Little Falls teen slayings caught on tape

  • Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 11, 2012 - 6:13 AM

Officers say video of the teens outside Byron Smith's house and audio of the Little Falls shootings seem to support his statements.

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Haile Kifer and Nicholas Brady.

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A surveillance video found at the Little Falls home of Byron Smith shows teenagers Nick Brady and Haile Kifer outside Smith's house on Thanksgiving Day before the homeowner shot them to death after they broke in.

A digital audio recorder found in the house also had been running and "contained audio of the shooting," according to a search warrant filed in the murder case.

Smith, 64, faces two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Brady, 17, and Kifer, 18.

Morrison County Attorney Brian Middendorf and Sheriff Michel Wetzel declined to comment Monday on the recordings. Based on the search warrants, however, the findings seem to support pieces of the story that Smith, a retired U.S. State Department worker who set up security systems for embassies, told deputies a day after the killings, when they showed up at his house in response to a neighbor's concern that he may have shot someone.

Smith told police that he shot the teenagers, who were cousins, multiple times after they broke into his house and walked down the stairs to his basement. He described "a good clean finishing shot" at Kifer, after she had been shot several times in the chest and dragged into an office workshop. He left the bodies there for a full day before deputies arrived.

He also said that his home, where he lived alone, had been burglarized several times before the Thanksgiving Day shooting.

Hamline University School of Law Prof. Joseph Olson said Monday that the videos, while significant, probably aren't critical in building the case that Smith went beyond self defense in the killings.

"The first shot was completely authorized by Minnesota law," Olson said. But if they have "given up the fight and are no longer a threat, you can't shoot them again."

Had Smith not confessed, the video and audio findings "would be monumentally important," Olson added. "But he's already told them."

Minneapolis attorney Steven Meshbesher, who now represents Smith, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Investigators executed six search warrants in the two days after the shootings, finding, among other things, computers, computer memory cards and other equipment, ammunition and a large number of firearms in Smith's home. They also found bullets and bullet fragments and recovered blood spattered on guns, carpeting, chair legs, stairs, walls and a doorway.

Investigators also searched the car that Brady and Kifer were driving at the time of the burglary. It was there that police found six prescription pill bottles that had been stolen in a home burglary the day before.

When deputies arrived at Smith's house, "Byron opened up the door with his hands up to greet us," a warrant said.

Smith was sitting in a chair in the basement of his house and holding a loaded, mini 14 rifle when Brady walked down the stairs. Smith, sitting near the stairwell, shot him, then dragged his body into his office before going back to sit in his chair, the search warrants said.

Several minutes later, Smith shot Kifer as she walked down the stairs.

Smith's next court appearance is Dec. 17 in Morrison County District Court in Little Falls.

Richard Meryhew • 612-673-4425

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