Victim's family says couple had history of abuse
Alaska State Troopers say a Wasilla man arrested in his wife’s New Year’s Day murder choked her to death, after a history of domestic-violence concerns at their home.
Anthony Smith, 38, was taken into custody Tuesday on first-degree murder charges in the death of 37-year-old Amy Smith. His bail was set at $250,000 at an arraignment Wednesday afternoon, with a court-approved third-party custodian required for his release.
The Judge automatically set a “not guilty” plea for Smith. At one point during the hearing, Smith said, “I’d also like to make a plea right now.” An attorney with the Public Defender Agency advised him not to make any further statements.
Smith also asked for the case to be handled in VA court. The judge said the request needed to go through Smith’s attorney.
The State Prosecutor said in court Wednesday that Anthony has prior convictions related to domestic violence. In 2004, he was convicted of violating a domestic violence protective order; in 2007, he was convicted of third-degree domestic violence assault and in 2015, Anthony was convicted of fourth-degree domestic violence.
Eddie and Chris Moore, Amy Smith’s parents, were at the arraignment. Her father says they raised Amy to be a caring, giving person.
"Sometimes we wondered if we helped her care too much,” he said. “She was smart, she had lots of success in her life but she didn’t know how to pick her relationships well.”
Her father said Amy had a history of being in abusive relationships.
“Amy was a fixer; she always thought she could fix the situation,” Eddie said. “There are some things in life you just can’t fix."
The Moores say Amy and Anthony had been married for two years. She had three kids, ages 14, 15 and 18, raised by the Moores because Eddie said Amy’s “own life was difficult when it came to relationships.”
Chris hopes other women in abusive relationships will take what happened to Amy as a wakeup call to get the help they need.
“I think that women need to be aware of the warning signs and do something, get away,” Chris said.
Just before 2 p.m. Wednesday, troopers said an additional charge of fourth-degree assault had been added in the case, "based on the investigation of events that prompted a prior AST response to the residence that morning."
"In addition to the ongoing criminal investigation. AST is conducting a comprehensive review of our initial response to this residence," troopers wrote.
The AST Director's Office released the following statement regarding their policy about leaving the scene of a domestic violence call:
Although we can appreciate the need to provide information about significant events occurring in our community, the Department of Public Safety will not be providing a general release of our policies as it relates to investigative procedures.
We feel a responsibility to complete a thorough review as soon as possible, our investigation of this incident and our response to it has been initiated. It is unknown at this time how long that will take.
Once our review is complete, if there is information that is appropriate for release to the public, we will ensure that information is shared in a timely manner.
An affidavit supporting the charges against Anthony, written by trooper Sgt. Tony Wegrzyn, said the defendant called troopers to their West Schulz Drive home just before 5 a.m. on Jan. 1, saying his wife was “not breathing, her lips are blue, and she needs an ambulance.” When a dispatcher told Anthony what to do, he responded that he was an Army medic and familiar with CPR processes.
“Without being asked, Anthony reports to the dispatcher ‘she fell down the stairs,’” Wegrzyn wrote. “He also said ‘I was in the room and I heard a loud crash and I came out and she’s not breathing.’”
When troopers arrived minutes later and spoke with Smith about the incident, Wegrzyn said, he told them his wife “came down the stairs and I heard her hit the wall and I came out and she was blue.” He told them he had called 911 from a shared cellphone he had removed from his wife’s pocket as he performed CPR on her.
Medics performed CPR on Amy, but she died shortly after 5:30 a.m.
Troopers had responded to the home on Dec. 4 and Dec. 24, according to Wegrzyn, because “family members were concerned about Amy’s welfare because of Anthony’s aggressive behavior.” Amy's mother told troopers her daughter's marriage was "volatile," and that Anthony was no longer allowed to visit her home.
Troopers also had received a call at about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 1 from Amy Smith, who said she had locked herself in a bathroom because her husband was “being aggressive” and had suffered mental issues. She told responding troopers he had “chest bumped” her.
“(i)n the past when he exhibited this behavior, he had become violent, physically assaulted her, and she was afraid he would become violent again tonight,” Wegrzyn wrote. “She followed that statement up with saying she didn’t want Anthony arrested; she just wanted Anthony to ‘chill out.’”
When Wegrzyn visited the home, he found a Ford Mustang parked outside filled with personal belongings.
“I later learned Amy had packed the vehicle in anticipation of leaving Anthony the next day,” Wegrzyn wrote.
A set of scuff marks were found on a hallway wall, Wegrzyn wrote, “starting from about floor-level extending in an upward arc to approximately 14 inches.” He suspected they were from Amy's tennis shoes, which left a similar mark when Wegrzyn dragged one against another section of wall.
Troopers found bruises on Amy's face, a ligature mark on her neck suggesting she had been choked, and a partially torn cloth headband near her body. Wegrzyn said fibers were found under her left middle fingernail. An autopsy on Amy's body ruled that she had died by strangulation.
Anthony's next court appearance is scheduled as a Jan. 16 pre-indictment hearing.
AWAIC (Abused Women's Aid in Crisis) provides crisis intervention, case management and advocacy for women in abusive relationships. Learn more about their services and how to contact them here. Alaska Family Services, which services the Mat-Su, can be found here.
Heather Hintze contributed information to this story.
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