LITTLE FALLS, MINN. – A friend of the teenage boy who was shot to death after breaking into the home of Byron Smith last Thanksgiving Day pleaded guilty Friday to charges that he twice helped his friend steal items from the home.
Cody M. Kasper, 17, entered the pleas a day after a Morrison County grand jury indicted Smith on charges of first-degree, premeditated murder in the shooting and killing of Kasper’s friend, Nick Brady, 17, and Brady’s cousin, Haile Kifer, 18, after the two broke into Smith’s home.
Prosecutors have said that Smith, a 64-year-old retired U.S. State Department employee, shot Brady and Kifer, who were unarmed, multiple times after initially wounding them as they walked down the stairs to his basement Thanksgiving Day. Prosecutors said an audio recording of the shootings indicated Smith taunted the teens while firing shot after shot, then dragged the bodies to a workroom and left them there until police were called to the home the next day.
But friends and relatives have said that Smith was scared and acting to protect himself and his property after a series of burglaries in the months before the shootings.
“Nicholas Brady and Haile Kifer broke into Mr. Smith’s home by shattering a bedroom window with a metal pipe,” Smith’s attorney, Steve Meshbesher, said in a news release after the grand jury indictment. “Mr. Smith did not seek Brady and Kifer out. They sought him by violently breaking into his home on Thanksgiving.”
During a half-hour hearing before District Judge Douglas Anderson at the Morrison County courthouse Friday, Kasper, sitting between his father and his attorney, said that he served as a lookout for Brady last summer and again in October as Brady stole several items, including cash and a chain saw, from Smith’s house and detached garage.
Kasper, who once did yard work for Smith, said that in both instances, he never entered the house or garage, but stood in a nearby grove of pines with his cellphone in hand to call and warn Brady if someone approached.
According to two criminal complaints filed against Kasper in February, Brady kicked in a basement door during the first burglary and returned with cash and a video camcorder. Brady later rewarded Kasper by buying him clothes and shoes with the stolen cash and giving him an ATV.
During the October burglary, Brady, who also had worked for Smith at one time, forced his way into Smith’s detached garage and stole a chain saw, gas siphoning kit and rolls of copper wire. The boys hid the items in the woods, returning later to pick them up.
Under terms of an agreement reached Friday, Kasper would be sentenced to 90 days of electronic home monitoring and serve 200 hours of community work service in exchange for pleading guilty to aiding and abetting the burglaries.
Anderson is expected to rule on the agreement at a sentencing hearing June 7.