscript to ABC News, hoping to get some national attention for it.

Steele asked, “When you were 7 or 8, did you have unusual experience?”

Prosecutors objected to the question, but Judge Dale Kimball allowed it.

“I had a thing that was totally out of context,” said Mitchell. “The only context I had was the Bible storybooks that my parents bought me and my brothers. I had no direct reference to Jesus as God or Christ, but I had a voice speak in my head. I was in my grandma’s house. I was playing hide and seek. I remember this big flour barrel in this cupboard or pantry. There was nothing around; no sound, and a voice said, ‘You are Christ.’ I attributed no importance to it other than it was so unique that I did remember it happening. But I didn’t repeat it to anybody. I just thought I remembered…I never had familiar spirits or companions like some kids get. I thought maybe something out there thought I had a unique talent for something or another, which would give me that nom de plume. Like I say, I haven’t used that as a motivation for my book at all. That was more or less incidental and just remembered.”

Steele asked, “Did you read Brian’s book?”

“Yeah, I read that little essay he wrote. He gave me copy. I didn’t discuss it with him. Plural wife abstract and all…,” said Mitchell.

Steele then questioned Mitchell about his own father’s mental history.

Mitchell recounted how his father had a habit of suing people, corporations and other entities over the years and how he’d spent some time in the Utah State (mental) hospital.

Steele asked, “Did you have some extensive conversations with your son?”

“Not on his personal problems. On a theological basis, yes. I never braced him about his own problems much. I never was explicit about those things, said Mitchell.

“But you had some extensive conversations about philosophy,” said Steele.

“And religion. He held pretty much to the line of the LDS Church. He was a zealot and rabid about that. He was pouring over Mormon scriptures…It was a zealot and rabid person that led to these delusions that he was Immanuel,” said Mitchell.

“Of all your children, did you have a special relationship with Brian?” asked Steele.

“I didn’t have too much connection, and maybe that’s the trouble. He sort of isolated himself in his own little word, you know. He wasn’t very responsive to me or my instruction or correction,” said Mitchell.

In cross examination by prosecutor Diana Hagen, Mitchell was asked, “Are you aware that he used the name Shirlson?”

“Yeah,” said Mitchell.

“Was it a tribute to you?” asked the prosecutor.

“I don’t know,” responded Mitchell.

The prosecutor then asked Mitchell a series of questions about his views on diet, Brian’s diet and lymphology.

“Were you ever treated for mental illness?” asked Hagen.

“Oh no, no,” said Mitchell.

Hagen referred to previous testimony about Brian getting in trouble for ‘playing doctor’ with other kids and his legal trouble for exposing himself to a little girl when he was a teenager.

“Did he ask her to touch his penis?” asked Hagen.

“I didn’t get the detail on that,” said Mitchell.

Hagen wrapped her cross-examination of Shirl Mitchell by asking if he saw a pattern of behavior from Brian similar to when he took advantage of a non-strict environment wherever he was.

“I wasn’t privy to all his antics,” responded Mitchell.

Homeless advocate testifies

Pamela Atkinson (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Pamela Atkinson (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
The defense then called local homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson to the stand.
Atkinson testified that she had contact with Mitchell in the late 1990s as she worked as a Salvation Army volunteer and homeless outreach worker.

Atkinson testified that Mitchell would never shake her hand and refused to speak with her, except when she offered assistance, such as clothing or a hygiene kit.

Atkinson also testified that most homeless people avoided contact with Mitchell because he was a religious zealot or eccentric, which put them off.

Atkinson told the court she often saw Mitchell speaking to other people as if he were preaching to them, but no conversing with them.

During cross-examination, Atkinson testified that she tried to speak to Barzee, but that Mitchell’s wife also ignored her.

When asked if she had experience with mentally-ill people and whether she thought Mitchell was mentally-ill, Atkinson answered that she did know of some people who were mentally ill, but that she wasn’t qualified to make such a determination on Mitchell.

Mitchell's sister testifies

Irene Mitchell and Lisa Holbrook (right) (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Irene Mitchell and Lisa Holbrook (right) (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Marlon Peterson (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Marlon Peterson (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
The defense then called Lisa Holbrook, Mitchell’s younger sister to the witness stand.

Holbrook testified of her youth, growing up with Mitchell and of the family turmoil caused by Mitchell.

