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The audio was particularly difficult for the jurors, Strandberg said.
“The whole audiotape itself was pretty hard to listen to,” he said. “It was pretty bone-chilling.”
Strandberg said jurors didn’t learn a whole lot about Smith’s background, except that he served in the military, had worked for the State Department overseas for about 20 years and was trained in surveillance.
Smith’s defense might have been more plausible, Strandberg said, if it had appeared that he had “just been doing something around the house” when people broke in and he confronted them.
Jurors also discussed why Smith hadn’t called 911 before the burglary, when he heard the sound of breaking glass and saw the shadow of someone peering in the window.
“Obviously, he might have had a little bit of fear, I mean just with the whole situation itself,’’ Strandberg said. “But as far as everything else goes, I feel that he had pretty much planned just about everything out and was ready for whatever came his way.”
Strandberg said there were a couple of nights where he lost sleep over what he heard and saw in the courtroom.
“It was a tough job, no doubt about it,” he said.
For Mrosla, a retired farmer from Bowlus, Minn., the verdict was the right one but also completed the destruction of three lives that began that Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s a terrible tragedy, because not only did the children lose their lives, but they destroyed the man, too, by coming into his house,” Mrosla said.
“Nobody won. The children lost, and now he has lost, too.”
Joy Powell • 612-673-7750