Byron Smith kills two Little Falls teens: Self-defense or murder? [UPDATE]
Byron Smith (center) and the teens he shot -- Haile Kifer (left) and Nicholas Brady (right).
According to 64-year-old retired State Department worker Byron Smith, two Little Falls teens broke into his rural home on the Mississippi River when he shot and killed them in self-defense. He then let the bodies sit in his house for more than a day before authorities, following up on a suspicious vehicle report, came to Smith's home and he told them about what happened.
Prosecutors don't totally buy Smith's version of events and have arrested him on suspicion of second-degree murder. He's expected to be formally charged today.
The Star Tribune provides more information about Smith's side of the story:
In the rear of the house, which sits on the bank of the Mississippi River, surrounded by tall pines and birches, is a shattered bedroom window, now boarded over. It was where, [Byron Smith's brother] Bruce Smith said, the teens used a lead pipe to break the glass, crawl in, walk down a hallway and go downstairs, surprising Byron Smith as he tinkered in his basement workshop over the lunch hour.
Byron Smith never called 911 but let the bodies lay in his home for just more than 24 hours while the teens' families tried to find them. Bruce Smith said his brother was distraught and didn't know what to do.
"Put yourself in his shoes after you shoot two people in your basement. How are you going to react?" he said during an interview at the house.
The brother said this was the latest of eight burglaries within the last few years, with the most recent on Oct. 27, when about $10,000 worth of guns, electronic gear and cash were stolen after thieves broke out a panel in a lower-level door. He said not all the burglaries were reported but that the one last month was reported to the Morrison County Sheriff's Office.
The two dead teens are 18-year-old Nicholas Brady and 17-year-old Haile Kifer. They were cousins. Brady's sister told the Strib Nicholas made good money working for their father's tree-trimming business and wouldn't have needed to resort to theft, but she added that Kifer had struggled with a pill addiction and speculated that might've been the reason the cousins broke into Smith's home.
In conversations with the Strib, neighbors described Smith as a quiet loner who often shot guns on his property.
Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel told the St. Cloud Times that Smith has no history with the sheriff's office. In a statement, Wetzel said: "A person has every right to defend themselves and their homes, even employing deadly force if necessary," but added investigators believe Smith's actions went beyond self-defense.
Smith's first court appearance is expected today, and a news conference is scheduled for 1 p.m., so we should know more before the day is through.
:::: UPDATE ::::
11:20 a.m. -- New details about what allegedly happened in Smith's home on Thanksgiving have emerged via the criminal complaint formally charging Smith with two counts of premeditated second-degree murder.
The criminal complaint says that Smith shot the two as they came down his basement stairs several minutes apart on Thanksgiving Day. The complaint adds that he shot them numerous times - each in the head after already critically wounding them.
He then waited a day before asking a neighbor to alert authorities, the document added.
:::: UPDATE ::::
12:16 p.m. -- The criminal complaint suggests that as soon as Smith realized a break-in was in progress, he decided both of the intruders needed to die.
According to the charges, Smith told investigators he shot Schaeffel as he walked down the stairs, then shot him again in the face as he lay on the floor looking at him.
"I want him dead," Smith told police.
Smith said he sat down in a chair when Kifer started walking down the steps. Smith shot her and she also fell down the stairs. He tried to shoot her a second time, but his rifle jammed. When the gun jammed, Kifer laughed at him, fueling his anger.
"If you're trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again," he told police.
Smith told police he then shot Kifer "more times than I needed to" in the chest, leaving her gasping for air. He ended her suffering with a "good, clean finishing shot" under her chin.
"Smith acknowledged leaving the bodies in his home overnight before calling a neighbor to ask about a lawyer and to request that authorities be notified," the Strib reports.
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