Holbrook told the court that Mitchell often teased her, but that he wasn’t “malicious.”

Holbrook testified that Mitchell often got the most attention in the family, due to his behavioral troubles and discipline.

Holbrook could not recall many specific details about Mitchell’s legal troubles.

Holbrook recounted of how Mitchell’s first wife got pregnant at 16 when he was 19 and that they moved in with the family as members of the family helped care for their first child Travis.

Holbrook testified that Brian and Karen were not very good parents and were into alcohol and ‘partying.’

Holbrook recounted some of the custody battle when Brian and Karen were divorced and how Brian took the kids away to New Hampshire for several years.

Holbrook said that as bad as parent Mitchell was, Karen was worse.

Holbrook said that when Brian returned to Utah, he was in bad physical shape, probably due to drugs, alcohol and smoking, but that he’d turned his life around within a year.

Holbrook testified that Mitchell had cleaned up, was more happy about life, was interactive and more interested in other people.

Holbrook said that Mitchell’s change came through his conversion to the LDS Church, which seemed sincere to her.

Holbrook said Mitchell also got into herbal supplements and gave her some, shich she said helped sure her of an infection once.

Holbrook also told of Mitchell’s second marriage to Debbie, which started out well, but deteriorated when Brian became ‘dysfunctional.’

Holbrook testified that Debbie’s children and Mitchell’s two children made for a difficult family combination, which the couple had a hard time handling.

Holbrook spoke of Mitchell’s children Travis and Angie and how they were once put up for adoption.

Holbrook also spoke of Mitchell’s marriage to Wanda Barzee, and how the couple was friendly and interactive with other family members for a time.

Holbrook testified that Mitchell experienced good times with the family, but that he would take offense and cut off ties with them, and one time in particular after he married Wanda.

Holbrook told the court that Mitchell later made contact with her and others, and that he had shared his book with them. She also testified that he tried to speak with her about Bo Gritz, lymphology and politics at one time.

Holbrook also said that during that time, Mitchell eventually changed his name to Emmanuel and that he’d given Wanda the name Hespibah. Holbrook said the couple started wearing robes and panhandled for money.

Holbrook also testified that Mitchell and Barzee went to live with Mitchell’s mother and that the couple took advantage of her and were violent with her. Holbrook said that’s when the family took action to get a restraining order against them, and the couple was kicked out of the home.

“She wanted them to leave,” said Holbrook. “She is non-confrontational and wanted them to leave. I guess Brian had got physical, just holding her, and she felt threatened. So I called the police and police met me there and I helped her apply for a restraining order. And then we came back. I think the police gave him a certain amount of time to get out of the house.”

Steele asked, “What were they doing when you came back?”

“We just waited on the street. They were yelling ‘hell, fire and damnation’ to us…when we went inside, they had destroyed all their possessions.”

Steele asked. “Where was it that they had saw spoons?”

“In the garage, there was bent silverware, broken dishes. I don’t remember. I think they even put water on stuff to wet things down,” said Holbrook.

“What did you gather from book?” asked the defender.

“It was pretty incomprehensible, not a lot of valuable information….I am member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...it seemed to be a perversion of true concepts.”

Holbrook was then questioned about the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping.

Holbrook testified that she called police when she’d heard of a description of a ‘handyman’ who was wanted for questioning in the case.

“From that description, we knew it was Brian. The next morning, I called police and said it was my brother,” said Holbrook.

In cross-examination, a prosecutor asked Holbrook about Mitchell’s mental state during his earlier marriages.

“He wasn’t mentally ill, right?” asked the prosecutor.

“At the time, probably not. Dysfunctional probably.”

The prosecutor also redirected questions about her father’s dietary ideas, and how Brian had rebelled against his father.

Holbrook testified that her brother was manipulative, clever and smart, but also manipulative and sometimes self absorbed.

Holbrook also testified that when Mitchell was talking to her about Bo Gritz and not paying taxes, he was rational and convincing.

Holbrook again recounted some details of the custody situation with Mitchell’s first wife Karen, and that he took the children because he was afraid of not getting custody.

The prosecutor asked questions about Wanda and the eventual withdrawal of the couple from family members.

Regarding the time when she got the protective order for her mother, the prosecutor asked Holbrook, “Did you tell police Brian needed to be evaluated for a mental illness?”
“No…probably should have,” said Holbrook.

