Brian Smith pleads not guilty in torture, murder case
Through a public defender, Brian Steven Smith entered not guilty pleas in the hotel room torture and killing of Kathleen Henry, a crime documented with photos and videos — evidence that ended up in the hands of Anchorage Police detectives last month.
Smith, a 48-year-old immigrant from South Africa, is indicted on eight felony charges: one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of second-degree sexual assault, and three counts of tampering with physical evidence.
He was arrested on Oct. 8, six days after human remains were found at mile 108 of the Seward Highway on Oct. 2.
Henry, a 30-year-old Alaskan Native woman originally from the village of Eek, Alaska, has been identified as the victim in the case.
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" finding 39 photos and 12 videos, the document states. The digital files show a man beating Henry and strangling her repeatedly, telling her to die and, at times, laughing while he did it.
The indictment describes the charged sexual assaults as non-consensual "hand to breast" and "hand to vagina" contact.
The charges of tampering with evidence allege Smith, "destroyed, mutilated, altered, suppressed, concealed, or removed physical evidence with intent to impair its verity or availability in an official proceeding or criminal investigation."
Henry's body, bedding and Smith's truck bed are listed as the evidence those charges refer to.
In addition to the indictment, the grand jury returned a special finding that Smith subjected Henry to "substantial physical torture." That decision was reached by a separate vote of the grand jury. At least 10 jurors voted in favor of the finding.
Anchorage Deputy District Attorney Brittany Dunlop wrote in an email Wednesday, "The substantial torture finding was presented to the grand jury in order to preserve that legal theory for the sentencing judge, if Mr. Smith is convicted."
Detectives recognized Smith as the man in the video by his "English-sounding" accent. He was already part of another ongoing investigation, according to APD. Police have declined to elaborate on the nature of that investigation or say whether it involved violent crime.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also involved in the case. According to Special Agent Steve Forrest, "The FBI has provided and continues to provide investigative and technical assistance to the Anchorage Police Department."
In a phone call Wednesday, Forrest said the FBI was not involved in APD's earlier investigation involving Smith.
Neither agency has said whether it is believed there could be more victims connected to Smith, but Forrest cautioned against drawing conclusions about Smith's history based on the FBI's involvement in the investigation. He said the federal agency has access to resources it frequently shares with APD upon request, regardless of whether cases involve multiple victims or multiple jurisdictions.
In this case, Forrest said the FBI is positioned to help with both technical support and the investigation into Smith's background, as the agency has an office in South Africa.
Smith is being held on a $750,000 cash bail. His next scheduled court dates are in December.
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