Burglaries scared homeowner accused of murder, his lawyer says.
A Little Falls teenager who once worked odd jobs for Byron David Smith was charged Tuesday in connection with two felony burglaries at Smith's home in the months before the homeowner shot and killed two teenage intruders.
Cody M. Kasper, 17, worked on Smith's property last summer with 17-year-old Nick Brady, one of the shooting victims, according to Twin Cities defense attorney Steve Meshbesher, who represents Smith and who attended Tuesday's hearing in Little Falls on behalf of his client.
Smith, 64, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the Thanksgiving shooting deaths of Brady and Brady's cousin Haile Kifer, 18, as they broke into his home along the backwaters of the Mississippi River.
Smith told authorities that he fired multiple shots at the teenagers as they walked down the steps to his basement around noon that day. Neither teen was armed. Smith then dragged the bodies into a workshop, where they remained until a neighbor called police the next day.
At a court hearing in December, a prosecutor said that an audio recording of the killings indicated that Smith, who is out on bail, taunted Kifer, shooting her repeatedly as she lay dying, saying at one point "You're dying" and later calling her "bitch" as he fired a shot beneath her chin and into her cranium.
Meshbesher said Tuesday that the charges against Kasper help build the case that Smith, a retired security engineer for U.S. embassies and a native of Little Falls, had been repeatedly victimized in the months leading up to the shootings.
He said Smith reported "a half dozen" burglaries to authorities over several months. It got so bad, he said, that Smith installed a security system "because he couldn't protect his home."
"And they have the audacity to come in again," he said of the Thanksgiving Day break-in. "But this time they came in by breaking a window with a steel pipe. He doesn't know who it is. He doesn't know how many it is. All he knows is he's scared. He was frightened. And he had every reason to be frightened."
Meshbesher said that Smith began noticing that some of his belongings, including a shotgun, were missing after he hired Brady, Kasper and several other teens to stack wood and perform chores.
He said the burglaries connected to Kasper occurred in the summer and fall of 2012. He said Smith reported both to authorities. Authorities, however, said at the time of the shootings that they had only one report of a break-in, in October.
Todd Chantry, an assistant Morrison County attorney who is prosecuting the case, said a police search of several local residences and properties after the shootings turned up some of the stolen items, including a shotgun belonging to Smith.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, who is prosecuting Smith at the request of the Morrison County attorney's office, said Tuesday that "as far as I'm concerned, I don't care what happened to [Smith] before Thanksgiving. I don't care. That's an excuse he's going to present for murdering two victims.
"They are prosecuting a juvenile who had burglarized Mr. Smith's home earlier, and that's exactly the way it's supposed to work," he said. "You call police, and police are there to hold the burglars accountable. If only Mr. Smith had done that on Thanksgiving. And he chose not to."
Smith's next court appearance is scheduled for May 6.
Richard Meryhew • 612-673-4425