Woman pleads guilty in Elizabeth Smart case

POSTED: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 6:11pm
UPDATED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 9:53am

SALT LAKE CITY — Seven years after it began, the wrenching saga of Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping is expected to move toward resolution Tuesday with an expected guilty plea from one of the two defendants charged in the case.

Wanda Eileen Barzee is scheduled to appear in Utah's U.S. District Court on Tuesday to enter the plea on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor, her attorney Scott Williams said Monday.

Barzee, 63, could face a life sentence for the kidnapping charge and up to 15 years on the other count.

Williams would not say whether a reduced sentence was part of a deal cut with federal prosecutors in exchange for a plea.

SLIDESHOW: The Elizabeth Smart Saga

Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for Utah's U.S. attorney's office, declined to comment on the agreement.

Smart was 14 in 2002 when she was abducted from her bedroom at knifepoint and whisked away to a campsite in the mountains above her Salt Lake City home.

She was recovered nine months later after a motorist saw her walking on a suburban street with Barzee and Barzee's now-estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell.

Barzee's role in the alleged abduction has garnered less attention than Mitchell's.

At a hearing last month, Smart said that within hours of the abduction, Mitchell took her as a polygamous wife and then raped her. Smart said Barzee washed the teen's feet and dressed her in robes before the ceremony.

Barzee often became upset over Mitchell's relationship with Smart, but that sentiment would never last, Smart said.

State cases filed in March 2003 against Barzee and Mitchell have been stymied by rulings that both were incompetent for trial. Barzee and Mitchell were indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2008.

Barzee's plea comes a month after a Utah State Hospital report to a state judge said that 15 months of court-ordered treatments with anti-psychotic medications had restored her competency.

"No issues of competency will be raised in the federal court matter," Williams told The Associated Press on Monday.

Mitchell has also been found incompetent for trial in state court. A judge refused to order him to undergo forced medications.

On Nov. 30, Mitchell is scheduled for a 10-day competency hearing in his federal court case.

Prosecutors claim that a psychiatrist who evaluated Mitchell contends he is exaggerating or faking psychiatric symptoms to avoid prosecution.

Defense attorneys dispute the finding.