Man Who Recorded Torture Found Guilty of 2 Murders

South African man Brian Smith murdered 2 Alaska Native women
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 23, 2024 10:57 AM CST
South African Guilty of Murdering 2 Alaska Women
Brian Steven Smith watches proceedings during the opening day of his double murder trial, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Anchorage, Alaska.   (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

A South African man who tortured an Alaska Native woman and narrated as he recorded a video of her dying was found guilty of first-degree murder on Thursday for killing her and another Native woman. The Anchorage jury returned a unanimous verdict against Brian Steven Smith after deliberating for less than two hours. Smith, 52, showed no reaction in court and stared ahead as the judge read the jury's verdict, the AP reports. He was arrested after a woman stole his cellphone from his truck and discovered the gruesome footage from 2019. The woman, a sex worker who became a key witness during the trial in Anchorage, then copied the footage to a memory card and ultimately turned it over to police, prosecutors said.

The graphic videos never show the man's face but his distinctive accent is heard on the tape. He narrates as if to an audience and urges Kathleen Henry to die as she's repeatedly beaten and strangled in an Anchorage hotel room. "In my movies, everybody always dies," the voice says. Smith later confessed to killing another Alaska Native woman whose body had been found earlier but had been misidentified. Smith was found guilty of all 14 charges, including two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Henry in 2019 and Veronica Abouchuk, either in 2018 or 2019. He was also convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault. Alaska does not have the death penalty, so a life sentence is expected.

The jury also found that Smith "subjected Henry to substantial physical torture," an aggravator that carries a mandatory 99-year sentence, the Anchorage Daily News reports. Sentencing was set for two days in July. Freda Dan, who is part of the Abouchuk family by marriage, sat through the trial nearly every day and gave high marks to law enforcement and the judicial system for their thorough work. "We weren't invisible, and we are people," said Dan, who is from the village of Stebbing, adding they were treated with respect. Also attending the trial was Smith's wife, Stephanie Bissland of Anchorage. "He was very good for me, but he had another life, I guess," she said, adding his problems were likely exacerbated by heavy drinking. She said she doesn't plan to divorce him.

(More Alaska stories.)

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