Wanda Barzee, along with her husband Brian David Mitchell, kidnapped 14-year-old Salt Lake City teen Elizabeth Smart on June 5, 2002. Smart then endured nine months of hell, often under the watchful, scornful eye of Wanda Barzee. After Smart was found alive on March 12, 2003, Barzee was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. While it was expected that Barzee would serve at least 10 years in prison, the unrepentant kidnapper was released on September 19, 2018—five years ahead of schedule. This Wanda Barzee wiki looks at the woman who helped her husband kidnap an innocent child at knifepoint, a woman her own children call an evil monster.
Who Is Wanda Barzee?
Most people have a cheering squad or someone who will, at the very least, champion their memory. Not Wanda Barzee. By all accounts, she is a vile, unrepentant human being who likes to play the victim. Still, there are some objective facts.
|About Wanda Barzee|
|Birth||November 6, 1945 Salt Lake City, Utah|
|Spouse||Brian David Mitchell,|
Talmadge Thomson (ex)
|Siblings||Janice Barzee, Evelyn Barzee|
|Parents||Dora Barzee, Marvin Barzee|
Wanda Barzee was born on November 6, 1945 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was the second of three daughters born to Dora and Marvin Barzee. Sister Janice was two years older, while Evelyn was two years younger.
Wanda Barzee is remembered as being a good student who excelled at sewing, art, cake decorating, and music. But any dreams she may have had of working in the arts fell to the wayside when, in her senior year at Salt Lake City’s South High School, she met her future husband, Talmadge Thompson.
The love-struck couple married just months after she graduated. She was 19 years of age, and he was a 27-year-old aspiring educator. Within the first three years of marriage, Wanda had three children—one a year, all born in August. Over the next seven years, they had three more. Before turning 30, Wanda had three sons and three daughters.
Whether it was the stress of taking care of six young children, her mental health, or paranoia (she was suspicious of everyone, including family, friends, and doctors), Wanda had a nervous breakdown. This led to the breakdown of their marriage.
In 1983, Wanda Barzee left her husband and children—one was in foster care and the oldest children were becoming adults. She filed for divorce.
Barzee moved into a small apartment a mile east of downtown Salt Lake City. All she took were a few pieces of furniture and a baby grand piano.
The breakup could be described as acrimonious at best. Thompson was given custody of the other children, with each accusing the other of abuse and, in Barzee’s case, mental illness.
Wanda Barzee Meets Brian David Mitchell
It was during this tumultuous time that Barzee met Brian David Mitchell.
She was told by her bishop that she should meet someone who had the same kind of problems as she did. The pair met in group counseling in a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward in 1985. Neither of them was single at the time; they were both locked in bitter fights with their exes.
Misery loves company; on the first day that Mitchell came into the group, Wanda Barzee shared the story of her marriage to Talmadge Thompson.
“I was married to my first husband for 20 years, raising six children,” Barzee would later testify. “It was a very abusive situation. I never did heal from that first relationship before I met Brian. …Brian was so supportive to me. He became my best friend.”
Wanda Barzee was on anti-depressants during this period, she said, and Mitchell held her hand to comfort her during their counseling sessions.
On November 29, 1985, nine months after they met, the pair married on the same day Mitchell’s divorce became final. They were married in a civil ceremony by the bishop at Barzee’s LDS church. Together, they moved into her tiny apartment. “Together” means a combined family of 10 children, ranging in age from two to 20.
On January 23, 1988, Wanda Barzee and Brian David Mitchell were sealed, “for time and all eternity,” at the LDS temple in Salt Lake City.
Wanda Described First Year of Marriage as “Hell”
History isn’t doomed to repeat itself, but Wanda and Brian worked to ensure it did. The easygoing Wanda and laid-back Brian the kids saw while their parents were dating were long gone. Wanda and Brian fought loudly and frequently.
Despite him being her best friend, Wanda Barzee described the first year of marriage to Mitchell as being “hellish.”
Barzee said her husband would often say he was “consumed in fear and doubt.”
“He would never talk to me about what he was fearful of,” Barzee testified in court. “He would get angry and we would get in an argument and he would leave the house before he got so violent that he would hurt somebody or destroy something.”
Still, the couple carried on. Why? Wanda sought out counseling during that first year and explained how hellish her marriage was; she was counseled to stick it out and work out their problems.
Unfortunately, the marriage became more hellish and weird.
Wanda’s Marriage Becomes More Extreme
During the early years of their marriage, Tim Mitchell, Brian’s brother, said their beliefs became more and more extreme. The couple ate an all-fruit diet, believed in curing illness through lymphology, and became more obsessed with religion.
In 1993, Wanda Barzee sent each of her children a letter, telling them she was leaving Utah and didn’t want any further contact with them.
Barzee and Mitchell left to spend some time in Idaho. In 1995, Barzee renounced her family as “evil” and “materialistic.” The pair quit their jobs and hitchhiked around the country for two years, preaching.
The couple returned to Salt Lake City again in 1997. For a brief period of time, they lived with Barzee’s mother, Dora Corbett. It was during this time that Mitchell began working on his manifesto, The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah.
Barzee and Mitchell left after three months because of their increasing religious fanaticism.
“They were trying to push their religion on people all the time, calling them to repentance, and that was offensive,” Corbett said.
Wanda and Brian stayed in the Salt Lake area but returned to their transient ways, living in a teepee in the foothills of Salt Lake Valley or with Mitchell’s mother. Brian started wearing long white robes and tunics, grew a beard, and thought of himself as a Jesus figure.
Brian, no longer Brian, adopted the name “Immanuel David Isaiah” and Wanda was to be known as “Hephzibah,” meaning “God Adorneth.”
The pair continued their ministry in Salt Lake City, panhandling on the clean streets and reaching out to those walking by. Sometimes he would swear at pedestrians if they didn’t give him money. Or, more dramatically, spread his arms out, like Jesus on the cross.
Corbett recalls seeing her daughter Wanda for the last time in 2002. She showed up at her home holding a doll, as if it were a real baby.
In April 2002, Brian finally finished his 27-page revelation, The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah. Wanda transcribed the revelation by hand and handed out copies to friends and families.
“…I have raised up my servant Immanuel David Isaiah, ever my righteous right hand, to be a light and a covenant to my people—to all those who will repent and come unto me, for in my servant, Immanuel is the fullness of my gospel…”
Later that same year, brother Tim Mitchell, who is a mental health counselor, recounted, he had seen his brother and called him Brian. He told Tim that his name was no longer Brian; it was “Daveed” and Wanda’s name was “Elladah.”
Tim refused to call his brother Daveed and said he thought they were suffering from mental illness. Indeed, he may have been. Wanda may have been as well.
Brian had convinced Wanda, or she was willing to believe, that he was preordained by God to have six additional wives, all young, to help successfully, of course, wage war with the Antichrist.
More specifically, during the winter/spring of 2001, Brian claimed to have received a new revelation about celestial (plural) marriages. The pair was “given a commandment to take a young girl between the age of 10 to 14 years old.”
Later, Mitchell would say that the age was pinpointed to 14. He would go into downtown Salt Lake City and “stalk young girls, try to find out where they lived,” Barzee said.
The commandment to take up polygamy was written about in Mitchell’s Book of Immanuel. According to the book, Mitchell was supposed to form a society, and in it, he makes reference to “each of the seven diamonds plus one…”
Despite Mitchell eventually having a total of seven wives, in God’s new kingdom, Wanda would also have a lofty new position: the exalted queen. And Wanda Barzee knew what she had to d