Bail lowered for man accused of killing 2 Little Falls teens

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 18, 2012 - 6:48 AM

In an audio tape, he taunts and curses at the 18-year-old victim, and tells her, "You're dying."

Byron David Smith
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Byron David Smith

LITTLE FALLS - Byron David Smith taunted the teen as she lay dying, shooting her again and again, according to a prosecutor who said an audio recording shows Smith went beyond self-defense in the Thanksgiving Day shootings of two cousins trying to burglarize his home.

"The state will show that this was an ambush, and a murder," prosecutor Todd Kosovich said in a court hearing Monday, recounting the chilling details the recorder captured.

Kosovich also argued for an increase in Smith's $1 million bail, but Judge Douglas Anderson ordered that Smith could be released from jail if he posted $50,000 in cash or a $500,000 bond and met conditions, including surrendering his passport.

Smith, 64, whose friends and relatives say had endured several previous break-ins, turned over the passport to authorities Monday night, but remained in Morrison County Jail as relatives worked to raise the bail money.

He is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Haile Kifer, 18, and her cousin, Nicholas Brady, 17. The teens were apparently trying to break into Smith's red-brick rambler along the Mississippi River when he shot them and then dragged their bodies into a workshop where they remained for more than 24 hours.

Kosovich said that on the day of the killings, Smith had guns within reach as he sat in a chair, between tall bookshelves, facing the basement stairs.

He had unscrewed light bulbs from sockets, save for one above the stairs.

There was a loaded rifle next to him and a loaded .22-caliber revolver strapped to his side.

Search warrants have revealed that Smith, a former security engineer for U.S. embassies, also had a surveillance system that picked up images of Kifer and Brady outside his home. Inside the house police found hours of audiotapes on a digital recorder.

Kosovich said a recording includes the sound of breaking glass, presumably when Brady broke a rear window, crawled in and then went downstairs.

Smith shot Brady three times, telling him, "You're dead," according to the recording. Within 18 seconds, Kosovich said, came the sound of Brady's body being dragged on a tarp to a workshop.

"That's how fast, that's how well equipped he was to deal with the death of Nick Brady," Kosovich said.

Ten minutes after the last shot, as Smith sat in his chair, Kifer's voice can be heard on the tape, calling out "Nick?"

Twelve seconds pass and Kifer begins down the stairs.

"Then we hear the first shot," and the sound of her body falling down the stairs, the prosecutor said.

Smith's rifle jams. The click is audible and Smith is heard saying, "Oh, sorry about that,"

As Kifer moans, Smith switches to the revolver.

After the second shot, Kifer says, "Oh, my God," and on the third shot, "Oh, God."

After the fourth shot, she utters "aw" and Smith says to her: "You're dying."

Now, Kosovich said, she's on the basement floor, "helpless," and Smith calls her "bitch." The sound of Smith dragging her to his workshop is audible and she is heard gasping.

One minute and 15 seconds later, again calling her "bitch," Smith fired a shot beneath her chin and into her cranium, the prosecution contends.

"He shot Haile Kifer three times in the head," Kosovich told the judge. "There's no way that's self-defense."

The prosecutor noted that from the sound of the window breaking to when Brady came downstairs, seven minutes passed during which Smith could have called police.

At that, Smith's older brother, Bruce Smith of California, laughed in the courtroom. The prosecutor also quoted Smith's description of Kifer's death to police: "She gave out the death twitch; it works the same as in a beaver or deer," the prosecutor quoted Smith as saying.

"Oh, my God," one of the teens' family members whispered in the courtroom.

In asking for lower bail, Anderson's attorney, Steve Meshbesher, said Smith is a Little Falls native who retired after 16 years with the Department of Homeland Security in a computer job.

Meshbesher also said Smith had written a memo to the sheriff's office about his Oct. 27 burglary and others in the area. His basement door, on a walkout level, had been kicked in, and a lock broken, and guns, cash and other items stolen.

"He told the police his story because he wanted their assistance and guidance," Meshbesher said, calling Smith a concerned, good citizen.

Kosovich argued that Smith is a danger to the community, noting that "he admitted he sat with the bodies for 24 hours."

A neighbor, William Anderson, contacted the sheriff's office 24 hours after the slayings because Smith called him, asking if he knew a good attorney.

After the hearing, Brady's grandparents, Steve and Bonnie Schaeffel, said the bail should not have been lowered.

"That is not who you want to see walking down the street," Bonnie Schaeffel said.

She doesn't believe the cousins were involved in the earlier burglary at Smith's home, and said they would have deserved legal punishment for breaking in on Thanksgiving.

