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Ex-stepdaughter of Brian David Mitchell trying to get his things

Published July 16, 2013 8:01 pm

Crime • Woman is seeking items seized after his arrest in the Elizabeth Smart case.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Rebecca Woodridge made a promise to her former stepfather, Brian David Mitchell: that she would keep safe the few possessions the homeless street preacher once had.

But that promise has been difficult to keep.

Shortly after Mitchell was sentenced to life in federal prison in 2011 for kidnapping and raping then-14-year-old Elizabeth Smart eight years before, he signed over his power of attorney to Woodridge, she said. Since then, Woodridge said she has been trying to work with the Salt Lake City Police Department to get back Mitchell's belongings that were put into evidence after his 2003 arrest.

Smart was kidnapped at knife point from her Salt Lake City home in June 2002. At Mitchell's 2010 trial, Smart testified that her kidnapper raped her almost daily during nine months of captivity. Smart was rescued — and Mitchell, now 59, and his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee, now 67, were arrested — after the three were spotted on a Sandy street in March 2003.

Woodridge said she has received a few books and court documents that Mitchell had kept at the Salt Lake County Jail, but other items are still missing, including the clothes he was wearing after he was arrested, his robes and some of his writings.

Woodridge said she has been getting the runaround with Salt Lake City police, who she said have told her that she had to wait until Mitchell's appeals process was completed to claim any personal items. And recently an officer told her Mitchell's items were given to "a niece."

"There isn't a niece," Woodridge said, adding that she was concerned that whoever received Mitchell's personal effects may be planning to profit from them.

"Probably some of them are worth money," she said. "They can try to sell them."

Woodridge said Mitchell never told her why he chose her to care for his personal items, but he told her to keep them safe.

"He just said for safe-keeping," she said. "He wanted certain things kept safe."

All of the items that she has received from authorities so far have been kept in a safe deposit box, Woodridge said, and any other items she receives in the future will be kept in the same place.

Woodridge, who was sexually abused by Mitchell when she was a child but has forgiven him, said the two have kept in contact with one another since he was sent to serve his life sentence in a federal prison in Arizona. They have written letters to one another, she said, and they recently spoke on the phone.

"He said he's doing good," she said. "That the Lord has been good to him."

Salt Lake City police spokeswoman Lara Jones said Tuesday that the department is reviewing the evidence in the Smart case, but would not comment more specifically about whether the police department still had evidence in itsß possession.

Woodridge said she is growing weary of getting no answers from the police, but intends to keep her promise to Mitchell to keep his belongings safe.

"I'll keep trying until I die," Woodridge said. "I won't give up. I'm not the type to quit, and I don't give up. But I'm tired, and it's frustrating."

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller