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Stolen memory card leads to possible serial killer in Alaska

Brian Steven Smith is set to go on trial on Monday  (AP)
Brian Steven Smith is set to go on trial on Monday (AP)

A South African man who is accused of killing two Alaskan Native women after horrific SD card footage made its way to the police is finally going on trial.

Brian Steven Smith, 52, is set to start his trial on Monday after years of delays. He is accused of killing Kathleen Henry in September 2019 and Veronica Abouchuck, who died approximately in 2017 or 2018, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

The death of 30-year-old Henry made headlines back in 2019 after an SD card containing disturbing videos and pictures of a man brutally attacking a woman at a Marriott in Anchorage was given to police.

In the videos, Mr Smith’s voice and accent were recognised by police from a prior investigation, court documents said, the Associated Press reported.

“In my movies, everybody always dies,” the voice reportedly said during one video.

“What are my followers going to think of me? People need to know when they are being serial-killed.”

Henry was allegedly being beaten, strangled and had her neck stomped on in the video, according to The New York Times in 2019.

The SD card was found when a woman, who had a criminal history of theft, assault, and prostitution, was left alone inside a man’s vehicle near downtown Anchorage in Alaska, the Associated Press said.

When she was by herself in the man’s vehicle, she reportedly stole an SD card from the centre console.

What she did not know then was that the card was the key to uncovering gruesome killings and bringing a suspected murderer to justice.

Brian Steven Smith is the suspect behind a gruesome set of videos (AP)
Brian Steven Smith is the suspect behind a gruesome set of videos (AP)

The woman turned the SD card, which included 39 photos and 12 videos, over to the police around a week later.

At first, she claimed she just found it on the street, but in a second interview, she admitted that she had stolen it from Mr Smith’s truck.

Smith was registered to stay at the Marriott hotel between 2 September and 4 September 2019. Time stamps of the first images of Henry’s body showed the date and time as 1am on 4 September.

The last images of Henry’s body, in the back of a black pickup, showed being taken early on 6 September, charging documents said, according to the Associated Press.

The location data also showed that one of the last pictures taken was in the same area where Henry’s body was discovered some weeks later.

Mr Smith’s attorney, Timothy Ayer, tried to get the SD card evidence excluded from the trial, saying that because she had the card for a week before giving it to police, it would be difficult to establish if the photos and videos were originals, duplicates, or had been tampered with.

However, Judge Kevin Saxby ruled late Friday that the woman can testify about her possession of the SD card and that the recordings can be authenticated.

Mr Smith was arrested in October 2019, according to the Department of Law in Alaska.

When police questioned Mr Smith, he offered up another murder that he claimed he committed and identified the woman as Abouchuk.

“With no prompting, he tells the troopers in the bathroom, ‘I’m going to make you famous’,” district attorney Brittany Dunlop said during a court hearing last week.

“He comes back in and says... ‘You guys got some more time? You want to keep talking?’ And then discloses this other murder.”

Mr Smith has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges, which included murder charges, sexual assault and tampering with evidence, according to online court records.

Both his victims had experienced homelessness and were from small villages.

Prosecutors wrote in a motion filed in January that more than 30 people are expected to testify at the trial and that any further delay could harm the case, Anchorage Daily News said.

"In 2018 the defendant confessed numerous murders in both South Africa and in Alaska" to a woman, the outlet said, who told police in 2018.

Ms Dunlop said in court Wednesday that the woman died by suicide in 2021, the outlet reported.

The trial is expected to last around three to four weeks.