Alaska ‘Memory Card’ Murderer ‘Didn’t Seem Weird,’ Say Brian Smith’s Unsuspecting Colleagues

Brian Smith, 53, was found guilty of 14 crimes in the death of Alaska Native women Kathleen Jo Henry and Veronica Abouchuk

<p>AP Photo/Mark Thiessen</p> Brian Smith

AP Photo/Mark Thiessen

Brian Smith

To friends and colleagues, Brian Smith seemed like a nice guy.

Whether going out for lunch with a friend or sharing a home-cooked meal with a colleague, the South Africa native was always quick with a joke or a smile.

“He was a very positive guy, had a good humor,” says former colleague Adam Manor. “He had a couple of good dad jokes. He was just a normal guy.”

But, to authorities, Smith, 53, was a predator who met unhoused women on the streets of Anchorage before killing them and dumping their bodies in remote areas.

Last month, he was found guilty of 14 crimes, including first-degree murder, sexual assault, tampering with evidence and misconduct involving a corpse in the deaths of Alaska Native women Kathleen Jo Henry, 30, and 52-year-old Veronica Abouchuk.

"It’s really odd to believe,” says Smith’s former colleague and friend Adrian Pillay. “I would have never guessed. He was one of the more pleasant people I have known. I don't think I'd ever seen him angry, or raise his voice, or anything.”

<p>Anchorage Police Department/Facebook; facebook</p> Veronica Abouchuk and Kathleen Jo Henry

Anchorage Police Department/Facebook; facebook

Veronica Abouchuk and Kathleen Jo Henry

Related: Alaska Serial Killer Secretly Records Murders: ‘In My Movies, Everybody Dies’

Pillay says he met Smith at a software company in Johannesburg in 2008. Smith worked in telephone support.

At the time, he says, Smith tried to create his own online dating site for adults. "It never gained any traction," he says.

Smith worked at the software company for about a year before managing guest houses around South Africa. Smith lived a nomadic lifestyle, Pillay says. “He didn't stick around anywhere for a long time.”

The former innkeeper met his future wife online while living in South Africa, and he joined her in Alaska around 2014. He had aspirations to open up an inn in Alaska but was concentrating on his citizenship first, says Manor, who worked with Smith at a tire company in 2018. “I'll follow those dreams later,” Smith told him.

Smith was working as a maintenance worker at an Anchorage hotel when he met Abouchuk, who had experienced homelessness and addiction. He offered her a warm meal and a place to sleep while his wife was out of town in August of 2018.

<p>Michelle Theriault Boots/ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS</p> FBI agent Eric Perry testified that phone records and GPS data were used to place Smith at the location of Kathleen Jo Henry’s death and near a highway where her remains were found.

Michelle Theriault Boots/ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS

FBI agent Eric Perry testified that phone records and GPS data were used to place Smith at the location of Kathleen Jo Henry’s death and near a highway where her remains were found.

Back at his house, Smith told police, he asked Abouchuk to take a shower. When she refused, Smith confessed that he grabbed a .22 pistol from his garage and shot her in the head.

A pair of mushroom pickers found her decomposed head on April 10, 2019.

Months later, Henry, a poet who grew up in Eek, Alaska, was anticipating a brief respite from homelessness when she joined Smith for a stay at a midtown Anchorage hotel on Sept. 4, 2019. Henry’s remains were found near the Seward Highway a month later.

Smith, who had recently got his U.S. citizenship, became a suspect in the slayings after an unhoused woman stole a phone from his truck that contained graphic photos and videos of Henry’s killing.

The woman gave police a memory card that contained 39 images and 12 videos on Sept. 30, 2019.

<p>AP Photo/Mark Thiessen</p> Rena Sapp holding up a photo of her sister Veronica Abouchuk

AP Photo/Mark Thiessen

Rena Sapp holding up a photo of her sister Veronica Abouchuk

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At Smith’s trial, jurors were shown excruciating footage of Smith torturing Henry.

“Just take it. You live. You live. You die,’” he said in the video as he alternated between applying pressure to Henry’s throat and then releasing it. A coroner later determined she died of asphyxiation by strangulation.

“In my movies,” he said in one chilling sequence, “everyone dies. What are my followers going to think of you? People need to know when they are being serial-killed.”

Manor, who had Smith over to his home twice for dinner with his wife and daughters, says learning the truth about Smith “definitely made me a little more cautious person.”

“He was normal enough that I felt safe enough to invite him to my house. I literally had him around my family,” he says. “He didn't seem to have any quirks or any weird things that would raise a red flag. That’s pretty crazy. A little scary.” 

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