Man found guilty for brutal murders of two Alaskan women

ANCHORAGE, AK – On Sept. 4, 2019, and in August 2018, two Native Alaskan women, 30-year-old Kathleen Jo Henry and 52-year-old Veronica Abouchuk, died under brutal circumstances. The jury recently declared Brian Steven Smith guilty of their murders.

On 14 criminal counts, including first- and second-degree murder, tampering with evidence, and sexual assault in connection to the two reported deaths, Smith was found guilty. Additional charges include identifying the aggravated factor of substantial physical torture contributing to Smith’s first-degree murder of Kathleen Jo Henry.

In an interrogation on Oct. 8, 2019, Smith, originally from South Africa, confessed to committing both murders. Notwithstanding, he pled not guilty on all charges.

Timothy Ayer, defending Smith, stated that the interrogation was part of a plan to coax a confession out of Smith. Presented as “eight hours of pre-planned psychological warfare,” Ayer questioned the reliability of the statement. No further comments on the development were received from Ayer.

The State of Alaska’s prosecutors presented a series of graphic videos and pictures as evidence during the trial that started on Feb. 6. Incriminating evidence demonstrated Smith narrating his actions while murdering Henry.

Smith was a prime suspect when a woman named Valerie Casler reported finding an SD card- labeled “Homicide at midtown Marriott”- lying on the ground on Sept. 30, 2019. However, during her trial appearance, Casler admitted stealing the card from Smith’s vehicle, transferred the data to an SD card, and handed it to the police, confirming she lost the original phone, causing the defense to question her credibility.

The prosecution alleged Smith to have murdered Henry in a Marriott hotel room in Midtown Anchorage, as evidenced by the videos. Brittany Dunlop and Heather Nobrega, the prosecutors, also stated that Smith shot Abouchuk in his residence with a green gun, as confessed during the October 2019 interrogation.

Pointing out Smith’s targeting pattern, the prosecutors underlined the Native Alaskan heritage of both victims and their vulnerable backgrounds due to homelessness. The defense highlighted that Valerie Casler, responsible for leaking the SD card, also underwent a similar phase of homelessness when Smith had picked her up from her temporary shelter.

Illustrating personal, heartfelt experiences of Abouchuk’s struggle with alcohol addiction, Kristy Grimaldi, Abouchuk’s daughter, gave a poignant testimony in court.

Investigators discovered deleted photos and video traces evidencing Abouchuk’s alleged murder from different devices owned by Smith. Smith is now heading for a life sentence due to these charges.