Man Guilty of Alaska Native Woman’s Brutal Murder—Which He Filmed

Alaska’s News Source/YouTube
Alaska’s News Source/YouTube

A man who made a video as he tortured and killed an Alaska Native woman was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday for her death and that of another Native woman he’d killed earlier.

Brian Steven Smith, a 52-year-old from South Africa, was convicted on 14 counts which included charges of sexual assault, misconduct with a corpse, and two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Kathleen Henry in 2019 and Veronica Abouchuk in either the same year or 2018. Smith was arrested after a woman stole his cellphone from his truck and found disturbing videos and images on the device.

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The Anchorage jury also found that Smith had subjected Henry, 30, to “substantial physical torture,” an aggravating factor in the case that will mean he faces a mandatory 99-year sentence for her killing. He faces another sentence of 30 to 99 years for 52-year-old Abouchuk’s slaying.

Only the jurors were shown videos Smith made during the three-week trial, but audio from the clips—in which Henry can be heard gasping for air before her death—could be heard in the gallery, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors said Smith beat and strangled Henry to death in an Anchorage hotel room before driving around with her corpse in his truck for two days and then eventually dumping the body.

Smith’s face is never visible in the footage, but his South African accent can be heard narrating the violence, speaking as if he were addressing a viewing audience as he urges Henry to die during the lethal assault. “In my movies, everybody always dies,” he can be heard saying in the footage. “What are my followers going to think of me? People need to know when they are being serial-killed.”

It’s not clear how or even if Smith intended to share his photos and videos. Prosecutor Heather Nobrega said that he had admitted killing both Henry and Abouchuk and had even shown a girlfriend a picture of him sexually abusing Abouchuk’s body, the Anchorage Daily News reports. He also texted another man in the hours after Henry’s death saying he’d been “having fun,” she said.

Smith’s defense attorney attacked the credibility of the sex worker who became a key witness in the case after she stole Smith’s phone and found his footage. Valerie Casler, who gave the videos and photos to police, changed her story over the years about how the files came into her possession.

She first said she had found a memory card labeled “Murder at the Midtown Marriott” just lying on the ground. She later said she’d taken the card from Smith’s truck, before later admitting that she’d actually stolen his phone from the vehicle. When she turned on the device, she then found the videos and images, and transferred the files to an SD card, which she ultimately gave to law enforcement, prosecutors said.

During interrogation, Smith admitted to Henry’s killing and also said he’d murdered Abouchuk. He said he’d picked the latter up in Anchorage when his wife was out of town and shot her in the head. Police later found a skull with a bullet wound at the place where Smith said he’d dumped her body.

Stephanie Bissland, Smith’s wife, said she plans to remain married to him and visit him in prison. “I said my vows,” she told the AP, adding: “He was very good for me, but he had another life I guess.”

Sentencing is scheduled for July.

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