Victim identified after SD card turned in to APD depicts brutal murder in Anchorage hotel room
WARNING: This report contains graphic details that may disturb some readers.
A chance discovery led investigators right to a man they believe brutally beat and murdered a woman in an Anchorage hotel room last month.
Anchorage police arrested Brian Steven Smith, 48, at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Tuesday afternoon as he was returning from a trip.
Smith has been charged with first-degree murder in connection to the human remains found at mile 108 of the Seward Highway on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
According to court documents, a woman called the Anchorage Police Department on Sept. 30 and said she found an SD card containing evidence of a crime.
When police met with the woman, she told them she found the SD card lying on the ground near 13th Avenue and Fairbanks Street in the Fairview neighborhood and that the card had photos and videos from Sept. 3 - 5 showing a man “beating” and “raping” a woman.
The criminal complaint reads:
“She described the male as having a foreign sounding voice. She believed that video had taken place at the midtown Marriott, as she had been there before and recognized the carpet pattern on the floor in the video.”
Detectives reviewed the card that was labeled “Homicide at midtown Marriott.” There were 39 photos and 12 videos, the document states. The digital files show a man beating a woman and strangling her repeatedly, telling her to die and, at times, laughing while he did it.
The woman was described as “possibly Alaskan Native,” with dark hair. Police later identified the woman as 30-year-old Kathleen J. Henry on Thursday, Oct. 10.
The documents state the man had an English-sounding accent when he spoke. When they reviewed the photos and videos, detectives remembered a previous investigation with a man who spoke with an accent.
Using the footage, detectives identified Brian Steven Smith, an immigrant from South Africa.
Hotel records show Smith stayed at TownePlace Suites by Marriott from Sept. 2-4. Detectives matched photos from the memory card showing a partial license plate on a black pickup truck with the 1999 Ford Ranger pickup registered to Smith and his wife.
According to one of Smith’s neighbors, police surrounded his home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Midtown Tuesday, broke down the door and collected evidence, including the vehicle, well into the night.
After obtaining a search warrant for Smith’s cell phone records, they found his phone pinged at a location on Rainbow Valley Road along the Seward Highway within minutes of the timestamp on the SD card’s last photo of the woman.
Police obtained an arrest warrant for Smith on Monday. He was arrested Tuesday afternoon and questioned by detectives. He was remanded to the Anchorage jail overnight and appeared in court Wednesday afternoon.
Detectives are working with the medical examiner's office to determine the manner of Henry's death.
APD credits the woman who turned in the SD card and detectives for Smith’s timely arrest. They do not believe he had assistance filming the crimes and say he is currently the only suspect in the case.
Smith is being held on a $750,000 cash bond.
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