Kathleen J. Henry is the indigenous woman from Alaska who police say was murdered by a South African man whose arrest came after a citizen found an SD card with images of the slaying. Henry wrote on Facebook that she was trying to get her life straight. She had made progress toward that end, including getting her GED in 2012. “I’m tough Alaska chick since 1997 until present,” her final Facebook post reads. It was from late August 2019.
Henry’s social media posts capture a woman with a strong spirit who believed in herself and her future, despite the troubles she transcended throughout her life.
“I love myself and I like others equally,” wrote Henry in one post. In 2018, she wrote, “I got to fly because I am light as a feather and have fun while I can like enjoy life.” However, authorities say it has all been snatched away – her present, the future she might have created and wanted to create so badly – by the 48-year-old man they have in custody for murder, Brian Smith.
After Smith’s arrest for Henry’s death, authorities say they uncovered that he also shot to death another native Alaskan woman in 2018 by the name of Veronica Abouchuk. Her remains have also been recovered, according to KTVA.
“I am the person who saves people out of strength and that’s my power,” Kathleen Henry once wrote on social media. “I live daily with a whole lot of soft hearted not HATRED feelings unless someone treats me with disrespect then I’ll treat you the same amount of disrespect. ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated.'”
The death of Henry, an Alaskan native, highlights again the national and under-reported crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. The crisis has a hashtag #MMIW. Some people have expanded it to “relatives,” to include men. A report on the issue found that, according to the National Crime Information Center, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, but the US Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases.
Kendra Kloster, Executive Director of Native Peoples Action, called Henry’s death “heartbreaking” and “traumatic for our communities” in an interview with KTVA-TV. “It’s really tough. We’re just really tired of hearing all the violence that’s going on against indigenous women… Some of the things that we try to do as an organization and working with other organizations as well, is we hold healing and drum circles, we gather together, we talk about our stories and we share information. We also need to make sure that these cases are getting reported, so they are being counted.”
Anchorage police have now identified Henry, 30, as the woman who was horrifically murdered in the slaying. The SD card’s discovery led police to find Henry’s remains. Brian Steven Smith, whose Facebook page contained a racist post, now stands accused of her homicide.
“Rest In Peace, beautiful. I pray for justice. ???” wrote a person on Henry’s Facebook page.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Kathleen Henry Wrote Proudly About Getting Her GED and Longing for a ‘New Lifetime’
Henry chronicled her life on social media, giving a fuller picture of the humanity behind the name released by police. “you are a very beautiful woman that (has) a smile that shows you that you are a caring loving person,” a friend wrote on one photo.
She was very proud of obtaining her GED, writing about it several times. “I’m a GED graduate since 10+02+2012 and had my diploma out of the way. I was 23 going on 24,” she wrote. On July 9, 2019, she declared, “I, Kathleen Jo Henry has a diploma under G.E.D which I received in 2012 of October 02 while incarcerated in Eagle River, Alaska through Highland Mountain Correctional Center. I dropped out of school 14 and received my G.E.D 23 going on 24.”
“I’ve been up to something extra good,” was another recent comment. “I am one of a kind who is original…” She also declared, “I LOVE MYSELF MORE THAN I LOVE YOU THOUGH BECAUSE I DON’T ABUSE MYSELF PHYSICALLY OR VERBALLY.” In June, she wrote, “I couldn’t sleep at all because of #ME being happy and excited to be out and about from incarceration.”
On August 26, she wrote, “I will be seated inside a jet plane without looking back and just focus on a new lifetime.”
Her full final post proclaimed, “I’m tough Alaska chick since 1997 until present. Keeping up with the kardashians can be mine for life. #killerandchiller.” She wrote, “I am an undercover boss due to being the 6% city sales tax collector once a month for each first week of the chosen 3-5 days out of the 30th or the 31st. #paterpak a.k.a #smartass.” On August 27, she added, “I need to get my life straight and act together.”
