An Anchorage man who was charged with first-degree murder last week after a digital memory card containing images of a brutal attack on a woman in a hotel was found on the street has also confessed to an earlier killing, officials said on Thursday.
Brian Steven Smith, 48, who was arrested on Oct. 8 in the death of Kathleen Jo Henry, 30, whose body was found on Oct. 2 on Seward Highway, told the authorities that he had fatally shot Veronica R. Abouchuk, 53, “sometime between 2017 and 2018,” according to court documents and the police. He was charged on Thursday with first-degree murder in Ms Abouchuk’s death.
Ms. Abouchuk’s remains were found in April on Old Glenn Highway, according to the police. She was identified on Oct. 11 using information from Mr. Smith and dental records, court papers show. The police said in a missing person alert in July that she was homeless and that her family had not seen her for one year.
In an interview with the police, Mr. Smith admitted to being the man seen on the images and videos strangling and beating Ms. Henry in September at a midtown hotel in Anchorage, according to court records. In the same interview, he also confessed to shooting Ms. Abouchuk and told the police where he disposed of her remains, the records show. This year, Alaska state troopers found a skull with a gunshot wound in that area, the authorities said.
Both victims were Alaska Native women. “That hits home here in Alaska,” Brittany Dunlop, the deputy district attorney, said at a news conference on Thursday.
“We’re cognizant of that,” she added. “We treat them with dignity and respect.”
The authorities did not give a motive for the killings.
The memory card that led to Mr. Smith’s arrest was found on the street on Sept. 30 and turned over to the police. In the images and videos, a man who “had some sort of an English-sounding accent when he spoke” is seen laughing at Ms. Henry as she struggles to breathe, stomping on her neck and using a wire or cord to strangle her, according to the court documents. He also tells her that she needs to die.
The police said that they recognized the man’s voice in the videos as Mr. Smith’s from a previous investigation, which they declined to comment on.
Chief Justin Doll of the Anchorage Police Department said at the news conference that the department was looking into whether Mr. Smith, who now faces a total of 13 criminal charges, had committed crimes outside Anchorage.
Whenever the department is faced with a complex case, the chief said, “we always look into it in a way to connect it to any other cases, if evidence suggests that it might be.”
“We will look at every single aspect of the case,” he said, “and, if necessary, follow it wherever we need to.”
In court records, prosecutors said that Mr. Smith “poses a significant public safety risk to vulnerable homeless women currently living on the streets of Anchorage.”
They are seeking to have his bail raised to $2 million, citing Mr. Smith’s “significant family ties in South Africa” and noting that he became a United States citizen just five months ago.
A judge said last week that a lawyer would be appointed to represent Mr. Smith, who said he could not afford one. It was unclear on Thursday who was representing him.
Calls to Mr. Smith’s home on Thursday were not answered.