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Prosecution Details Circumstances of Smith Family Murder

Mtskheta District Court sent to pretrial detention Malkhaz Kobauri, born 1998, on suspicion of murdering an American couple and their four-year-old son in Georgia’s north-eastern Dusheti Municipality.

Davit Kazarashvili, the case prosecutor, said after the court hearing yesterday that Kobauri, who is said to be a shepherd, agreed to help the Smith family to get to a waterfall near Tskere, a remote village in Khada gorge in the Caucasus Mountains, where the three had gone for camping.

According to Kazarashvili, the suspect shot the father, Ryan Smith, after the latter’s remarks that Kobauri’s “reckless use” of a hunting rifle could have threatened the safety of a minor. “Kobauri fired at Ryan Smith first and then at the minor; he then tried to attack Lora Smith, but she escaped and fell off a cliff,” the prosecutor said, citing Kobauri’s testimony.

The bodies of Ryan, Lora and Caleb Smith were found near Tskere, a remote village in Dusheti Municipality. Officials said Ryan and Caleb Smith were killed with a hunting rifle, following a “verbal altercation” between the father and the suspect. Lora Smith, according to the Ministry, died after falling into a ravine as she tried to escape the crime scene.

Mamuka Chelidze, an official from the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Police, provided further details on July 10, saying that it was the suspect himself who pointed to the places where he had hidden the hunting rifle and where he had buried the body of a minor.

Chelidze also clarified that initially the police launched investigation on charges of negligent manslaughter, as the body of Lora Smith had no signs of violence and the body of Ryan Smith, found few hundred meters away in the river, was covered with mud and the wounds were hardly identifiable.

“Visually, this seemed like a fatal accident as in the case of Lora Smith … but when we transferred the body [to Tbilisi] and examined it in detail, we reacted immediately and re-qualified the charges [as premeditated murder],” Chelidze added.

The Interior Ministry official also explained that the suspect would have to go through psychiatric examination. “Given the gruesome nature of the crime, the investigation has a logical doubt on the suspect’s state of mental health,” he said.

Kobauri, who lives in Tsilkani settlement of internally displaced persons from Akhalgori, admitted to the murder initially, but denied his involvement at a court hearing yesterday, saying the Smith family was killed by two other men, who allegedly threatened Kobauri to murder his family members and forced him to admit guilt.

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