She talked tough on Facebook. “I’m known well by high ranked officers and state wide identifiers. please do not mistake my looks for a person who can go extinct because I am deadly without a weapon,” she wrote.
Some of her posts dealt with men and relationships. “If you exchange vows be aware of the fact that is known to be broken. Remain slut free,” she wrote. “If you are interested in the significant other than the available person who is not available then you are wrong. People can be different from the first choice you thought was right for you. Most people are taken and please mark your words when there’s a correction that is need be. This goes out to my ‘boyfriend like husband in each movie scenery and chapters.'”
She also wrote, “I’m getting annoyed and tired of men who think I’m walking around as if I got a price tag just to get in-between my legs. I’m #taken and walking alone doesn’t mean that I’m available. It’s okay if you are one of my understandable friends who know best about my life by letting me be.”
2. The Suspect Is Accused of Brutally Beating & Strangling Henry
Brian Steven Smith was arrested after the citizen found the SD card lying on the street that contained graphic videos and photos showing Henry’s murder.
According to The Anchorage Daily News, the SD card contained 9 photos and 12 videos depicting the grisly beating and murder. The newspaper reported that Smith is accused of recording himself as he beat, strangled and stomped on the naked woman while shouting at her to die.
At 4:06 p.m. on September 30, 2019, Anchorage Police “responded to the 3600-block of Lake Otis Parkway in reference to suspicious circumstances,” according to a police news release.
“A citizen had called APD Dispatch and claimed they found an SD card containing a video of a homicide. Officers met with the caller who stated the SD card was lying on the street in the Fairview neighborhood,” police wrote.
“The SD card contained several videos which appeared to show the assault and subsequent homicide of an adult female. Detectives with the Homicide Unit were notified and began an investigation.” Authorities recognized Smith in the video because they were already investigating him for something else that they haven’t detailed, according to The Anchorage Daily News.
According to the newspaper, the SD card was labeled “Homicide at midtown Marriott” and it allegedly shows Smith stomping on the woman’s throat at one point. Other terrible images show the woman being dragged to a truck. Brian Smith had registered a room at TownePlace Suites by Marriott that night, Daily News reported. It’s not clear how the card ended up on the street.
NPR reported that the woman in the video is seen “attempting to scratch at the man’s wrist with her right hand to get him to stop. The man strangling the female would stop once in a while and the female would eventually gasp for air,” according to Assistant District Attorney Heather Nobrega.
According to his Facebook page, Smith is married. His wife’s Facebook page indicates that she is a “former Administrative Officer at US Immigration and Naturalization Service Anchorage” who has also worked as a “former Personnel Staffing Specialist at Bureau of Land Management – Alaska.” He wrote that they got engaged in 2013 and married the following year. He had moved to Alaska. His wife is now a singer and actress. It’s not clear what he did for a living.
At 9:14 a.m. on October 2, 2019, officers “responded to milepost 108 of the Seward Highway in regards to human remains being found near the roadway,” the release states.
“Through the course of the investigation, detectives determined the crime took place in Anchorage during the first week of September. They identified 48-year-old Brian Steven Smith as the suspect and believe the human remains are of the adult female in the video.”
Smith is “self-employed” and went to Queen’s College. He is from Queenstown, Eastern Cape. That’s in South Africa. In one post, Smith indicated he had served in the Army. One 2014 post on Smith’s Facebook page is racist. “Please keep sending money to the blacks in Africa so they can buy soap to wash the blood off their hands,” he wrote. “The black africans are only this blatant about their racism towards whites because we have all these bleeding hearts whites who feel sorry for these savages.”
That comment accompanied a share of a video from a site called “whiteresister.com” that was titled “Mandela’s Rainbow Nation: Stoning in the Street by Hate-Filled Blacks in South Africa.” The post is no longer up.
