GORI, Georgia -- A jury in the eastern city of Gori has convicted a local shepherd of murdering an American-Georgian couple and their 4-year-old son in a crime that shook the South Caucasus country last year.
Malkhaz Kobauri, who was 19 when he was arrested in July 2018, will be sentenced by the Gori City Court on March 27 for the rape and murder of Laura Smith, 43, and the murders of Ryan Smith, 44, and their son Caleb.
On March 25, the jury found Kobauri guilty of rape, premeditated murder with extreme violence, the premediated murder of more than two people, and premeditated murder with the goal of covering up another crime. He faces life in prison.
The Smiths, U.S. natives who had Georgian citizenship and had lived in the town of Marneuli for six years, disappeared in early July after telling friends they were taking a two-day trip to the mountains nearby.
Laura Smith's body was found near a waterfall in the remote Khada Gorge on July 6, and her husband's body was discovered the following day.
Police said that Kobauri confessed to shooting and killing Ryan and Caleb Smith, and that he led them to the boy's body, but he denied guilt.
Laura Smith was an English teacher at a public school in Marneuli, a majority ethnic Azeri town.
Ryan Smith ran a community-development project, reWoven, that aimed to cultivate the traditional carpet-weaving culture in the area and provide income and opportunities for rural women.
A native of California, Ryan Smith had lived in Azerbaijan in 2002-05.