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Shepherd Sentenced To Life In Prison For Murder Of American Family In Georgia

Malkhaz Kobauri in court last year
Malkhaz Kobauri in court last year

GORI, Georgia -- A Georgian court has sentenced a man to life in prison after a jury convicted him of murdering an American-Georgian couple and their 4-year-old son in July 2018.

A judge at the Gori City Court in eastern Georgia handed down the sentence to Malkhaz Kobauri on March 27, two days after the jury found him guilty of the rape and murder of Laura Smith, 43, and the murders of Ryan Smith, 44, and their son Caleb.

Kobauri's lawyer vowed to appeal and contended that the case against his client, a shepherd who was 19 years old when the Smiths were killed, was marred by procedural violations.

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.

Mourners attend the Smiths' funeral in Marneuli in July 2018.
Mourners attend the Smiths' funeral in Marneuli in July 2018.

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.

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