A Minnesota man who shot and killed two teenagers during a robbery ended up being convicted on Tuesday of premeditated murder. Byron Smith, age 65, had claimed that he was only trying to defend himself while the two teens broke in his home in the town of Little Falls, Minnesota back on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Smith’s attorney exclaimed Smith was fearful after numerous thefts.
However prosecutors contended that Smith was waiting in his basement and anticipated killing the teenagers. There were a total number of nine shots fired at Nick Brady, age 17, and Haile Kifer, age 18.
Jurors started deliberating on Tuesday morning and within only three hours had come back with a verdict. They found Smith guilty on two counts of both first-degree and second-degree murder. The parents of the teens sobbed as the verdicts were handed down. Yet Smith revealed no signs of emotion. His lawyer, Steve Meshbesher, stated he would file an appeal.
The two teenagers’ killings had caused deliberation around the entire state and also Little Falls, which is considered a Mississippi River city with a population of around 8,000 individuals and located around 100 miles to the northwest of Minneapolis, about just how far a homeowner could go in answering to a threat. Minnesota law does allow for deadly force to be used in order to stop a felony from happening in a person’s home, but that individual’s actions have to be considered rational under the situation.
Prosecutors explained that Smith set up a plan that started into motion the morning of the killings. After Smith noticed a neighbor whom he thought was behind the previous burglaries in his home drive by his house. It was next believed that Smith moved his truck in order to make it appear as if there was no one at home. He next sat down into a chair inside his basement and had a book, some water, a couple of energy bars and two guns.
Smith had also erected a hand-held recorder on one of his bookshelves. It ended up capturing audio of the shootings which would later become key evidence in the prosecution’s case. Smith also had put in a surveillance system which ended up recording images of Brady attempting to gain access to Smith’s home.
The audio recording was played numerous times in the courtroom and caught the sound of shattering glass. It next picked up the sounds of Smith shooting at Brady three times as he went down the basement stairs. Smith could be heard yelling, “You’re dead”. Prosecutors then exclaimed that Smith placed Brady’s body on the top of a tarp and dragged him to another room. He next returned to his seat, reloaded his weapon and began to wait again.
It was around 10 minutes later that Kifer walked downstairs. There were more shots heard on the recording, then Kifer began screaming. Smith was heard as saying, “You’re dying”. There is another shot, which police investigators state that Smith called “a nice, clean finishing shot”.
The teenagers were both unarmed, but Smith’s attorneys argued that he was afraid they each had weapons. The tape was allowed to run, and it picked up Smith saying the two teens were “vermin”. He ended up waiting an entire day before he asked a neighbor to ring up the police.
Smith did not testify on his behalf. Meshbesher stressed about the prior burglaries which had happened on Smith’s property. There was one that happened on Oct. 27, 2012 which had included the stealing of weapons. One of Smith’s neighbors testified in his behalf and stated that Smith had come to his door after that break-in and seemed to be extremely frightened.
Meshbesher declared in his closing statements that the two teenagers would still be alive if they had not broken into Smith’s home. He also stated that Smith had a legal right to use deadly force in order to protect himself if he so felt the need.
Kifer was a senior in high school and Brady was a junior. The two teenagers were cousins. Court documents about the two teens which were not allowed to be entered as evidence showed that Brady had actually broken into Smith’s home once before. He and Kifer had also been linked to another break-in that occurred only one day before they were killed. In it there were stolen prescription drugs discovered in the car they were driving around in.
The judge of the case excluded this evidence about the teens’ histories from the trial because he stated it was irrelevant.
Byron Smith has been convicted of premeditated murder in the killing two teenagers during a break-in of his home.
By Kimberly Ruble