Elizabeth’s ordeal was finally over. She is now 22 years old and a few months ago she testified that Mitchell chained her to a tree and raped her repeatedly for the duration of her captivity. He pled not guilty and a judge is deliberating whether he is competent to stand trial. Last year, Wanda Barzee pled guilty to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. She is confined to a state hospital and is yet to be sentenced.
Wanda Barzee’s 6 children are not surprised that their mom could do something so evil- they say that they were her first victims. A video shows them going to the home they grew up in, they haven’t been back in years. Louree says their family appeared normal outside, but inside everything changed. Rhonda said their father was over-controlling and abusive. Derrick learned how to fend for himself from age 8, he’d find his refuge in the back yard. Their mom would lock food up in the pantry for a couple of days to torment them. The dog loved them unconditionally, so Louree would hide with her dog in the doghouse, snuggle for warmth and eat dogfood. Derrick would roast on a stick whatever animal he could shoot with his BB gun. Their mom would take them upstairs and brainwash them each that the family would be better off without them, if they were dead. Andrea says she preferred the physical abuse to this mental abuse, these scars have remained. She robbed them of their childhood and innocence.
Rhonda, Derrick, Louree and Andrea are in the studio, 4 of 6 of Wanda’s children. Andrea is on the show to reveal the monster that is her mother, she does not like the media portrayal that Barzee is a vicitim of Mitchell. She thinks that she has been sympathetically portrayed as a psychological victim, Andrea wants to show that Barzee had issues before she ever met Mitchell. They were a bad match, each with their own psychological issues; they fed on each other. As children, they received physical abuse from their father, but also physical and medical neglect and prevalent emotional abuse. Outside appearances, meant that they looked like the Brady brunch, like a good Mormom family. Derrick says they had no sense of right or wrong, he was on his way to prison. Oprah says that as a child you don’t know what you need to develop. Derek craved love. Andrea says kids need structure, knowing they’ll still be loved no matter what. As kids, they never knew what was coming. Andrea did not know their life wasn’t normal until she visited someone else’s home. She went on a camping trip with another family and it was heaven, she realised that she did not care to be at home. She then took on the role of protector. Louree was the baby, when the others could get out and hide from the abuse, she couldn’t fend for herself in the same way. Things were lost by the time she was born. The divorce happened in 1984, then Wanda who has always been depressed and psychologically abusive did have an emotional breakdown. When Andrea started to stand up for her siblings, she got the most physical abuse from mom and dad. They were all terrified of their dad- he declined the Oprah Winfrey Show’s request to be interviewed.
Oprah asks the siblings what they feel their mother’s sentence should be. Andrea doesn’t think her mother should see the light of day ever again, as a mother and citizen herself. Louree says that her mom is getting the right medication which is a good thing, now that she had accepted her part in this after years of untreated metal illness. Derrick says he is undecided. The eldest daughter had a hard time believing that her mom had any part of the ordeal, until she pled guilty. As the oldest of 6, Rhonda had a different feeling for her mom, she was closer to her- she was the first one, the golden child. She doesn’t remember her mother being abusive to her, they did cooking and baking and Wanda made all their clothes. Oprah reiterates that each child in every family has a different experience within that family. They haven’t seen each other for a long time, they need to respect how they each feel with regards to their upbringing. Rhonda is trying to remember the good.
Wanda was married to their father for 21years, then she remarried Brian David Mitchell the next year. Rhonda got a creepy feeling from the first hug. Derrick says that everyone got that same feeling from Mitchell’s stare and mannerisms. In a video, Rhonda says that originally Wanda and Brian seemed to be a happy couple. Derrick says he looked normal, but was weird, he had odd mannerisms. Louree was forced to pray with the couple for 2-4 hours a day. Once Brian nudged her and showed her some photos of nude women, but she closed her eyes. Louree said it seems that he was trying to get her to participate with them that day. The final straw before she moved out came when she asked what was for dinner one day. Her mom said chicken. Neither mom nor Brian touched their food, they were kind of picking at a salad, but Wanda sat smiling. The next day when she went to feed her rabbit Peaches, she wasn’t there. She asked her mom where the rabbit was, and she was told that she’d eaten her last night for dinner.
