Parents describe struggles during Brian David Mitchell's childhood

Mitchell's first two marriages also were filled with strife

Published: Thursday, Nov. 18 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

But on the witness stand Wednesday, Irene Mitchell claimed to not remember much when asked about bad incidents involving her son, including his arrest for exposing himself. When asked about name calling in the house, she replied, "I have no memory of that."

When questioned about Brian being asked to leave the house to live with his grandmother, Irene Mitchell replied, "I'm not sure about that," but was later able to talk about Brian's brief time at East High School, which he rarely attended because he often skipped school.

In 2002, less than two months before Smart was kidnapped, Irene Mitchell filed a restraining order against her son after he and his wife, Wanda Barzee, showed up at her house and aggressively tried to get her to read his Book of Immanuel David Isaiah.

Mitchell's fondness of fruits, vegetables and juices started at a young age, possibly in part because of his father's own beliefs about nutrition. Mitchell later took to studying lymphology.

But prosecutors noted that despite his apparent commitment to healthy living, there were a lot of drugs and alcohol in Mitchell's life.

Much of Wednesday's testimony focused on Brian Mitchell's first two failed marriages.

Mitchell had two children from his first marriage to a woman named Karen. He was 19, she was either 15 or 16 when they were married. But Lisa Mitchell Holbrook, Mitchell's younger sister, said they weren't great parents.

"They were kind of messed up themselves. They were teenagers, they would party. They wanted to have fun," she said.

After their marriage failed, Mitchell was concerned about losing custody of his two children, Travis and Angie, to his wife. On the day of a scheduled court hearing to determine custody, Mitchell took his two children and fled to New Hampshire, where he stayed for a couple of years. Prosecutors pointed out several times that Mitchell purposely fled with two young children out of state to avoid consequences in court, and went to great lengths to avoid being detected.

Peterson testified that he drove Mitchell to a bus depot in Provo because he was afraid of being seen.

Mitchell mailed letters to his mother, at least one sister, and to Peterson while he was in New Hampshire. A copy of one of those letters was presented in court Wednesday.

In the letter addressed to his mother, Mitchell asked her to keep the letters he sent to her "hidden" as well as anything else that had his address on it. He also asked his mother to not show Karen pictures of the children because they "would only make her more determined to find the children."

In the same letter, Mitchell also talked about how he had grown his hair long and grown a beard. Prosecutors pointed out during cross-examination that Mitchell noted to his mother in the letter that he likes "acting."

"My hair and beard are part of a new act," he wrote. "Sorry I can't be a sweet looking boy all the time."

Outside the courthouse, Peterson also commented on Mitchell's acting abilities.

"Brian was quite an actor," he said, while adding that he believed "much of (Mitchell's antics today) are a show."

When asked whether he thought Mitchell was insane at the time of Smart's abduction, Peterson replied, "No, I don't."

Peterson was very close to Mitchell in the mid 1970s to early '80s, but he really hadn't kept in touch with him for the past 20 years.

While in New Hampshire, Mitchell joined a Hare Krishna commune. But Peterson said Mitchell only pretended to be interested in the religion for "survival," so he could get food, water and shelter for himself and his children.

When Mitchell returned to Utah, Holbrook described him as "dark" and said he did not seem physically, spiritually or emotionally healthy. His family feared he was abusing drugs and alcohol at that time.

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