Ex-SA man faces 99 years for Alaska murders, rapes
Smith, who grew up in Queenstown, Eastern Cape, is due back in court in Anchorage next month. He is facing 14 charges including murder in the first degree and second degree, sexual assault, tampering with physical evidence and “misconduct involving a corpse”. This refers to sexual penetration of a corpse.
This week, Assistant District Attorney, Sarah Park, from the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office, confirmed that Smith would be back in court next month for a discovery hearing.
The case made international headlines in September after a passer-by found an SD card on an Anchorage street labelled “Homicide at Midtown Marriott”. The card, which was handed to police, contained graphic pictures and videos of a woman being brutally raped, beaten and murdered. The 39 images and 12 videos on the card were dated between September 3 and 5.
A detective reviewing the images recalled an earlier investigation of a man with the same unusual accent.
He made the link to Smith, whose accent stood out because there are so few South Africans living in Anchorage.
A warrant of arrest was issued on October 7 and Smith, 48, was cuffed the next day, making his first court appearance on October 9.
The bail memorandum, of which the Independent on Saturday has a copy, revealed horrifying details of the murder of a homeless Alaskan woman Kathleen Henry, 30.
It states that the first image on the SD card showed a female Alaskan native with dark hair “lying on a floor next to a bed. The female is completely naked and on her back. The female’s left eye was bruised and swollen shut. There was blood along the opening of her left eye. The female’s right eye was partially open. The female’s lips were bloody and blue”.
There were further images of the body, wrapped in a sheet with the head exposed, being rolled on a cart to a black pickup truck.
The bail memorandum states that in the first video “the person filming was slapping and strangling the female with his right hand around her neck”.
In the second video, “the man in the recording talks, saying such things as ‘my hand’s getting tired’ and he proceeds to stomp on the female’s throat with his right foot. The male can be heard saying ‘you need to f*****g die, b**** ’ and ‘just f*****g die’. The male had some sort of an English accent”.
Police investigations revealed that Smith had booked into the hotel from September 2 to 4. The carpet in the images and videos matched that of the hotel and police also confirmed Smith owned an older model black Ford Ranger pickup truck, as seen on the video.
The body of Kathleen Henry was found on Seward Highway and a police investigation revealed that Smith’s cellphone pinged on the same highway in the early hours of the morning after the last image was taken on the SD card. Cellphone records also showed Smith returned to the Anchorage area on September 6.
The bail memorandum states that when being interviewed by police, Smith “admitted that he was in the images and videos recovered from the SD card and that he disposed of Henry’s body along the Seward Highway” and also “confessed to shooting another female sometime between 2017 and 2018. He provided Anchorage Police with the location where he disposed of her body”.
The second victim has been identified as Veronica Abouchuk.
Smith has appeared in court seven times since his arrest and his next appearance will be for a discovery hearing. He has pleaded not guilty to both murders.
Posing “a significant flight risk” with “significant family ties in South Africa”, the bail memorandum states that the accused, after committing each murder, “dumped the body along the side of the road like unwanted trash. He poses a significant flight risk”.
It added: “If convicted at trial and found to have subjected KJH (Henry) to substantial physical torture, the defendant will be sentenced to a mandatory 99 years of imprisonment.”
Bail was set at $2million (R29.5m). He remains in custody.
Smith met his Anchorage-based wife, Stephanie Bissland, 69, through online gaming. He went to Alaska in 2014. Facebook pages belonging to the couple show they got engaged soon after his arrival. Smith became a naturalised US citizen in September.
In an interview with a local station after her husband’s arrest, Bissland described Smith as an adoring husband and who liked to go on “solo trips around Alaska” which he liked to document on film.
She said since being questioned by police, she had started to question her husband’s habits.
“How could I have missed something like that?” she said.
Smith’s family in South Africa did not respond to a request for comment, but previous friends have described him as a quiet, helpful person “who always had a smile on his face”.