Crime & Courts

Homemade silencers, Clorox and latex gloves: What police found in Brian Smith’s home and truck

Brian Smith bought beer and a phone from Walmart in the hours immediately before Kathleen Henry was filmed being strangled to death in an Anchorage hotel room, and Clorox cleaning products the day after, jurors heard Tuesday.

Smith is on trial for murder in the deaths of Kathleen Henry, 30, and Veronica Abouchuk, 52, in Anchorage. The trial entered its third week on Tuesday with testimony focusing on some of the physical evidence collected in the case, as an FBI forensic analyst, a forensic dentist, a pathologist and other experts took the stand. More than a dozen detectives, police officers and forensic technicians have already testified for the prosecution.

First to testify was a detective whom the judge ordered not to be filmed or photographed because he is currently on an undercover assignment. The detective ran through a list of evidence seized from Smith’s home and truck, including a black Adidas bag that included latex gloves, duct tape and garbage bags, among other items. The detective also showed what he described as two homemade gun suppressors, or silencers, found at Smith’s home. One was made from an oil filter.

At Smith’s Staubbach Circle home, police also found dozens of digital devices, including SD cards, digital cameras, at least 10 phones — some smartphones, some more basic “burner phones” — thumb drives and more, Anchorage Police Department detective William Cameron testified. They recovered found laptops, cameras and equipment to run GoPro cameras.

Smith had told police he bought and sold electronics on eBay as a side job.

Officers cut stained blue carpet from the basement of the Staubbach Circle home, sending it to the FBI’s DNA analysis lab for testing. One of the stains matched Veronica Abouchuk’s DNA profile, testified Cara Gregor, an FBI forensic examiner.

Jurors also heard about forensic processes used to identify the remains of both Henry and Abouchuk. A forensic dentist used dental records from when the women were alive, comparing them to dental records from postmortem examinations. Dental record identifications are extremely accurate because of the unique signature of each person’s dental work and fillings, testified Lauren Gagliano, a consulting odontologist for the Alaska State Medical Examiner Office.


[In Smith trial, jury hears how railroad workers discovered body; detectives tracked movements on night of killing]

The jury also heard about Henry’s cause of death: Norman Thompson, the pathologist who analyzed Henry’s remains, said her body was largely skeletal by the time it was discovered on Oct. 2, just a few feet away from railroad tracks near Mile 108.5 of the Seward Highway.

Because of the skeletal state of the remains, the “postmortem exam did not show injuries that would explain somebody’s death,” he said. But he viewed the videos depicting strangulation and inferred, absent bodily evidence, the cause of death, he said. Henry died from asphyxiation, and the manner of death homicide, he concluded.

Smith’s defense attorney Timothy Ayer questioned Thompson about the hyoid bone — a small bone in the throat that Thompson called a “useful marker of trauma to the neck” and is often broken in strangulation cases. Henry’s was not broken, Thompson testified. But that, he said, does not mean she wasn’t strangled.

The day closed with a witness who was subpoenaed to testify on Wednesday informing the court that he’d be invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not incriminate himself.

Prosecutors have said that witness is the person Smith called and texted in the hours after Henry was killed on Sept. 4, 2019. Smith even went to meet that person briefly at Forsythe Park, on the Anchorage Hillside, between 4 and 5 a.m. on that day.

The purpose of that meeting has not yet been explained to jurors.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.