A Mtskheta court in eastern Georgia has sent 19-year-old Georgian shepherd Malkhaz Kobauri to pre-trial detention today on charges of the premeditated murder of American couple Ryan and Lora Smith and their four-year-old son on July 4 in the Khada Gorge of Dusheti region of Georgia.
The US Embassy to Georgia told the IPN news agency that FBI has got involved in the case investigation process with the Georgian law enforcers.
Kobauri told the judge that he did not commit the crime and mentioned "two foreigners” who killed the family and threatened him not to say a word.
They told me that they would kill my family members if I reported the murder,” Kobauri said.
The case prosecutor named a motive for the murder at today’s trial. He said that a verbal dispute between Kobauri and Ryan Smith emerged because of the riffle the shepherd had with him.
Ryan Smith made a remark to him that he had not acted cautiously with the weapon, especially in the presence of the child,” prosecutor David Kazarashvili told the court.
Kazarashvili said that during the dispute Kobauri shot Ryan Smith, while Lora Smith tried to escape and fell down from a cliff.
He killed the 4-year-old child with a gunshot as he was crying and tried to hide all the evidence which could point to his guilt,” Kazarashvili stated.
Kobauri is facing life imprisonment if a judge delivers a guilty verdict against him.
The Smith have been living in Georgia more than six years. Photo: Ryan Smith Facebook page.
The body of Lora Smith was the first which was found by a Georgian emergency response group on July 6, next to a waterfall in the Khada gorge.
The body of Ryan Smith was recovered on the second day.
The Smiths’ son, Caleb, was not found for three days and only after the police detained Kobauri on July 9 did he show the place to law enforcers where he had buried the child’s body.
The Smith family had been living in Georgia for more than six years and they received Georgian citizenship in 2012.
They lived in the Marneuli region of eastern Georgia and locals describe them as very positive and helpful people.
Ryan Smith was the founder of reWoven, which creates Azerbaijani rugs with traditional methods to revive this lost art for the benefit of its weavers and their community.
The detainee is from the currently-occupied Akhalgori district in the breakaway Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region. Since the Russia-Georgia 2008 war Kobauri and his family have been living in the Mtskheta municipality of Georgia.