Anchorage police: Homicide video victim identified, suspect charged with murder

Brian Steven Smith, 48, is arraigned on charges of first-degree murder in Anchorage Jail Court on Oct. 9, 2019. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)

Updated Oct. 10, 4:30 p.m.

The Anchorage Police Department has identified the victim as Kathleen J. Henry, 30, according to a statement released Thursday afternoon.

Updated Oct. 9, 4:45 p.m.

Anchorage police say they’ve arrested a man for the murder of a woman whose body had been dumped a week ago on the Seward Highway south of Anchorage. According to police, the arrest came after someone reported finding a digital storage device containing video of the killing.

Officers arrested Brian Steven Smith, 48, Tuesday afternoon, an Anchorage Police Department statement said. Smith is charged with first-degree murder.

Police have not identified the victim, who is said to have been killed during the first week of September. Her body was found along the Seward Highway south of Anchorage on Oct. 2. As of Oct. 9, police said they were still working with the state medical examiner to determine her identity and contact her next of kin.

But detectives had gotten video of the homicide days prior to finding the victim’s body, police said. On Sept. 30, police received a report from someone saying they had found an SD card containing several videos of an assault and murder. The SD card, reportedly discovered lying in the street in an Anchorage neighborhood, was labeled “homicide at midtown Marriott” and contained graphic, time-stamped images and video recordings of a man beating and choking a naked woman, according to charging documents.

“With the SD card, one of the first questions that detectives had to answer was, ‘Was this staged, or did this really happen?'” said APD communications director MJ Thim. “When they were able to determine that this was an actual crime, then the investigation started to quickly speed up.”

The SD card also contained images of the woman’s body being removed from a hotel room and transported in a black truck, according to charging documents. The man in the video speaks with a distinct accent, which led detectives to recall a separate case involving Smith, a South African immigrant living in Anchorage. Thim said Smith was subsequently connected to the remains discovered on the highway through hotel records and cell-phone data.

Detectives arrested Smith at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to APD.

During an arraignment at Anchorage Jail Court Wednesday, a judge set Smith’s bail at $750,0000 cash and appointed a public defender to represent him. He has not yet entered a plea.