First-degree murder charges stand in Little Falls case

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 25, 2013 - 8:52 PM

First-degree premeditated murder charges will stand against a man accused of shooting two teenage intruders in his home near Little Falls last Thanksgiving.

A Morrison County grand jury had issued the first-degree murder indictments in April against 65-year-old Byron David Smith in the shooting deaths of Haile Kifer, 18, and her cousin Nick Brady, 16, as they broke into Smith’s home along the backwaters of the Mississippi River. Prosecutors have said that Smith shot the unarmed teens multiple times after wounding them as they walked down his basement stairs several minutes apart.

A defense attorney had filed a motion requesting that a judge dismiss the indictment and suppress evidence in the case against Smith, a retired U.S. State Department employee who set up security systems for embassies.

The defense contended that prosecutors made too many mistakes in presenting the case to the grand jury and that there wasn’t enough evidence for the jury to issue a first-degree murder indictment.

The defense also argued that the court should suppress Smith’s statements when police arrived at his house the day after the shootings.

The case has ignited the debate of how far a homeowner can go to defend himself and protect his property.

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.

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.

Judge Douglas P. Anderson denied the defense motions in an order and 22-page memo issued late Friday, finding, in part, that some of the defense claims didn’t have an impact on the grand jury’s decision.

One issue the defense raised was how prosecutors defined premeditation to the grand jury, for instance. Anderson found the prosecution’s explanation was clear enough for the grand jury to understand. He wrote that there was “sufficient evidence presented to the grand jury for it to find probable cause that defendant considered, planned, prepared for and determined to kill Nicholas Brady and Haile Kifer.”

At trial it will be determined “whether the state has met its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Pam Louwagie | @pamlouwagie

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