Stephanie Bissland, the wife of alleged serial killer Brian Smith (above together), has spoken out about her shock at learning that the man she’s been married to for five years may have murdered two women in Alaska
The wife of an alleged serial killer has spoken out about her shock at the revelation that the man she’s been married to for five years may have murdered two women in Alaska.
Stephanie Bissland was on vacation in Virginia when Anchorage police informed her that her husband, 48-year-old Brian Smith, had been charged with the murder of 30-year-old Kathleen Henry earlier this month.
To Bissland, the idea that South African-born Smith was a cold-blooded killer was inconceivable.
Speaking to KTUU this week, Bissland, an accomplished Blue Grass musician, described Smith as a doting husband who had taken good care of her ever since they met via online gaming and married in 2014.
She said her husband was an avid outdoorsman who loved gadgets, enjoyed taking solo trips around Alaska and occasionally stayed out late with friends while she usually turned in early.
Bissland began to question each of her husband’s habits after being probed by police detectives who told her things like: ‘You don’t know your husband’ and ‘What’s he doing when he’s gone?’
She said she now feels caught in a battle between her heart and her mind – and between the man she knew and the man portrayed by authorities.
‘How could I have missed something like that?’ Bissland said. ‘We all have tempers at times, but I never saw one that would do what these people are describing.’
Bissland, an accomplished blue grass musician, described Smith as a doting husband who had taken good care of her ever since they met via online gaming and married in 2014
Smith was arrested on October 8 after police found a digital memory card labeled ‘Homicide at midtown Marriott’, which allegedly contained photos and videos he recorded of himself murdering 30-year-old Henry in a hotel room.
Once in custody, police say he confessed to killing another woman – 52-year-old Veronica Abouchuk – sometime in 2017 or 2018.
Smith has pleaded not guilty to both murders.
Smith was arrested earlier this month and charged with the murders of 30-year-old Kathleen Henry and 53-year-old Veronica Abouchuk. He is seen in court at an October 16 arraignment
After she learned of the first set of murder charges, Bissland told KTUU: ‘It is a terrible thing that has happened to this girl.
‘Pray for both of them: the family of that poor woman, and for him. He also is in a dark place and needs to see the light.’
She was interviewed by the outlet again after the second set of charges was announced from the home she shared with Smith, which had been torn apart by police after his arrest.
Officers had broken down the front door before scouring the garage, an office, bedrooms the basement living area and a crawl space – seizing firearms, rope, memory cards, computers, hard drives and other pieces of evidence.
Bissland said she began to question each of her husband’s habits after being probed by police detectives who told her things like: ‘You don’t know your husband’ and ‘What’s he doing when he’s gone?’
Bissland said investigators took a piece of carpet from the downstairs living room that was stained red. She thought it could have been wine, but she knew investigators likely thought it was blood.
She said detectives who interviewed her had questioned whether she may have had a hand in the killings, asking her if she was ‘pimping for him’ – an assertion she firmly denied.
The detectives also suggested that her husband was cheating on her, Bissland said.
She insisted that she never felt any reason to question her husband’s various outings, which he liked to document on film.
In some of Smith’s videos, he is seen flying a drone in their neighborhood.
In one clip, he zooms in on a black truck in his garage, which he referred to as a ‘chick magnet’. The truck is believed to be the same one in the videos from Henry’s killing.
Other videos show Smith and Bissland enjoying each other’s company back during happier times.
Today, those moments feel like they happened during a different lifetime, she said while still wearing the flower-shaped De Beers wedding ring that Smith inherited from his mother.
Bissland described her husband was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed taking solo trips around Alaska and occasionally stayed out late with friends while she usually turned in early
She said she never would have guessed that her husband could be capable of murder
Smith’s alleged horrific killing streak came to light when a woman found the digital memory card that contained harrowing footage believed to show him murdering Henry on the street and turned it in to police.
In the gory footage, the suspect complained to the victim, whose face was swollen and bloodied: ‘My hand’s getting tired.’ He then stomped her throat with his right foot.
That murder is believed to have taken place in September.
Police identified Smith by his unmistakable South African accent, out of place in the far reaches of Anchorage.
Detectives recalled Smith from another investigation, but they didn’t specify which.
Smith appeared agitated in court on Monday where he pleaded not guilty to shooting Abouchuk dead. In the Monday hearing his bail was set at $2million.
Abouchuk, a homeless mother-of-four living in Anchorage, was reported missing February. Her family last saw her in July 2018, police said.
State Troopers recovered a skull with a bullet wound at the spot where Smith told cops he dumped Abouchuk’s body.
Smith was arrested on October 8 after police found a digital memory card labeled ‘Homicide at midtown Marriott’, which allegedly contained photos and videos he recorded of himself murdering 30-year-old Kathleen Henry (left) in a hotel room. Once in custody, police say he confessed to killing 52-year-old Veronica Abouchuk (right) – sometime in 2017 or 2018
Monday’s hearing was an emotional one and several family members of the slain woman sobbed in court and had to leave when Smith was brought in, dressed in an orange prison uniform.
After the hearing, Abouchuk’s niece, Tatauq Ruma, said she has questions for Smith.
‘Why did he do it?’ she said.
She says her Aunt Veronica Abouchuk was a Yupik who grew up in the small community of Saint Michael, on the state’s western Bering Sea coast, and later moved to Anchorage.
The last time they spoke, Abouchuk told her niece she liked being homeless.
‘She didn’t say why. She was just happy that she was homeless and that she was OK with that,’ Ruma said. ‘She’s just a very sweet lady. She loved her kids. She loved everyone. I really miss her.’
After the women were killed, their bodies were dumped along roads outside of Anchorage ‘like unwanted trash,’ the state said in a memorandum seeking $2million bail on the more than a dozen counts he faces, including first-degree murder, second-degree murder and evidence tampering.
If convicted and found to have committed substantial torture in the Henry case, he will be sentenced to a mandatory 99 years. Alaska doesn’t have the death penalty.
‘These were two Alaska Native women. And I know that hits home here in Alaska, and we’re cognizant of that. We treat them with dignity and respect,’ Anchorage Deputy District Attorney Brittany Dunlop said at a recent news conference.
Joanne Sakar and Natasha Gamache had red hands painted across their faces as they held a silent protest to highlight what Gamache called Alaska’s history of not properly investigating, prosecuting or sentencing perpetrators of crimes against Alaska Native woman.
The red hands painted on their faces represents the silencing of indigenous women.
‘There’s a movement called Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women that seeks to highlight the level of violence that’s perpetrated against indigenous women and how nationally our criminal justice system isn’t taking it seriously. So, I’m here today to showcase that,’ she said.
Police have released little information beyond what is in court documents. Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll said there’s no evidence of a public safety threat.
In seeking the high bail, prosecutors cited Smith’s ties to South Africa.
‘He poses a significant public safety risk, especially to the vulnerable, homeless women currently living on the streets of Anchorage,’ a bail memo said.
Smith pleaded not guilty to Abouchuk’s murder on Monday (pictured)
Joanne Sakar, left, and Natasha Gamache attended Monday’s hearing with red hands painted on their faces to protest the silencing of indigenous woman