Holbrook also testified that she had no contact with her brother or Barzee after Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped.

Mitchell's friend Marlon Peterson was then called to the stand. ABC 4 News does not have a full account of his testimony.

Mitchell's mother testifies

Irene Mitchell (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Irene Mitchell (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Brian David Mitchell’s mother Irene Mitchell was then called to the stand.

Irene Mitchell testified that being in court under such circumstances was painful for her, since she remembered her son as a little boy, not the person he is now.

Mitchell said she has spent time with Brian since he arrest, most recently on his birthday, when she met with him for about 20 minutes.

Irene Mitchell testified about her son’s troubles in his adolescence, his marital troubles and custody battles.

Mitchell also spoke of Brian’s lack of discipline and legal troubles during his high school years.

Mitchell had difficulty answering some of the defender’s questions, citing memory loss problems.

In cross-examination, Hagen questioned Mitchell about her relationship with Brian’s two children Travis and Angela. Mitchell said she was close to the children and protested when Brain and his second wife Debbie put them up for adoption. Mitchell said at one time she was awarded temporary custody of the children.

Hagen also questioned Mitchell about Brian’s juvenile record and his psychological evaluation after he was caught exposing himself to a child.

Hagen also questioned Mitchell about Brian’s behavior in 2002, when she got a restraining order against him, and that no one thought to have him submitted for mental evaluation.

Hagen then entered into evidence a letter written to her from Brian as he hid from his ex-wife in New Hampshire.

In the letter, which Hagen had Mitchell read in court, explained that he had grown a beard and long hair as part of an ‘act.’

Reading from the letter, Mitchell said, “As for my beard and long hair, I think I am more handsome without them as well. However, that is not the image I am after at the moment. Maybe I want to look like a serious fellow, and there are other reasons as well, as you know.”
Mitchell continued, “As you know, I like acting. My hair and beard is part of a new act. Sorry I can’t be a sweet looking boy all the time. It’s too boring. I can just as readily cut them off as I grew them and, to my delight, will show everyone here who knows nothing of my boyish mug.”

During re-direct, Steel asked, “A few quick questions. In 1970, which is when juvenile court process happened, Brian did go to counseling and did have mental health treatment then?”

Mitchell responded, “Are you asking me if he did? When, again?”

Steele responded, “ In 1970 when he went to juvenile court.”

Mitchell answered, “Yes he did.”

Steele asked, “And you have no idea what the diagnosis was that any mental health professional came back with at that time? Would that be a fair statement?”

“The psychiatrist called me in and visited with me. I don’t remember him so much as talking about medication or anything, but he said that when a child has parents pulling him in two different directions, he tends to get into power and manipulation. And he felt that was what happened with Brian, and I agreed with him,” said Mitchell.

Former Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney Howard Lemcke was then called to the stand to testify about a video he shot of Mitchell and Barzee as they pushed a hand cart in 2002. ABC 4 does not have a complete version of Lemcke's testimony.

Mitchell's older sister testifies

Kayleen Hill (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
Kayleen Hill (Bill Brussard, ABC 4 News)
The defense then called Kayleen Hill, Brian David Mitchell’s older sister to the stand.

Hill testified that she didn’t think Brian and his second wife Debbie were a very good match for each other and that he told her that “Jesus Christ” told him he should marry her.

Hill told the court that Brain and Debbie withdrew from other family members soon after the marriage and that they treated Brian’s children Travis and Angela is a strange way, especially when it came to religion.

Hill testified that Brian would not allow Travis to go to church or be baptized into the LDS Church because he was not “worthy.”

Hill said Brian told her that Travis and Angie weren’t worthy of their love, and that they were getting in the way of his relationship with Debbie.

Hill also testified that Travis was suicidal when he entered foster care.

In cross-examination, prosecutor Alicia Cook questioned Hill about her father and his relationship with Brian.

Hill said Shirl Mitchell was intelligent, loving and not he mentally ill, although he showed signs of depression.

Hill answered questions about the family’s religious experiences and how Brian and the rest of the family eventually found the LDS Church.

Hill also recounted a letter Brian wrote to her about his children, saying, “He said that if he hadn’t had children at a young age he would have been able to do some great things in life.”
Page: [[$index + 1]]
comments powered by Disqus
cars.png dixie-local.jpg
Comic Con

TV Schedule Sponsored By:

Popular Stories on Facebook