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Smart was a regular at local grocery

Brian David Mitchell

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN) -- Elizabeth Smart was a regular visitor to a Salt Lake City supermarket after she was kidnapped and would often spend hours hanging out there, a store employee told CNN Thursday.

Her identity was not known to Erin Johnson, an employee of Wild Oats Market, until after her arrest.

Not only was Elizabeth's face covered with a veil, Johnson said, but she was "taller than I was, and I'm 20, so I didn't really think about it."

She always visited the store with two other people who are believed to be Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ilene Barzee, both of whom have been arrested and face charges of aggravated kidnapping.

Mitchell had long been an oddity in the Salt Lake area, Johnson said, and she had noticed him years before.

"He sticks out. He dresses like Jesus, completely," going so far as to wear sandals and a loincloth, she said. "He's kind of a Christian extremist. People ask him, 'Why are you dressed like that?' He's very defensive."

Mitchell was known as a panhandling transient who considered himself a prophet, according to press reports.

Mitchell, 49, was "a fairly famous transient down in Salt Lake," said Tom Smart, Elizabeth's uncle, and often referred to himself as "Emmanuel."

"He walked around in white robes. He called himself a prophet. ... Wanda, who was with him, they would beg down there. A lot of people knew who he was," Tom Smart said. (Full story)

When visiting the organic food store, Mitchell liked to recite Bible passages, she said.

"I talked to him all the time. He'd always come in drunk, usually, so he was talkative," she said. Her conversations with Mitchell were limited to "weather chat, really superficial kinds of stuff."

Sometimes he came in alone, and sometimes with Barzee, she said. He started bringing Elizabeth to the store in October.

Mitchell appeared to have total control over the two females, Johnson said. She remembered that the Barzee and Elizabeth would "never look up and never speak."

"It's our job to greet customers as they walk in and they will never say 'Hi' to you, ever," Johnson said. "They don't even look up, it's really strange."

Johnson also said the women always walked behind Mitchell.

Johnson said the three spent an unusual amount of time at the store.

"They would stay in here all the time, would stay until it closed, and then try to find a ride home," she said.

And, once, the trio lived for "a couple of weeks" at the house of Daniel Trotta, a former Wild Oats employee, Johnson said. Johnson received a ride home from Trotta once when Mitchell, Barzee and Elizabeth were in the car.

"They were in the back seat, really quiet, whispering amongst each other," she said.

A telephone message at the Trotta residence said Daniel did not want to talk to the news media.

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