Mitchell jailed in San Diego after kidnapping
SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Brian David Mitchell spent six days in a San Diego County jail in February under the alias Michael Jensen, law enforcement officers confirmed Thursday.
Mitchell is being held in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a suspect in the disappearance of teenager Elizabeth Smart. On Wednesday, Elizabeth was found with Mitchell and another woman in Sandy, Utah.
Chris Saunders, a public affairs officer for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, said Salt Lake City police confirmed Thursday afternoon that Mitchell's prints matched those of the man they had held.
Earlier Thursday, San Diego Capt. Glenn Revell said the man arrested February 12 "bears a striking resemblance" to Mitchell.
Revell said the man was charged with burglary of a church in the east part of the county. He was held in the Downtown Central Jail in San Diego until February 18, the captain said, and was released after pleading guilty to a vandalism charge.
Investigators checked fingerprints from the man who called himself Jensen to confirm they matched those of Mitchell.
Saunders said his office was not aware that Mitchell was a suspect in Smart's disappearance until March 1 because Utah authorities had not notified law enforcement agencies across the country.
A Utah law enforcement official said Mitchell's criminal record is scant: a DUI charge, driving without a license and possession of a controlled dangerous substance. All charges date to 1973.
Mitchell 'fairly famous transient' in white robes
Mitchell was known as a panhandling transient who considered himself a prophet, according to press reports.
"He'd dress up like Moses or like Jesus, and he felt it was his calling in life to collect money from people and give them a chance to serve," Salt Lake City newspaper columnist Lee Benson told CNN.
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.
In interviews with local television stations, Louree Gayler identified herself as Mitchell's stepdaughter. She said she was the daughter of Wanda Ileen Barzee, who was traveling with Mitchell and taken into custody with him when police found Elizabeth.
Gayler described Mitchell as a "bizarre" man who would often camp in the mountains. "He thinks he's higher than God," Gayler said.
She suggested Mitchell could have maintained control of Elizabeth with brainwashing, fear or drugs. "He was in a drug rehab center when he met my mom," Gayler said.
Gayler said she ran away from the couple when she was 14. The woman claimed Mitchell had made unwanted advances to her, including kissing and rubbing her.
Mitchell and Barzee have been arrested and face kidnapping charges.
New image, new lead
After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Mitchell changed his look, Tom Smart said. He shucked the robes, shaved his beard and appeared as a "clean-cut" panhandler in the fall of 2001 when Lois Smart, Elizabeth's mother, encountered him.
"Lois gave him $5 and asked him if he wanted to come up and do some work. She was impressed by him," the uncle said.
"He came up and did some work on the house for five hours. And then we never heard about it again, until Mary Katherine walked in months after the disappearance and said, 'Dad, I think I might know who it is.'"
Elizabeth's younger sister, Mary Katherine, was in the same bedroom the night of June 5, 2002, when her sister was taken, and got a glimpse of the intruder.
In a statement released February 3, the Smart family said Mary Katherine told her parents last October she thought the man was "Emmanuel."
The family quickly notified Salt Lake City Police about the possible update to the case, but some critics said they were slow to track down Mitchell.
"The police department's interest in Emmanuel, or lack thereof, became an issue for several reasons," Benson of the Deseret News wrote in a column Monday.
"First, the department did not participate in the early February press conference when Ed Smart and his wife, Lois, revealed Emmanuel's description to the public. Second, the police had failed to find the homeless man, or identify his true identity, during October, November, December and January when they privately knew of his existence," Benson wrote.
"And third, after the family's press conference resulted in a positive ID of Emmanuel as 49-year-old Utah native Brian David Mitchell, Sgt. Don Bell of SLPD downplayed Mitchell's potential as a suspect and the department again left it to the Smart family to take the lead in publicizing Mitchell's identity and photographs," he wrote in his column.
But, Benson wrote, Lt. Jim Jensen, who headed the department's task force for the Smart abduction, said law enforcement agencies across the country were aware of the search for Mitchell.