Instead, she said, they ran into an enraged homeowner who carried out "a vigilante-style murder of children."

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038

LITTLE FALLS - Byron David Smith taunted the teen as she lay dying, shooting her again and again, according to a prosecutor who said an audio recording shows Smith went beyond self-defense in the Thanksgiving Day shootings of two cousins trying to burglarize his home.

"The state will show that this was an ambush, and a murder," prosecutor Todd Kosovich said in a court hearing Monday, recounting the chilling details the recorder captured.

Kosovich also argued for an increase in Smith's $1 million bail, but Judge Douglas Anderson ordered that Smith could be released from jail if he posted $50,000 in cash or a $500,000 bond and met conditions, including surrendering his passport.

Smith, 64, whose friends and relatives say had endured several previous break-ins, turned over the passport to authorities Monday night, but remained in Morrison County Jail as relatives worked to raise the bail money.

He is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Haile Kifer, 18, and her cousin, Nicholas Brady, 17. The teens were apparently trying to break into Smith's red-brick rambler along the Mississippi River when he shot them and then dragged their bodies into a workshop where they remained for more than 24 hours.

Kosovich said that on the day of the killings, Smith had guns within reach as he sat in a chair, between tall bookshelves, facing the basement stairs.

He had unscrewed light bulbs from sockets, save for one above the stairs.

There was a loaded rifle next to him and a loaded .22-caliber revolver strapped to his side.

Search warrants have revealed that Smith, a former security engineer for U.S. embassies, also had a surveillance system that picked up images of Kifer and Brady outside his home. Inside the house police found hours of audiotapes on a digital recorder.

Kosovich said a recording includes the sound of breaking glass, presumably when Brady broke a rear window, crawled in and then went downstairs.

Smith shot Brady three times, telling him, "You're dead," according to the recording. Within 18 seconds, Kosovich said, came the sound of Brady's body being dragged on a tarp to a workshop.

"That's how fast, that's how well equipped he was to deal with the death of Nick Brady," Kosovich said.

Ten minutes after the last shot, as Smith sat in his chair, Kifer's voice can be heard on the tape, calling out "Nick?"

Twelve seconds pass and Kifer begins down the stairs.

"Then we hear the first shot," and the sound of her body falling down the stairs, the prosecutor said.

Smith's rifle jams. The click is audible and Smith is heard saying, "Oh, sorry about that,"

As Kifer moans, Smith switches to the revolver.

After the second shot, Kifer says, "Oh, my God," and on the third shot, "Oh, God."

After the fourth shot, she utters "aw" and Smith says to her: "You're dying."

Now, Kosovich said, she's on the basement floor, "helpless," and Smith calls her "bitch." The sound of Smith dragging her to his workshop is audible and she is heard gasping.

One minute and 15 seconds later, again calling her "bitch," Smith fired a shot beneath her chin and into her cranium, the prosecution contends.

"He shot Haile Kifer three times in the head," Kosovich told the judge. "There's no way that's self-defense."

The prosecutor noted that from the sound of the window breaking to when Brady came downstairs, seven minutes passed during which Smith could have called police.

At that, Smith's older brother, Bruce Smith of California, laughed in the courtroom. The prosecutor also quoted Smith's description of Kifer's death to police: "She gave out the death twitch; it works the same as in a beaver or deer," the prosecutor quoted Smith as saying.

"Oh, my God," one of the teens' family members whispered in the courtroom.

In asking for lower bail, Anderson's attorney, Steve Meshbesher, said Smith is a Little Falls native who retired after 16 years with the Department of Homeland Security in a computer job.

Meshbesher also said Smith had written a memo to the sheriff's office about his Oct. 27 burglary and others in the area. His basement door, on a walkout level, had been kicked in, and a lock broken, and guns, cash and other items stolen.

"He told the police his story because he wanted their assistance and guidance," Meshbesher said, calling Smith a concerned, good citizen.

Kosovich argued that Smith is a danger to the community, noting that "he admitted he sat with the bodies for 24 hours."

A neighbor, William Anderson, contacted the sheriff's office 24 hours after the slayings because Smith called him, asking if he knew a good attorney.

After the hearing, Brady's grandparents, Steve and Bonnie Schaeffel, said the bail should not have been lowered.

"That is not who you want to see walking down the street," Bonnie Schaeffel said.

She doesn't believe the cousins were involved in the earlier burglary at Smith's home, and said they would have deserved legal punishment for breaking in on Thanksgiving.

Instead, she said, they ran into an enraged homeowner who carried out "a vigilante-style murder of children."

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038

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Byron David Smith