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Witness says Mitchell was screaming zealot

Elizabeth Smart, left, and Brian Mitchell, right, at Salt Lake party. The person in the middle has been obscured at the photographer's request.
Elizabeth Smart, left, and Brian Mitchell, right, at Salt Lake party. The person in the middle has been obscured at the photographer's request.
Anne Elizabeth Maurer via KSL TV

Emmanuel was a controlling, screaming, hard-drinking, religious zealot who had "a dark energy about him in a sexual way."

That was the impression of Jason Savelsberg, who lives near 900 East and 200 South in a house where Emmanuel, his wife Wanda and Elizabeth Smart attended a party in early September 2002.

Savelsberg — a computer trainer, Web site designer and photographer who is now unemployed — recalled that more than 100 people attended the open party. But Emmanuel, Wanda and Elizabeth drew the most attention.

Emmanuel, whose birth name is Brian David Mitchell, wore white robes, a beard and a white hat like a hospital scrub cap.

Both Elizabeth Smart and Wanda Barzee were dressed in white. As photographed at the party, the women wore headgear and veils that covered their faces except their eyes and parts of their foreheads.

An amateur theater troupe is based at the house, and many performers, bands and friends attend parties there. The events are open to most, as long as they are respectful and nonviolent, Savelsberg said.

But the man he knew as Emmanuel went over that line, he said. After the trio had been there about an hour, a group that probably numbered at least 10 escorted him out, and the women followed.

Probably Emmanuel and the women were not actually invited, he said.

"We had seen Emmanuel around. Anybody that's lived in Salt Lake City long enough has seen him wandering around town. But our parties are pretty open, so what he probably did is heard the noise and got curious and decide to just pop on in."

'The wrong crowd'

The three showed up about midnight, when the party was going strong.

Some partygoers began trying to get a rise out of Emmanuel, which wasn't hard. But the women would not talk, Savelsberg said.

"In fact, if you tried to speak with them, in some cases Emmanuel would interject and say, 'Yeah, they're not allowed to talk.' "

The women did not look at anyone for long. They didn't speak much. They seemed very distant and disconnected, he said.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel "drank quite heavily," downing beer after beer. The women would not accept anything to drink.

Emmanuel was trying to preach, but this was the wrong crowd, Savelsberg said. "A lot of people were just pokin' jabs, just kind of egging him on, trying to get him to react."

As he drank more, Emmanuel became more belligerent.

"He started screaming epithets and saying, 'You're damned,' and 'You need to seek repentance and redemption.' And he started screaming at the top of his lungs," Savelsberg said. "At that point he started making a lot of people uncomfortable."

A woman tried to talk to the women but they would not reply. "She said the most she got out of either one of the women was a mumble.

"Some people asked them point-blank, 'Are you two OK? You need any help?' They wouldn't answer. You know, they wouldn't keep eye contact. They were just very disconnected," Savelsberg said. Some of the women at the party also felt uneasy because Mitchell "was trying to, quote unquote, hit on a couple of women there," he said.

Eventually, a group escorted him out. The two women followed.

In the city

The partygoers weren't the only ones to see the trio in the past nine months. Even though no one could find a trace of Elizabeth since June, she may have been the most documented missing child in America. Now that Mitchell has been arrested, scores of people from San Diego to Salt Lake City have stepped forward with photographs and even videotape of Mitchell and the two veiled women who walked with him.

For the first two months after the June 5 abduction, the trio are believed to have lived in a camp in Dry Canyon in the foothills above Elizabeth's house.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse Thursday said a sighting of a man in Emigration Canyon just days after the abduction that sparked an intense but fruitless all-night search may have indeed been Mitchell.

In August, Mitchell, Smart and Barzee moved down to Salt Lake City. The white-robed trio were regulars at the Wild Oats Market on 400 South for several weeks last fall, usually arriving late in the morning to avoid the lunch crowd and filling up on pizza slices and salads.

They attempted to save money by sneaking produce into the store's pizza boxes and by preparing their own salads from store ingredients, using the kitchen facilities in the store's upstairs dining area.

One employee recalls seeing Barzee and Elizabeth together in the women's rest room upstairs. The pair, the employee said, shared a bathroom stall. "I didn't know what to think," she said. "What were they doing — adjusting their veils?"

The employee, as well as others who work for the health-food chain, asked not to be identified because of a mandate from company headquarters that they not talk to the media about Elizabeth.

They said Elizabeth didn't talk to anyone but Mitchell and Barzee, and then only in whispers. She may have removed her veil to eat on at least one occasion, but was not identified.

On each visit, they passed a poster on the store's front doors advertising Elizabeth's disappearance. None of the store employees apparently recognized that Elizabeth was the quiet girl seated on an upstairs sofa.

'Another follower'

No one was certain when the three started coming to the downtown store, but Mitchell befriended a former cashier, Daniel Trotta, who let them stay in his nearby apartment for about a week last October.

Trotta only recently realized who his guests were and notified authorities shortly before Elizabeth was found.

They were also seen dining at Crown Burger, a fast-food restaurant on 200 South. An employee there recalled Barzee and Elizabeth sitting together at a table by the window while Mitchell purchased their meal.

Mitchell and Barzee also ate at the Midvale SouperSalad with Elizabeth sometime in August.

The trio also was spotted early one morning several months ago walking on 200 West near South Temple, not far from the Greyhound bus station. James Mahana, who owns a cleaning business that services the station, said he "thought they were odd" but gave the matter no further thought.

Up until about a year ago, Mitchell was a nearly daily visitor at the food court at the Crossroads Mall, according to Jorge Dask, owner of Greek Town Grill. He was always there alone, Dask said, and would often be brought into the mall by someone wanting to feed him. "All the time I saw him he was very mellow."

Mitchell stopped coming around, though, about a year ago. Dask said he has only seen him once since, several months ago. "He was sitting at that table," alone, Dask said. "Someone took him over to the hamburger place" for some food.

Mike Williams, an employee at both a downtown 7-Eleven and a Crossroads game store, said he saw the three at the mall's food court last fall. "I remember thinking," Williams said, "that he's got another follower now."

On Sept. 27, 2002, Mitchell was arrested by Salt Lake City police for investigation of shoplifting at an Albertson's food store. At that time, police were not looking for Mitchell in connection with Smart's abduction.

California and back

In October the three took a bus to San Diego, where they lived as transients for the next five months. The three became regulars around Lakeside, Calif., where they would often sleep at a local park. A local liquor store said Mitchell was a regular.

Asadd Rabban owns a local supermarket where he said Mitchell came in almost every day from Christmas to early January to buy 25-cent snacks.

While in San Diego, Mitchell was arrested after breaking a church window apparently in an effort to find a place to sleep.

Mitchell, Smart and Barzee returned to Utah on Wednesday, arriving at 3 a.m. Just after 1 p.m. the three were spotted by two couples on State Street near 10200 South. They were taken into custody a short time later.

This time, officers recognized Mitchell — and one of the females as Elizabeth Smart.


Contributing: Elaine Jarvik, Pat Reavy, Jake Parkinson

E-MAIL: bau@desnews.com; lisa@desnews.com