HOW MANY OTHERS ARE THERE?
Brian Steven Smith, 48, had been in custody since Oct. 8 for the gruesome murder of Kathleen Henry, an Alaska Native woman. He has pled not guilty to charges associated with that crime.
But oddly, he has confessed to a second murder.
Anchorage police announced Thursday that Smith is also the man who killed 53-year-old Veronica Rosaline Abouchuk, whose body was dumped at Mile 4.5 of the Old Glenn Highway in 2018, and was found in April of this year, a bullet hole in her skull.
Police had put out a Nixle alert for Abouchuk in July of 2019, saying her family had not seen her since July of 2018. “Abouchuk is homeless … and was last seen at Bean’s Café in October 2018. Family’s efforts to locate Abouchuk have been unsuccessful,” the Nixle report said.
Investigators drew the confession from Smith while interrogating him for the murder of Henry, the 30-year-old Native woman from Eek, whom police say Smith brutally beat and killed on Sept. 4, all while filming and photographing his carnage. Henry’s body was dumped near Mile 108 Seward Highway, south of Anchorage.
The digital card that was turned into authorities had 12 video and 39 photo images on it documenting Henry’s death. Police are saying it was found “on the street” by someone. The digital card was labeled “homicide at midtown Marriott” in Anchorage. The person who “found the digital card on the street” in Fairview took it to police on Sept. 30, according to the official account.
Police knew they had a killer, and they knew there was a dead woman out there somewhere. But where?
Henry’s body showed up on Oct. 2 near the Rainbow Trailhead along Seward Highway south of Anchorage. She had been sexually assaulted and was battered, like the one documented on the digital card turned in two days earlier.
The photos and videos show Henry fighting for her life and Smith could be seen stomping her throat and strangling her, laughing, screaming, and torturing her, according to officials.
But police knew that voice on the video tape. They recognized Smith and his distinctive South African accent because they were already investigating him for something else — something they haven’t yet revealed, yet something that involves his recognizable accent.
It could be his racist rants on Facebook that had drawn the attention of authorities. Smith, if his social media posts are any indication, has white supremacist leanings and an axe to grind against black South Africans and other persons of color.
Or detectives may have already suspected him in connection with other victims. At age 48, Smith is old enough to have a trail of bodies behind him from here to his homeland in South Africa. Rarely does a killer begin his gruesome beatings and killings in his mid-40s. There’s often a pattern of behavior.
Anchorage’s most notorious serial killer was Robert Hansen, a monster who preyed on and killed at least 17 women from 1971 to 1983. Police suspect there were more than 30 victims. Hansen, now known as the “Butcher Baker,” died in prison in 2014.
Israel Keyes was another serial killer who made his way to Alaska and used it as his base. He killed himself in prison in 2012, after a long career of rapes, kidnapping, arson, and murder across the United States. His last known victim was 18-year-old Samantha Koenig, a barista at a drive-through coffee stand in midtown Anchorage.
There are exceptions to the pattern theory. This summer in Anchorage, a teenager was killed by her alleged friends at the request of a 21-year-old man from out of state. None of the young perpetrators has yet been implicated in other murders.
Brian Smith’s past movements in South Africa and the United States have drawn the attention of Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization. The FBI is also providing assistance, and usually that means they’re alert to the possibility there could be victims in other states.
Smith, born near Queenstown, South Africa, immigrated to the U.S., married a former immigration officer, and became a citizen in September.
A warrant was issued for his arrest on Oct. 7. He was taken into custody at Ted Stevens International Airport on Oct. 8, as he returned from a trip Outside. Smith pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to the Henry murder. He’ll be arraigned on the Abouchuk murder separately.
Both deceased women were known to work in the prostitution field, a dangerous line of work that predators use to find their next victims.