FBI assisting APD with investigation into brutal Anchorage hotel room murder
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting the Anchorage Police Department in investigating a gruesome case with details that have left the community with concerns and unanswered questions since they were first made public last week.
Anchorage police arrested Brian Steven Smith, 48, at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Oct. 8 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 Oct. 2.
Monday, FBI Special Agent Steve Forrest wrote in an email, "I can't discuss details of the case, but can confirm the FBI has provided and continues to provide investigative and technical assistance to the Anchorage Police Department."
According to court documents, a woman called APD on Sept. 30 and said she found an SD card containing evidence of a crime.
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 Oct. 10.
Since then, Henry's Facebook profile has become home to messages from friends, family and strangers alike.
"Rest in peace, dear stranger" one person wrote, adding a red heart.
Others shared their anger and desire to see swift justice.
"Rest with JESUS Kathleen .. I SCREAM FOR JUSTICE/ LIFE IN IMPRISONMENT," another Facebook user wrote.
A friend who only wished to be identified by her first name, Gayle, said she used to live in the village of Eek, Alaska, where Henry was from. She described Henry as a generous person who loved her family.
She said she last saw Henry in August near Bean's Cafe.
"She was really happy to see me. She was hugging me and kissing me on my cheeks and saying, 'If I receive my PFD, I'll go to my village.' And she wanted to see her nieces and nephews," the woman explained.
But Henry wouldn't get to make that trip.
Court documents state the man seen assaulting Henry in the videos 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 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. Cell phone records confirmed he was in the area where Henry was found shortly after the last photo was taken.
APD declined to provide additional information and would not elaborate on the nature of the other open investigation Smith was involved in, or whether it involved violent crime.
Neither APD or the FBI has answered a key question burning in the minds of Alaskans following the case: Could there be other victims?
Henry's death is the latest calling attention to Alaska's high rate of missing and murdered indigenous women — a pattern the group Native Peoples Action wants to see change.
"It's really tough," said Executive Director Kendra Kloster. "We're just really tired of hearing all the violence that's going on against indigenous women. It's heartbreaking, it's traumatic for our communities and this is why this is one of the top issues for us. We can highlight the topic and start talking about it and figuring out what we can do to increase public safety all across Alaska."
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.
Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.