The Little Falls man accused of killing two teen cousins during a break-in on Thanksgiving Day 2012 is set for trial April 14 in Morrison County, said Steve Meshbesher, his attorney.
Byron Smith’s court date was set Thursday in Morrison County after he pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the deaths of Haile Kifer, 18, and Nick Brady, 17. They were shot during a daytime burglary of Smith’s home on Nov. 22, 2012.
“At the end of the day, this is a very sad case, and he’s a very sad man,” said Meshbesher, who portrays the shootings as self-defense. “He doesn’t like what happened. He wishes it could be undone.”
Smith first shot Brady repeatedly and then about 10 minutes later, shot Kifer, after they broke into his home. They had descended, minutes apart, down a flight of stairs to his basement where he sat armed in a reading chair, authorities and court papers say.
Authorities said the two teens were unarmed when taken by surprise.
Complaints filed in Morrison County depict Smith as a U.S. Foreign Service retiree who methodically killed Brady and Kifer with final shots at close range, cursing and taunting them, then leaving their bodies in his basement workshop for 25 hours.
He had set up an audio recording device in the house, as well as an outside camera. Meshbesher said Smith was advised by sheriff’s deputies to do so after an earlier burglary.
Even though he was trained in countersurveillance measures to protect U.S. embassies, Smith called his brother in California but never called police. His family contacted a Little Falls neighbor, who in turned called the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 23, 2012.
Meshbesher contends Smith acted out of fear, in part because his home had been broken into a month before, when two guns, money and his Vietnam-era Air Force medals were stolen. He will argue that Smith hid after the shooting.
Brady’s grandmother, Bonnie Schaeffel of Little Falls, on Thursday dismissed Smith’s claims of innocence, saying he could have called 911.
“I believe his ‘remorse’ is an attempt to escape consequences for his actions,” she said, “and that when facts come out in court, that will bear out my opinion.”
Smith posted $50,000 cash bail for his jail release in November, his attorney said.