SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Elizabeth Smart told jurors Monday how she was awakened with a cold knife on her neck and initially thought her 2002 abduction was a nightmare.
"It was just indescribable fear," she said on the stand during the first day of testimony in the Salt Lake City federal trial of Brian David Mitchell, who is charged with kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor.
The case resumed after an appeals court rejected a request to move the case out of Utah.
Smart, who was 14 when she was taken, described her nine-month abduction, including how she was awakened by a man's voice.
"I remember him saying that I have a knife to your neck, don't make a sound, get out of bed and come with me or I will kill you and your family," she said.
Smart, now 23, said she was groggy for the first threat.
"Then I heard it again and I was immediately wide awake," she said.
"I don't know if I could describe what I felt other than I knew how deadly the situation was. I was extremely scared."
Smart said she got up and he grabbed her arm, took her into a closet, had her put on tennis shoes and left the house, leaving behind her parents and siblings — including a 9-year-old sister in the same bed.
"He said he was taking me hostage, for ransom. I was shocked. I thought I was having a nightmare," she told jurors confidently.
The first witness Monday was her mother, Lois Smart, who hired Mitchell, then known only as a homeless street preacher named "Immanuel," to do handyman work at the family home in the fall of 2001.
Lois Smart told jurors that she and her children encountered Mitchell on the streets of downtown Salt Lake City and one of her sons urged her to give him some money.
"He looked like a clean-cut, well-kept man that was down on his luck, who just needed some help to get on with his life. I gave him $5," she said.
Lois Smart also gave Mitchell the family's address and phone number, offering to hire him for odd jobs. Mitchell soon called her husband, Ed Smart, who had Mitchell come by a few days later to help fix a leaky roof, which went well, Lois Smart said.
"I do remember having a conversation with him, hoping that he would do more work. He seemed fine," she said.
Mitchell, who only did that one project for the family, was clean shaven at the time but now has a long graying beard to the middle of his chest and long hair to the middle of his back.
Lois Smart also recalled for jurors the night her daughter was taken. She was awakened by another daughter, Mary Katherine, who was 9 at the time and slept with Elizabeth. Mary Katherine had a baby blanket wrapped around her head and neck and looked like "a scared rabbit."
"She said a man has taken Elizabeth with a gun and that we won't find her. He took her either for ransom or hostage," Lois Smart recalled Mary Katherine, now 18, saying.
Lois Smart said she went downstairs to the kitchen and immediately noticed the window was open and the screen was cut in a U-shape.
"My heart sank and I yelled out to Ed, called 911, she's gone," Lois Smart said.
"It was utter terror. It was the worst feeling knowing that I didn't know where my child was. I was helpless."
Elizabeth Smart testified that she left the window open because her mother and burned the potatoes for dinner and the smoke still lingered.
One of Mitchell's lawyers said during opening statements that he was influenced by an escalating mental illness and extreme religious beliefs that made him think he was doing what God wanted him to do.
Public defender Parker Douglas didn't dispute the facts but took issue with the prosecution's allegation that Mitchell is a calculating person who planned the kidnapping.
"His life here is marked by an intense idiosyncratic set of beliefs. This is, as you will see, a pattern with Brian, a search for a deep connection and a belief that he has found something that has given him a certainty and a meaning in life," Douglas said.
If he is convicted, Mitchell could spend the rest of his life in federal prison.
Smart was found in March 2003 after motorists spotted her walking in a Salt Lake City suburb with Mitchell.
Prosecutors have said Smart will provide jurors with lengthy, detailed testimony about her abduction, alleged sexual abuses during nine months of captivity, and threats she has said Mitchell made on her life and her family.
Smart is currently serving on a French mission trip for the Mormon Church but plans to resume her music studies at Brigham Young University next year.
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