Speculation that Salt Lake City kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart was held within a “psychologically controlling” environment is now emerging, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

One expert commented about the influence Brian David Mitchell may have had over Smart saying, “We have no idea what psychological or pressure manipulations he used with her.”

Mitchell seems like the model for a cult leader. He changed his name to “David Emmanuel Isaiah” and allegedly sees himself as a “prophet.” He then became a wandering preacher, often delivering sermons to the homeless.

Mitchell, once an active member of the Mormon Church and a “temple worker,” later abandoned his faith and service to begin a series of bizarre adventures including a stay with survivalists and eventually became homeless himself, reports the Desert News.

Mitchell also wrote his own version of the Book of Mormon and ultimately believed he was “above God,” though directed by heaven.

His wife Wanda Ilene Barzee, who is now also charged with kidnapping, accompanied the wandering prophet.

One of Brazee’s children said, “He obviously brainwashed my mom.”

It appears that Mitchell may have also “brainwashed” Elizabeth Smart to some extent over the many months he held the 15-year-old captive.

Smart was dressed oddly when first identified by witnesses. She wore a veil, as if she was a plural wife within a harem. According to a family spokesperson the girl was never far from the watchful eyes of her captors.

The Smart kidnapping has eerie parallels to the abduction of Patty Hearst.

Hearst, an heiress to a newspaper publishing fortune, was abducted by a cult called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) and held for more than a year. She suffered gross abuse from her captors and was “brainwashed,” according to court testimony.

However, Patty Hearst did not receive much public sympathy and was sentenced to prison for her role in a bank heist staged by the SLA.

Later, President Jimmy Carter commuted that sentence and Bill Clinton eventually pardoned Hearst before leaving the White House.

The saga of Hearst’s kidnapping, confinement and “brainwashing” may be helpful in understanding how Mitchell could hold Elizabeth Smart for so long without an escape.

How much more vulnerable was this child than the 19-year-old college student Patty Hearst? And what forms of psychological control and manipulation did Smart endure at the hands of this self-proclaimed “prophet” in the “name of God”?


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