Before I dive into this case I would like to put this disclaimer out there for those of you reading.
When I am writing about true crime I want to make it very clear how much respect and empathy I have for the victims and those affected by the heinous acts of violence and terror brought forth by their assailants. I am writing these to not only bring awareness to the many victims of violent crimes but also as an educational source for anyone else wishing to explore these subjects. I plan on doing everything I can to make sure that I cover such cases in as respectful a way as I can and to tell their story with all the facts I have at my disposal.
Though Elizabeth would come to know her as “Hephzibah” I think it’s important to highlight the background of Mitchell’s accomplice and wife Wanda Elaine Barzee.
Born on November 6th, 1945 she would be 57 years of age at the time of Elizabeth’s abduction. Barzee had grown up in a life and environment where she excelled at most everything that she put her mind to and it was said by her sister Evelyn Camp that she had a laugh that was absolutely contagious.
Wanda would go on to become a gifted pianist whom would play Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. She would even eventually play the organ for the Mormon Tabernacle choir.
Young adult Wanda Barzee craved and desired what most normal young women hope and dream about as well, love and stability. She would struggle in this however as it was said that while married to her first husband she would move 33 times in their 22 years of marriage. Unfortunately it was also alleged that she was abused in ways not suitable to discuss throughout their marriage.
After her failed first marriage Wanda Barzee met Brian David Mitchell at their Mormon church, at the time Mitchell was in drug rehabilitation for heroin. They were married shortly after.
Evelyn Camp said that when Wanda met Brian David Mitchell he at first seemed timid to the family and it wouldn’t be until later on that his dark side would show itself.
Eventually Barzee and Mitchell would leave the LDS church altogether to begin their journey in ministering their religious views as ‘Emmanuel’ and ‘Hephzibah’, whom Brian would refer to as the “Mother of Zion.”
Evelyn Camp who is the younger sister of Barzee attributes her mental breakdown and behavior to that of mental illness caused by much of the abuse that she endured. Wanda Barzee’s children however disagree.
Wanda Barzee has six children and they call the woman a monster. The youngest of her children, Louree Gayler recalls being fed her pet rabbit for dinner unknowingly, only finding out the next morning when she asked her mother where the family pet was, only to be told that she had ate her for dinner the night prior.
Gayler also remembers an uncomfortable moment with Mitchell whom had pulled out nude photos of women and laid them out on the bed, as though inviting her to participate in a sexual encounter.
Louree Gayler goes on to say that she was so starved for affection and attention that she would turn to the family dog and spend many of her nights sleeping outside in the doghouse with the pet, even eating out of the dog’s food bowl.
Derrick Thompson, older brother to Louree has explained that he would avoid the abuse by residing in the large back yard, he would use a pellet gun to hunt for birds that he would later cook to eat. He has also gone on to write a book that highlights his upbringing titled “Raised by wolves.” I will link in below with my sources for anyone interested in reading it.
One of Barzee’s daughters identified to the public only as ‘Andrea’ recalls many of her mother’s brainwashing sessions in which Barzee would bring them upstairs and verbally accost them, telling her children that if they were not part of the family that the family would be fine.
Mental illness or not I think it’s pretty clear that Wanda Elaine Barzee was an extremely abusive and cold mother to her children. While reading some of the excerpts of what her children had to say about her, I found it extremely hard to believe which made it all the more chilling to me. You never expect or think about things such as this happening to children at the hands of their own parents. It’s absolutely disgusting. Even more so thinking about what she would later go on to do with Mitchell.
And did you know that she’s walking free right now? Released from prison in 2018. I’ll go over that later though.
Here is the link for the Book “Raised by wolves”, written by Barzee’s son Derrick Thompson.