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Father describes Brian David Mitchell's behavior

Shirl Mitchell: Son's wife would not allow polygamy

Brian David Mitchell walks on Main Street in Salt Lake City, Utah, in spring 2002.

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CNN's Connie Chung has an exclusive interview with Shirl Mitchell, the father of alleged Elizabeth Smart abductor Brian David Mitchell (March 14)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) Brian David Mitchell, 49, is being held in connection with the disappearance of Elizabeth Smart from her home nine months ago.

People in Salt Lake City, Utah, have described him as a drifter who called himself "Emmanuel" and declared himself to be a prophet or Jesus. They say he panhandled with Wanda Ilene Barzee, who is believed to be his wife.

Brian Mitchell's father, Shirl Mitchell, discussed his son's upbringing and recent difficulties with CNN anchor Connie Chung.

CHUNG: How would you describe his childhood and how would you describe -- how would you describe his personality?

MITCHELL: He's never integrated with the family very well. He's always been a kind of what you call a classic black sheep. And he's run off on himself a number of times. He's just rebellious, you know, and ...

CHUNG: What was his relationship with his mother?

MITCHELL: They came to blows, and Brian had to be separated from the household, and he lived with his grandmother for a few months, and he went to school at another school.

CHUNG: More recently, has his mother been getting along with him?

MITCHELL: He -- he's kind of squatted and sponged off her for months at a time. They came to rather loud, vituperative expostulations at each other, and he was thundering like Isaiah at her, saying she'd be damned and her face will be damned forever.

And so she excluded him from her household. And that was the last time he stayed there. And, in fact, because that confrontation was so verbally violent, she had a restraining order put on him so he couldn't come back.

CHUNG: Something happened during his teen years that caused him to end up in juvenile detention. Can you tell me about that?

MITCHELL: Brian had to be a latchkey kid and come home to an empty house. He was all on his own. And along with all these other frustrations, of course, he had access to books of an erotic nature maybe too much -- novels that I'd bring into the house.

I think he fantasized about sex and when a little girl, next door neighbor -- a girl 3 years old came in the house, he exposed himself to her. And that landed him in juvenile detention. Well, that kind of tarnished him and tainted him, and that put him in with a lot of poorly adjusted companions.

CHUNG: There was a period of time in Brian's life in which he was doing drugs, alcohol, smoking. But that changed one day because of what?

MITCHELL: What started that was when his brother came back from a [religious] mission and he -- his brother -- was conciliatory to him and was trying to help him and talk to him.

I think he talked him in to paying more attention to religion. And at that point, Brian decided to kick all his drug habits -- the smoking and the beer drinking and whatnot.

CHUNG: Cold turkey?

MITCHELL: Cold turkey. Took him two weeks. I remember very well because he was living right in our household when it happened.

CHUNG: Did Brian become a religious fanatic?

MITCHELL: Oh, yeah. A zealot and rabidly overboard on things.

CHUNG: Did you feel as if he was sort of going off the deep end?

MITCHELL: I always recognized the possibility because of his intense emotional traumas and background and family and his upbringing. And when he would be discussing things with me and they would more or less irritate him, more than otherwise, his face would kind of -- his forehead would kind of screw up like he was under a lot of tension. And then he -- one time he accused me of being too harsh on him and causing a lot of trauma in him.

CHUNG: Mr. Mitchell, do you think your son was a polygamist?

MITCHELL: No. No, I don't credit that. Wanda has a pretty strong personality despite the fact that she defers to Brian. She has a very strong personality. And ...

CHUNG: You don't think she'd ...

MITCHELL: He'd have -- he'd have to get through her. I don't credit that idea at all.

CHUNG: Mr. Mitchell, when you heard that your son was arrested in connection with the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, what did you think?

MITCHELL: Well, I withheld judgment on it. I didn't accept it at first because I didn't think he'd go off the deep end that much. The very worst I thought [was] that he had just convinced her. He can be very convincing. With this little girl, he might have brainwashed her.

CHUNG: Mr. Mitchell, do you think your son would be capable of physically abusing Elizabeth Smart?

MITCHELL: Well, I never -- I never thought -- took that idea seriously, no. To the extent that he might -- he might brainwash her and call brainwashing abuse, yes.

CHUNG: Mr. Mitchell, I thank you so much for talking to me.

MITCHELL: Well, I hope it helps Brian.

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