Late on New Year's Eve, an Alaska State Trooper gave Anthony Smith a ride to the home near Big Lake he shared with his wife, Amy. Hours later, troopers say, he killed his wife there. In between, she called for help, saying she was afraid.
A charging document filed in Palmer Superior Court on Wednesday already revealed some of what happened during Amy Smith's last night alive. Anthony Smith, 38, now is jailed on a charge of first-degree murder. Troopers say he strangled her early Jan. 1.
Previously unknown, until state public safety commissioner Walt Monegan revealed it, was the New Year's Eve traffic stop.
Monegan is the state's top cop. In a written statement to news media late Friday afternoon, he also provided additional information about a state investigation into troopers' own actions before Amy Smith, 37, was killed.
The traffic stop wasn't mentioned by troopers in their earlier online reports about her death.
Monegan didn't include much detail. Requests for more information Friday and Saturday didn't produce answers.
"Any additional details into this incident could compromise the legal or personnel action that may occur," Monegan said in his statement.
The statement doesn't say where the stop occurred or what prompted the trooper to pull over Anthony Smith, but it suggests the officer suspected drunken driving.
"Mr. Smith successfully completed the requested field sobriety tests, so the decision not to arrest was made and that was relayed to him," Monegan said in the statement.
Yet the trooper remained concerned that Smith was impaired, the public safety commissioner said. The trooper asked Smith to take a breath test, which Smith did. Results from that particular type of test – what Monegan called a preliminary breath test — cannot be used in court to prove the level of intoxication, Monegan said. Instead, that test, sometimes called a portable breath test, typically is used to determine whether police have probable cause for more testing, according to descriptions provided on criminal defense websites.
After the New Year's Eve test, "Mr. Smith was provided a ride home," the commissioner said in the statement. "Such practices are discretionary and within our policy."
The couple lived in a split-level home on Schulz Drive between Wasilla and Big Lake.
That traffic stop was the first of three encounters between troopers and Anthony Smith on the night of New Year's Eve and into the early morning.
The second encounter, after Smith was delivered home by troopers, is now under investigation. It came after Amy Smith called troopers for help at 2:18 a.m., according to an online dispatch. She said she had locked herself in the bathroom and was afraid her husband would hurt her, as he did in the past. There was a history of domestic violence in the relationship, court records show. Troopers went to the home but didn't make an arrest.
The Department of Public Safety's office of professional standards is conducting an internal investigation into the disturbance call, Monegan said. The examination of trooper actions may take weeks and Monegan suggested the results won't be public.
"Since this investigation is about policy violations, these are personnel matters that are confidential by law," the commissioner said in his statement.
Troopers had previously said they were "conducting a comprehensive review of our initial response to this residence."
Troopers' 21-page policy on handling domestic violence requires an arrest once troopers have "probable cause" that a victim is in fear because of the aggressor's words or actions, or has already been hurt, Monegan said. Probable cause is a legal term that means officers have a reasonable basis for an arrest.
That domestic violence policy, last updated in 2011, now is under review as well, Monegan said.
State law also requires arrests in domestic violence investigations if there's probable cause.
Amy Smith had stopped breathing by the time Anthony Smith called troopers at 4:54 a.m. Jan. 1, the charging document against him said. The first troopers arrived at about 5 a.m., their third encounter with Anthony Smith that long night.
Amy Smith was pronounced dead at 5:33 a.m.