Jury returns verdict in violent murder seen on stolen memory card

Posted at 8:07 PM, February 22, 2024

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Court TV) — A jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding a South African man guilty of killing two Alaskan Native women, and recording one of the brutal murders.

Brian Steven Smith walks into court

Brian Steven Smith arrives in a courtroom after a break on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Anchorage, Alaska. The double murder trial of Smith, who is accused of killing two Alaska Native women, began Tuesday more than four years after a woman turned in a stolen digital memory card that authorities say contained gruesome recordings of one of the killings. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

A jury convicted Brian Steven Smith on 14 charges, including murder, sexual assault, tampering with physical evidence and misconduct involving a corpse for the murders of Veronica Abouchuk and Kathleen Henry. Both victims had experienced homelessness and were from small villages in western Alaska.

Prosecutor Heather Nobrega delivered the state’s closing argument on Thursday morning, focusing on disturbing videos and photos that had been shown to the jury that allegedly showed Smith torturing, sexually assaulting and murdering the victims. Nobrega walked the jury through the state’s case, which centered around the disturbing videos and images.

READ MORE: Alaska Memory Card Murders: AK v. Brian Steven Smith

That evidence was given to police by a woman who admitted to stealing the phone from Smith’s truck, who was the state’s star witness. Timothy Ayer, Smith’s attorney, spent much of his closing argument poking holes in her story. Ayer emphasized the woman’s story changed repeatedly: first telling police she took an SD card before saying she stole a phone. There were also questions raised about the timeline of events she offered as well as whether or not she had been sober at the time. “Nothing that she says adds up and nothing that she said could be corroborated was corroborated,” Ayer said. “But they still want you to believe the foundation of the videos.”

“You heard him. You heard his distinct voice,” Nobrega told the jury, referencing the voice on the videos. “You heard his voice on the videos and you heard his voice in the interviews with the Anchorage Police Department.

The jury watched a five-and-a-half-hour interview that police did with Smith, during which he told officers, “That sounds like me,” “I’m convinced I have done this, I know I must have done this,” and “That is me. That is my stomach, that is definitely me,” when shown clips of the murder. While vehemently denying any memory of the murders, Smith told police during the interview, “This is my fault. I have dug my own grave, I cannot blame anyone else.”

After finding Smith guilty of all 14 charges against him, the jury took less than an hour to determine that aggravating factors existed for the first-degree murder conviction.

Sentencing was scheduled for a two-day hearing on July 12 and 19, 2024.