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Kidnapped teen was tethered to tree, threatened with death

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 19, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY -- Elizabeth Smart was tethered to a tree, threatened with her life and sexually assaulted after she was kidnapped from her family home last summer, prosecutors said Tuesday after filing multiple felony charges against her alleged abductors.

Brian David Mitchell, 49, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 57, were accused of aggravated kidnapping, sexual assault and burglary. The couple, who face multiple life sentences, are scheduled to be arraigned today in state court by a video link with the county jail. Each is being held on $10-million bail.

"We're not just dealing with a religious zealot. We're dealing with a sexual predator," Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom said of Mitchell, a self-professed prophet who claimed he took Elizabeth, now 15, to be his wife. Mitchell, a drifter and an excommunicated Mormon, wrote a rambling manifesto last year embracing the practice of polygamy.

Elizabeth was found March 12 with Mitchell and Barzee in neighboring Sandy, Utah.

The charges mark the first time that the police said they had evidence that Elizabeth had been sexually attacked by her captors.

The district attorney announced the charges at a news conference Tuesday. Yocom said he met with Elizabeth's parents Tuesday and they told him they will cooperate in the case, including allowing Elizabeth to testify on the assault charges. A forensic psychiatrist has been interviewing the teenager about her 9-month ordeal, Yocom said.

The court papers offered only a few -- but nonetheless telling -- details about what happened to Elizabeth after she was kidnapped June 5.

She was awakened and taken out of the house at knifepoint and forced to walk in her pajamas up a 4-mile-long mountain trail in the foothills above the family home, prosecutors said.

At the campsite, Elizabeth was assaulted, according to the court documents. Mitchell threatened Elizabeth with a knife and threatened to hurt or kill her family, court papers stated. Barzee aided or abetted her husband, prosecutors said.

The trio remained in makeshift mountain campsites not far from the family home through Oct. 8 "with little or no shelter, no plumbing, with no water supply, and with little or no food," the court documents stated.

Mitchell and Barzee also are charged with the attempted July 24 break-in -- using a knife to cut a window screen -- at the home of one of Elizabeth's cousins. The commotion awakened the 18-year-old girl and her parents, so the person fled, according to court papers.

Extremist guilty of slaying abortion doctor

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An antiabortion extremist was convicted of second-degree murder Tuesday in the 1998 sniper slaying of an abortion doctor after an unusual trial in which no jury was used and both sides agreed the defendant fired the fatal shot.

James Kopp, 48, had waived a jury trial in favor of much shorter proceedings in which the judge issued a verdict based on a list of facts agreed to by the prosecution and defense.

After the verdict was read, Kopp, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, smiled at his attorney.

"Jim and I were disappointed by the verdict but not shocked by it," said his lawyer, Bruce Barket. An appeal was planned.

Kopp was found guilty of intentionally killing Dr. Barnett Slepian, 52, who was struck by a single bullet fired from a high-powered rifle through a window of his suburban Amherst home. Kopp had claimed he had intended only to wound Slepian to prevent him from performing abortions.

Shortly after the shooting, Kopp fled to Mexico and then Ireland and was one of the FBI's most-wanted fugitives until his capture in France in 2001.

At sentencing, set for May 9, Kopp faces a minimum of 15 years to life and a maximum of 25 years to life.

Gulf war vet executed at federal prison

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- A decorated Persian Gulf War veteran who blamed Iraqi nerve gas for turning him into a killer was put to death here Tuesday after President Bush, on the eve of another gulf war, declined to commute his sentence.

Louis Jones Jr., 53, was executed by lethal injection at dawn in the federal prison at Terre Haute for the 1995 kidnap, rape and murder of a young Army recruit in Texas. Strapped into the gurney, he quoted scripture and sang a Christian hymn.

The family of the victim, 19-year-old Tracie Joy McBride of Centerville, Minn., angrily rejected the argument by Jones and his attorney that his injuries from the Gulf War led him to kill.

"The Gulf War and Gulf War Syndrome is never an excuse to murder anybody," said her mother, Irene McBride.

Jones built a stellar 22-year career in the Army, rising to the rank of master sergeant in the Airborne Rangers and serving in the 1983 invasion of Grenada and the first Persian Gulf War.

Elsewhere . . .

FIRM FILIBUSTER: Republicans failed for a third time to break a Senate filibuster of federal judicial nominee Miguel Estrada, but said they would continue to require Democrats to vote to keep the Hispanic off the federal bench.

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