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Continued: Little Falls trial pits the right of self-defense vs. murder

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 14, 2014 - 7:33 AM

Conflicting portraits of the fresh-faced teenagers have emerged in the months since the shootings.

Friends described Kifer, a senior at Little Falls High School, as a kind girl and competitive athlete in diving and gymnastics. She also struggled with drug abuse, they said. Authorities have said Kifer had 19 “contacts” with law enforcement, ranging from traffic stops to reports of suspicious activity or threats.

Brady, friends said, was an outgoing, bright-smiling junior who went to school 30 miles up the road at Pillager High School and worked at his father’s tree-trimming business.

But shortly after Brady’s death, authorities found six bottles of prescription medicine in his car, stolen in a burglary at another home the day before the shootings.

Brady was later linked to two felony burglaries of Smith’s property in the months before the shooting. Friend Cody M. Kasper pleaded guilty to helping Brady steal items from Smith’s residence in the summer of 2012 and again on Oct. 27 of that year. Kasper, who once did yard work for Smith, said that he served as a lookout for Brady, never entering the house or garage, but standing nearby with his cellphone in hand to warn Brady if someone approached.

Another friend told police that Brady kept a stash of guns in his bedroom closet, a couple of which came from Byron Smith’s house, according to documents. The friend said he had once been on Smith’s property with Brady, checking to see whether anyone was home, and that Brady had scoped out other houses in Sartell and Little Falls as burglary targets, the documents said.

Photos of Brady as he posed with guns were posted on his Facebook page.

Just how much jurors will hear about the teens’ character or any prior “bad acts” will be limited, however, after a recent ruling by Judge Douglas Anderson.

The victims’ histories and reputations aren’t relevant, Anderson ruled, because there has been no evidence suggesting that Smith “knew who Nicholas Brady was, knew that it was Brady who had burglarized his home or believed that it was Brady who had burglarized his home on a prior occasion or occasions.”

Hard to pick a jury

While it’s likely almost everyone in the Morrison County jury pool will have heard details about the killings, defense attorneys have not asked for a change of venue.

Legal observers say Smith may have a better chance of winning the case in a rural county where residents place a high value on their right to own guns and defend their property.

The killings have been debated at coffee tables throughout the area. Many in town know families or friends of the victims and the defendant.

“I think most people think that he went too far,” said one customer of the Royal Restaurant, who declined to give his name.

“Yeah, until it happens to them,” another man shot back. “You don’t know how your adrenaline goes.”

“I think it’ll be hard to pick a jury,” said Bob Lorenz, who sat with buddies drinking coffee. “Most people have their minds made up already.”

Attorneys on both sides have said new details will raise questions for the jurors at trial.

 

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  • Byron Smith’s brother walked past the bedroom window where Brady and Kifer broke in at Smith’s home on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Smith shot the teens and waited a day before reaching out to a neighbor, who called authorities. Audio of the killings in Smith’s basement was recorded.

  • Smith’s home along the Mississippi River, shown in 2012. Smith has been free on bail, and tensions in the neighborhood have been high.

  • Cousins who broke in: The histories of Haile Kifer, 18, and Nick Brady, 17, won’t be a large part of Byron Smith’s murder trial, a judge has ruled.

  • Nicholas Brady, 17, was shot after he and a cousin entered the Little Falls, Minn., house of Byron David Smith. He died Nov. 22, 2012. ORG XMIT: MIN1301301215562592 ORG XMIT: MIN1304251906330654

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