SALT LAKE CITY – Prosecutors on Monday dropped state charges against a woman in the 2002 abduction of Elizabeth Smart in exchange for a guilty plea related to the attempted kidnapping of Smart’s cousin.
Wanda Eileen Barzee pleaded guilty but mentally ill to one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping. The second-degree felony stems from the July 24, 2002, attempted abduction of Smart’s 15-year-old cousin Olivia Wright – 50 days after Smart was taken from her Salt Lake City home at age 14.
Sentencing in 3rd District Court is set for May 21.
The plea helps resolve a nearly 7-year-old case that slowed when Barzee was twice deemed incompetent to stand trial. Judge Judith Atherton ordered Barzee to undergo forced treatments with anti-psychotic medications, which began in May 2008.
Atherton said Barzee remains mentally ill. Barzee’s treatment, primarily for depression, is ongoing, said her attorney, Scott Williams.
In November, Barzee, 64, pleaded guilty to federal charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for Smart’s abduction. Sentencing in that case is scheduled for May 19.
Barzee could face up to 30 years in state and federal prison. As part of both plea deals, she agreed to cooperate with the government in the pending state and federal cases against her estranged husband, Brian David Mitchell.
Barzee was originally charged with six felonies in state court after her 2003 arrest. One of those was related to Wright’s attempted kidnapping.
Court papers say Barzee helped Mitchell plan to take Wright to a mountain campsite where Smart had been tethered on a 10-foot cable since her own abduction.
Smart testified in federal court that she was taken from her bedroom at knifepoint on the night of June 5, 2002, was forced into a polygamous marriage with Mitchell and endured repeated rapes and other abuse. She was held captive for nine months.
A one-time itinerant street preacher, Mitchell allegedly wanted Smart as a plural wife so that he could fulfill a religious prophecy laid out in a 27-page manifesto he drafted in early 2002.
On Monday, Salt Lake County Assistant District Attorney Alicia Cook said she believed Wright would have suffered the same fate had the kidnapping attempt been successful. But it was thwarted by clumsiness.
In a statement to The Associated Press in 2003, prosecutors and Wright’s father, Steven, said a thin object poked through a cut window screen knocked over a picture frame on the desk in front of the window.
The clatter woke Wright’s sister, Jessica, and police were called. Prosecutors and family said the attempted kidnapping was not aimed at Jessica, then 18, but at Olivia, who was close to Smart and used to sleep in the bedroom where the break-in occurred.
Mitchell was also deemed incompetent to stand trial in state court, but a judge ruled against forced medications. In federal court, a judge has yet to issue a decision after a 10-day competency hearing was held late last year.
Now 22 and serving a mission in Paris for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Smart did not attend Monday’s court hearing.
Members of the Wright family weren’t in court Monday and Steven could not be reached for comment.