Back in the studio, Oprah says sitting at the dinner table, finding out you’re eating your pet rabbit, when you’re 14 years old. Louree said she couldn’t stay any more, the rabbit was the final straw in the mental torment. The control was too much; the windows were screwed from the outside, the TV was locked to National Geographic, she had to work from age 12, or was expected to only do church activities. Oprah asked if it also felt weird to hug their father- Derrick said their father never hugged them. The family dispersed, and then watching TV they found out that there mother was suspected of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart.
Back in 1991, Derrick heard that his mom and Brian had hit the road to preach, in an attempt to get closer to god. Wanda disowned her children. When Derrick’s son was about 8 years old, they ran into Wanda and Brian in a parking lot, he tried to introduce his son to his grandmother, and Wanda and Brian completely ignored them. On the 4th July, Louree and her daughter saw Wanda and Brian sitting under a tree, she went over to ask her mom how she was doing. Wanda grabbed her face, screamed that her father was evil, and then yelled scriptures at Louree. Rhonda saw them once at the grocery store, wearing robes holding a sack of potatoes- she couldn’t believe what she saw. Oprah says its interesting that Derrick wanted to introduce his son to Wanda after everything that happened. He says he wanted to connect and hoped his son would be able to, but it wasn’t to be. Derrick learned of the Elizabeth Smart crime on TV – he saw Brian’s profile on America’s Most Wanted. All the ill-feelings he’d had towards Brian clicked just then, and he wanted to find him and bring him to justice. He wanted to drag him by his beard to the police station. He knew 100% their mother had to be involved. Andrea was helping her foster parents move, and was told- later that night she called the police and had an interiew. The whole family gave the police tips as to where Brian and Wanda might be found.
Oprah asks why they went after Elizabeth Smart? Louree says that she thinks they wanted to start their own religious cult. Brian was power-hungry within the church and he couldn’t go much further within the church, and he wanted more. Rhonda got a letter from her mother recently. Andrea and Louree don’t stay in communication with their mother, Derrick has received a couple of things but he’s thrown them away; it’s too little, too late. Rhonda as the oldest didn’t believe it at first, she thought that maybe Wanda was the victim, she never spoke up for herself. They saw Brian and Wanda at their grandparents funeral, just before the kidnapping. Brian was yelling and screaming repent, and Wanda was walking quietly beside him. They felt she just followed him. Rhonda thinks she’s his victim because she wants to be. Rhonda thinks her mother should share responsibility for her actions.
Rhonda reads from a recent letter which says Wanda has boundless love for all her kids. Wanda is so very sorry for the lives of abuse, and that they have had to live without a mother or grandmother to their children. It is Wanda’s constant prayer that each of them may find it in their heart to forgive their mother, each is so precious to her. Louree shakes her head. Rhonda and Andrea cry. Louree says it makes her sick, everyone wants a mother’s love, and Wanda was never a mother. It makes her angry that now it’s too late. Usually you get either a mother or father which loves you, and they had neither. Derrick says as children there was a taboo around mentioning their mother’s sickness, and that now after a lifetime of suffering, their mother is getting the treatment she needs but their is a chasm between them to bridge. They don’t know how to do it. Andrea says its hard when there is nothing to model off or build a foundation. She feels that Wanda doesn’t deserve the title of mother. A mother should nurture, teach, rear, uplift, comfort and love your children unconditionally. Oprah agrees that it is the hardest job on the world when it is done well. Andrea has a 22 year old son and a 19 year old daughter. Her son is the same age as Elizabeth Smart. Two weeks or so before the kidnapping, Wanda and Brian turned up at Andrea’s door, to try and enlist her as another wife. It was an interesting experience and she asked them to leave. As an adult she was able to control her own environment in a way she couldn’t as a child. They had sat down and talked about their gospel and Brian’s part in it as a messenger, and how they really wanted Andrea to take part in it. Andrea asked them to leave and they got up. Wanda asked for a hug and Andrea refused and said no but you can have a nice life.
Oprah goes back to ask Louree about the praying and the nude pictures- was there any abuse from Brian? Louree says there was no abuse but there was innuendos, long hugs and shrugging up against her. Itw as very uncomfortable, she felt that even in a turtleneck, Brian would undress her with his eyes. It ws very uncomfortable. She says that Brian gave Wanda a little bit of power to see what she would do with it, and it trickled. Derrick says Andrea would have kicked Brian’s butt if he’d tried to abuse her.