A 2014 photo showed Smith in front of the White House with the caption, “Checking out my soon to be new house. Barry can you please move your butt and get out?”
3. Henry, Who Was Single & From Eek, Alaska, Posted Poetry on Facebook About Successful Goals & Being a ‘Doer’
On her Facebook page, Henry wrote that she was single, had lived in Juneau, Alaska, currently lived in Anchorage, Alaska, and was from Eek, Alaska. Eek is a tiny Alaskan community with 474 people that just got running water for the first time in 2019. The community is 97.1 percent made up of indigenous residents.
She was born in Bethel, Alaska. “I miss our school play and who let the dogs out was our Eskimo dance music even if Eskimo dance drums are to be on the scene, I didn’t give a hoot about which music to play or who not to drum for my classmates,” read one post.
Henry posted a poem on Facebook. It read:
You are you and I am me.
I’m Living life of reality.
Think I better get moving.
Enjoying time and spending it fair.
Never to look back to the past.
Needs to be met without a doubt.
Successful goals are check marked.
Time and place have high class scenery.
Totally having fun every second 24/7.
She wrote about relationship troubles, indicating, “I’m not a con-artist and I know best not to get married. I’m divorced and excited each day and night even though there may be a time and place when I act as if nothing ever existed. I Had seven ex-boyfriends and one ex-husband. I left because I might end up disabled by one of the deadly men I had during a relationship and here I’m tough Alaska chick.”
She also wrote, “I Kathleen JO Henry solemnly swear did not kill no one before. if anyone of you read my mind and heard other voices in my thoughts then don’t think wrong. my life is based on a true story.”
Some of her posts are very creative. Another post read, “I had bumped into a sprinkle of #captains along with others and I had to fly out due to having a full tank, so I can fly like a bird which is a bald eagle. I ran out of gas then I am on fire with balls that turn towards an adventurous city.”
4. Friends, Strangers & Family Members Offered Tributes to Henry on Social Media & Expressed Great Anger Toward Smith
Friends and relatives filled Henry’s Facebook page with angry comments toward Smith and prayers for Henry. “Our world is becoming more and more violent as the decades go by. Some people are emotionally unstable while some are just evil. The sanctity of human life means nothing to these people,” wrote one man on Henry’s page.
“Condolences to your family. Rest easy. May justice be quick,” wrote a woman. ” Rest with JESUS Kathleen .. I SCREAM FOR JUSTICE/ LIFE IN IMPRISONMENT,” another wrote. “This is terrible. I’m so sorry, Rest In Peace dear stranger ❤️” wrote another.
“F*cking B*stard! That’s my cousin! Even the look on his face! Don’t give a sh*t except trying to go home after that?” angrily wrote a man.
Heavy has reached out to multiple friends and relatives of Henry to get more information about her life. It will be added to this story if obtained.
5. Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women Are Disproportionately Victims of Crime
According to the report, which attempted to tally the numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women, particularly in urban areas, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported “that murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women and that rates of violence on reservations can be up to ten times higher than the national average.”
However, the report says, “no research has been done on rates of such violence among American Indian and Alaska Native women living in urban areas despite the fact that approximately 71% of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas.” In 2017, Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), a tribal epidemiology center, launched the study to fill in that gap.
The report found that there was a misunderstanding about the violence that indigenous women face in urban areas as opposed to on reservations. “The majority of American Indian and Alaska Native people now live in urban communities due to a variety of reasons for migration, from forced relocation due to 1950s federal relocation and termination policies, to current barriers to obtaining quality educational, employment, and housing opportunities on tribal lands,” it reads.
“Because of this, urban American Indian and Alaska Native people experience MMIWG-related violence in two ways—through losses experienced by extended family and community ties on reservations, in villages, and in urban communities themselves.”
The report documented 27 murdered indigenous women in Anchorage and 3 missing indigenous women. That was tied for third highest in the country out of the urban areas studied in the report. Read the full report here.
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