9 Nov 2018 22:11

Georgian prosecutors bring rape charge against 19-hear-old shepherd accused of killing U.S. family

TBILISI. Nov 9 (Interfax) - The Georgian Chief Prosecutor's Office has additionally charged Malkhaz Kobauri, a 19-year-old shepherd accused of the cold-blooded murder of the Smith family from the United States in the Khada Gorge of the Dusheti district, with raping Laura Smith and killing her.

"After the investigation obtained expert conclusions, Malkhaz Kobauri has also been charged with raping Laura Smith and killing her under aggravating circumstances," the prosecutor's office said in a statement on Friday.

Until lately, Kobauri has been charged with killing Ryan Smith and his and his wife Laura Smith's four-year-old son Caleb Smith, who had come to the Khada Gorge as tourists.

"Therefore, Malkhaz Kobauri is charged with premeditated murder of three people committed with special cruelty [...] which envisions imprisonment of 16 to 20 years or life in prison," it said.

The Georgian Interior Ministry had reported earlier that the crime was committed near a waterfall in the Khada Gorge, the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region in northern Georgia, on July 4; following a quarrel, the suspect fired a hunting rifle, causing fatal injuries to Ryan Smith and his son. His wife was believed to have attempted to flee, fallen into the gorge and died.

The ministry said the suspect left the dead man at the scene and hid the child's body in the avalanche.

Police detained Kobauri on July 9, and the Mtskheta District Court ruled on July 11 to take him into custody. Kobauri, who had reportedly confessed to the crime, changed his testimony at the court hearing, saying that he did not actually kill the Smith family, but that there were two unidentified men at the scene, who killed the Americans and threatened to kill the shepherd's family if he revealed the truth.

The investigation was started into the manslaughter of two or more people under Georgian Criminal Code Article 116. However, after the investigation obtained medical analysis findings, it requalified the case as premeditated murder under aggravating circumstances.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation helped Georgian law enforcement investigate the murder, especially with technical expert analyses.