On September 10th, 2008 Elizabeth Smart was interviewed on Oprah when she said her captors should be charged as guilty, and that if they got out they’d do it all over again. Oprah asks the family what they think when they see Elizabeth Smart. Andrea commends her for the person she is, all she has endured and all that she aspires to be. Andrea says that as adults we create our own realities, and that her mom and Brian created theirs and shouldn’t be set free. She feels Brian is competent to stand trial- she says they are both intelligent, calculating manipulators. If you look at the time frame, her sudden cooperation is to help herself.
Oprah asks how the sins of their mother have affected their lives. Louree respects every instance of her life for making her who she is. It has made her much stronger as a mother, and very close to her children. Derrick had to evaluate who he was, to look back and realise he was on the wrong path. He had to learn responsibility and own his own mistakes. He couldn’t blame his background for where he was going. Rhonda is unable to have any children of their own. She got a letter recently from her dad apologizing that she had to parent her siblings. Growing up she was left to watch her siblings a lot. She wants to believe her mom, she’s tried to have a relationship with her for all these years. It’s hard. She doesn’t know how a mother could give up 6 of her own children and kidnap someone else’s child. Shes missed a lot with her kids, but they’ve all turned out pretty darn good given the circumstances. She says both her mom and dad must have done something right.
Oprah asks why they haven’t all seen each other. Andrea feels she cant move forward if she’s living in the past, so she needs to surround herself with support. Oprah asks if the differences between their stages of healing and belief keeps them apart. Andrea has had a lot of therapy. Louree says its hard to go back and live in the past- it has been crazy since the story broke, prior to that she kept her past to herself. Now she has to come out and talk about it, which is good she supposes. Everyone’s experience is different, but seeing her mother try and take knives to her wrist or try and drown herself in the tub so that the children could save her, could try and make her love them, was so hard. And it’s hard for the siblings to remake their relationship when they have been in a mode of every day survival.
Louree got a dolls house when she was 5 and it was her favorite things, 2 weeks later it was gone. It was as if her mother got a sense of happiness from the children’s distress. Oprah asks if Louree ever worries about becoming her mother, with the depression and mental abuse and neglect. She says no, she is aware of the psychological department, she is well-educated but her awareness helps her stay away from it. Oprah says we all have levels of dysfunction in our families, even Oprah has had to say I can meet you where you are now, to not go back and want to change the past. Rhonda is at that point. Derrick has too much distance, he doesn’t know to overcome the disconnection. Andrea has no desire for contact. Being a mother she can’t conceptualize what her mother did. Louree knew a monster, but she can’t say she’d want a relationship with that person, Louree doesn’t know who her mother is now. Andrea feels that this way her mother no longer has control. Taking a stand for herslelf. She left home at 13 to go to a foster home. Since then she has had to deal with the guilt of removing the primary target from the home. She was taken out of the home by a church program. Their mother kicked them out on the streets but she bribed the 3 youngers back into the house to stop the talk on the streets that she was a bad mother- two of them refused to go back.
Rhonda has forgiven her mother, but she is not sure how honest her mom is being. From the letters she’s received, Rhonda feels that her mother wasn’t able to stick up for her kids in front of her father. Oprah says it is our mammalian instinct to protect and care for our children, when that doesn’t happen something is very wrong. Oprah wishes them all peace and says that Wada Barzee declined to be interviewed for the program. A statement issued from her attorney stating that she remains in treatment for her mental illness and is a defendant in two criminal cases. Therefore she is unable to engage in a dialogue or comment on the subject of the program. She hopes to continue mending relationships wherever possible as she proceeds through her serious and unique circumstance.
Thank you all for watching today.
WHAT WE LEARNED TODAY:
Each child in every family has a different experience within that family.
As adults we create our own realities and must be responsible for them.
We have to learn responsibility for our own mistakes and not blame our backgrounds for where we are going.
We all have levels of dysfunction in our families.
It is hard to form and nurture relationships when you are in survival mode every day.
A VERY QUICK SUMMARY:
It is our mammalian instinct to protect and care for our children, when that doesn’t happen something is very wrong.