A man arrested in Anchorage for killing two Alaskan Native women left one very telling clue behind: his unusual accent captured on a torture video of him carrying out one of the killings, authorities say.
The disturbing video—which captured the man telling his bloodied victim his hand was getting tired before stomping on her throat—was found on a digital memory card left on the street, according to ABC News.
A woman found the memory card, labeled “Homicide at midtown Marriott,” in the street and turned it into police, who were able to recognize the suspect talking on the video due to his unique accent. The accent, which has been described as “English-sounding,” resembled that of Brian Steven Smith, 48, a man that detectives were familiar with from another investigation.
Smith, who is South African, is now facing murder charges for not one but two Alaskan Native women’s deaths after investigators say he killed the women then dumped their bodies along rural roads “like unwanted trash.”
Police say the woman killed in the torture video is 30-year-old Kathleen Henry, who died in September.
But during their interrogation of Smith, police said he confessed to shooting another woman to death sometime between 2017 and 2018, according to charging documents obtained by The Anchorage Daily News.
Investigators identified that woman as 52-year-old Veronica Abouchuck, whose remains were discovered along the Old Glenn Highway.
Smith has entered not guilty pleas in the homicides of both women—entering his latest plea of not guilty in Abouchuck’s case on Monday as her family packed into the Anchorage courtroom.
As Smith walked into the courtroom, Abouchuck's grief-stricken family could be heard gasping and weeping, local station KTVA reports. Some of her family members were so upset by the proceedings they had to leave the courtroom.
Smith had initially been charged with murder, sexual assault and evidence tampering in Henry’s murder. He entered a plea of not guilty in that case last week, according to NBC News.
But just one day later, authorities announced he had also been indicted on charges of murder, tampering with evidence and misconduct involving a corpse in Abouchuck’s slaying.
In light of the new allegations against him, prosecutors on Monday asked that Smith’s bail be increased to $1 million, a request the judge granted during the hearing.
In her request, district attorney Sarah Park referenced the anguish Abouchuck’s death has caused the family.
“This has affected them greatly,” she said, according to the local paper. “They spent time searching for (Abouchuk) and ... they are still left with many questions unanswered — like why did this happen to their family member. This has caused them a lot of pain.”
Abouchuck’s niece Tatauq Ruma said after the hearing that Abouchuck, a mother of four, had been a kind and loving woman who she remembered making breaded chicken with.
When she was killed, she had been homeless, a lifestyle Ruma said her aunt told her she'd enjoyed the last time they talked to one another.
“She didn’t say why. She was just happy that she was homeless and that she was OK with that,” she said, according to ABC News.
Now Ruma and her family members are struggling to find out why her life was cut short.
“Why did he do it?” she asked.
It is not the first tragedy the family has endured. In 2005, Abouchuck’s sister Martha Toms was found brutally beaten and left under a picnic table in Lyons Park, KTVA reports. She was brought to the hospital, but later died from her injuries. The case has never been solved, according to The Anchorage Crime Stoppers.
In court on Monday, Joanne Sakar and Natasha Gamache both silently protested what they believe is the state’s history of not properly investigating crimes involving Alaskan Native women. The pair had red hand prints painted across their face to depict the silencing of indigenous women.
"There's a movement called Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women that seeks to highlight the level of violence that's perpetrated against indigenous women and how nationally our criminal justice system isn't taking it seriously. So, I'm here today to showcase that," Gamache said, according to ABC News.
Smith is currently being held in solitary confinement at the Cook Inlet Pre-Trial Facility as the cases against him continue.
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