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Smart Case Figure: Delusional to Those Who Met Him

THE NATION

March 14, 2003|David Kelly | Times Staff Writer

"He was quiet and well-spoken; there was nothing aggressive about him," Adkisson said. "He was never offensive, but I think he needed mental help. He may have abducted Elizabeth because he was thinking about having another wife."

Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse said Mitchell had an interest in polygamy.

"He did believe in polygamy, but I do not want to attach his relationship to Elizabeth in that fashion," he said.

The couple were once active Mormons, excommunicated for offenses that the church would not detail.

"We can't talk about the time they were excommunicated or the reasons behind it," said Michael Otterson, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "A person can lose his position in the church for a number of reasons -- child abuse, adultery or apostasy."

As news spread about Mitchell and Barzee, many residents of this tight-knit city were shocked to discover how close they had come to Elizabeth.

Mitchell and Elizabeth were seen buying fruit at Wild Oats health food store. "I think it's odd that half the community saw her but couldn't recognize her," said manager Mark Regni.

Nelson Vargas, manager of the Oxford Place Apartments where the group briefly stayed, was stunned by the revelation that Elizabeth was in Salt Lake City. "You realize you are managing this building and there is this big manhunt going on," he said. "And here they all are, right here in the middle of it."

Some wonder what might have happened if they had recognized Elizabeth.

"The last time I saw Mitchell he had another person with him, covered in a veil," Snoddy said. "It's haunting to know she was Elizabeth and to think that maybe we could have saved her from this ordeal."

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Times staff writer Julie Cart contributed to this report.

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