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Brian David Mitchell stalked other girls, doctor says

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 8 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Drawing of psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, right, on the stand during a hearing to determine if Brian David Mitchell is competent.

Joshua Fronk, Deseret News

Two FBI agents grilled Brian David Mitchell during an intense interrogation shortly after the man accused of kidnapping and raping Elizabeth Smart was found in 2003.

At times, the agents got directly in Mitchell's face, yelling at him that he was not of God, and nowhere did God preach kidnapping and abusing young girls.

Mitchell, however, looked composed and relaxed, even slouching in his chair and at times propping his feet up on another chair.

"He dispatches the questions they have like a matador," Dr. Michael Welner said, reacting Monday to a videotape of the interrogation.

Welner testified during the sixth day of a hearing in federal court to determine if Mitchell is competent to stand trial. It was Welner's second full day of testimony.

Welner talked about a wide range of topics Monday, including Mitchell's apparent history of pedophilia. He said Mitchell was looking for a young girl to kidnap before Elizabeth.

"He was stalking girls all over Salt Lake City before kidnapping Elizabeth Smart. The reason he didn't do it (kidnap others), he couldn't figure out where they lived," said Welner.

Welner said Mitchell would become fixated with other victims but could never follow through because he didn't know their addresses. That changed for him, however, when the Smart family hired Mitchell, then posing as a drifting handyman known only as "Immanuel," to do some work for them at their home.

"This is how (Elizabeth) ultimately came to be targeted," he said.

Welner also discussed Mitchell's alleged attempts to kidnap a teenage cousin of Elizabeth Smart from the girl's Cottonwood Heights home and an alleged plot to kidnap a 12-year-old daughter of a man Mitchell met at an LDS meetinghouse in California.

Through interviews with Elizabeth Smart, Welner said he also learned about another Mitchell plot during the time he held her captive. He said Mitchell came up with a plan of "attacking a girls camp with machetes" to kidnap other young girls to become his wives.

Welner is the author of a 205-page report that is believed to be the most extensive study of Mitchell to date. In it, Welner concludes that Mitchell is competent to stand trial. He also describes Mitchell as manipulative and calculating and that Mitchell uses religion as a way to get what he wants, including sex.

He believes Mitchell suffers from pedophilia, an antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy, malingering (faking an illness to avoid prosecution) and a narcissistic personality disorder. But he does not have a delusional disorder or psychotic mental illness, Welner said.

During his testimony Monday, Welner was shown nearly an hour of the videotaped interview the FBI conducted with Mitchell. In Welner's opinion, Mitchell was the one controlling the interview.

"The goal here is to suffocate the interview," said Welner. "He's quick. He's Johnny-on-the-spot. He always has an answer."

Mitchell confidently deflected questions about how Smart was kidnapped by saying God delivered her to him and told him to receive her as his wife.

Mitchell avoided answering questions about having sex with her. He also seemed fully aware of what the agents were doing, telling an agent at one point, "Every single one of your questions is designed to entrap me."

At another point during the interview, Mitchell accused the agents of changing their tactics against him, first accusing him of being a false prophet but later trying to use flattery to try to get him to talk.

"Brian Mitchell is so strong-minded that it's the experienced officers who lose control," Welner said.

Throughout the FBI interview, Mitchell spoke in a religious tone and would only respond when agents addressed him as Immanuel and asked them to call Elizabeth Smart, Shear Jashub Esther Isaiah.

"He's not rambling; he's responding," Welner said. "He's still very much engaged with the examiner."

During an intense exchange between Mitchell and the agents about whether he had sex with Elizabeth, Lois Smart, Elizabeth's mother, stood up and left the courtroom.

"It was very hard to watch," Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, later said. "When they started getting into the sexual activity, just the way he was lying, it was very hard to accept."

Mitchell described Elizabeth's kidnapping as a "glorious experience" for the then-14-year-old girl. He also said he had "great compassion and love" for the Smart family.

But when Welner later interviewed Elizabeth, she told him about the day search teams were very close to Mitchell's mountain campsite where she was held captive, and he threatened her with her life if she made any noise.

"If they come into this camp, I'll kill them and I'll kill you," Welner said Mitchell told her.

Also Monday, Welner described how he believes Mitchell used cognitive distortion as a defense mechanism — a trait typically seen in pedophiles used to help them maintain social desirability and make them appear more acceptable to others.

In one example, a portion of Welner's recent videotaped interview with Mitchell's estranged wife and co-defendant Wanda Barzee was shown to the court. Barzee is shown wiping tears from her eyes as she described how Mitchell wanted her to demonstrate to Elizabeth how to have sex the night she was kidnapped.

"I didn't want to do that, I didn't want to demonstrate in front of her. At the same time, I was the mother of Zion," she said.

Welner said it was just one example of how Mitchell used religious beliefs to justify sexual acts. Portions of Mitchell's "Book of Immanuel David Isaiah" were written as a defense to his alleged crimes, he said.

Welner also took issue Monday with the reports of two of the defense's expert witnesses, Dr. Steven Golding and Dr. Jennifer Skeem. Both believe Mitchell is incompetent to stand trial. Both also testified during Mitchell's state competency hearing that they believed he was incompetent.

Welner criticized the note-taking of both doctors, particularly Skeem's notes, claiming some of the content did not make it in to their final reports, which could have potentially had an impact on the state competency hearing after which Mitchell was eventually determined by 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton to be incompetent to stand trial.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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