Alaska Man Found Guilty in Gruesome Videos of Two Murdered Women

February 23, 2024 - Reading time: 2 minutes

A South African man, Brian Steven Smith, has been found guilty of first-degree murder for the killing of an Alaska Native woman and another Native woman.

The Anchorage jury returned a unanimous verdict against him after deliberating for less than two hours. Smith showed no reaction in court as the judge read the jury's verdict. He was arrested after a sex worker stole his cellphone from his truck and discovered the gruesome footage of the 2019 killing. The woman, who became a key witness during the trial, then copied the footage to a memory card and ultimately turned it over to police. Smith later confessed to another Alaska Native woman's death whose body had been found earlier but was misidentified.

Smith was found guilty of all 14 charges, including two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kathleen Henry in 2019 and Veronica Abouchuk either in 2018 or 2019. He was also convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault. Sentencing is set for July 12 and July 19, as Alaska does not have the death penalty.

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. Other family members declined to comment. Smith's wife, Stephanie Bissland of Anchorage, attended the trial and mentioned that he was very good for her but had another life, which she believes was likely exacerbated by heavy drinking.

During the three-week trial, graphic videos were only shown to the jury; however, audio could be heard in the gallery where some heard Henry gasping for breath before dying. Prosecutors said he drove around with her body in the back of his pickup for two days before dumping her corpse on a rural road south of Anchorage. The video never showed Smith's face but his distinctive accent was heard narrating as if to an audience, urging Henry to die while she was repeatedly beaten and strangled in an Anchorage hotel room.

Henry and Abouchuk were from small villages in western Alaska, with Henry coming from Eek and Abouchuk from Stebbins. Both women had experienced homelessness. Authorities say that the first images showing her body were time-stamped at about 1 a.m. on September 4, 2019, when Smith was registered to stay at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott in midtown Anchorage. The last images on the card were taken early on September 6 and showed Henry's body in the back of a black pickup.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.