Jurors hear defendant’s audio of fatal shootings in Little Falls case

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014

LITTLE FALLS — Jurors listened to an audio recording Tuesday of the moments when two teenagers were fatally shot by a Minnesota homeowner who says he feared for his life after several previous break-ins.

Byron Smith, 65, of Little Falls, is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the slayings of 17-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer on Thanksgiving Day 2012. The shooting stunned the small city and stirred debate about how far people can go in defending their homes.

Smith told police that he armed himself and set up recording devices after repeated break-ins. Morrison County jurors heard glass break on the recording, then two gunshots as Brady groaned. Smith told Brady, “You’re dead.”

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Almost immediately after Brady is shot, rustling of the tarp can be heard, then a dragging sound and heavy breathing. Smith has said he had moved Brady to a workshop in his basement to keep him from staining the basement carpet.

The audio continued with the sound of a gun reloading, then more deep breaths. In a quiet, low voice several minutes later, a female mumbles “Nick.” Gunshots are heard again, as well as the sound of Kifer falling.

Smith quickly said “Oh, sorry about that.” Then Kifer said, “Oh, my God!” and screams.

Amid more shots, Smith told Kifer, “You’re dying,” and then he calls her a derogatory name for a woman. After more heavy breathing and another dragging sound, Smith calls Kifer the name again. After more movement, the crack of a gun is heard.

Prosecutors stopped playing the tape after that gunshot. The courtroom was silent except for a woman holding back sobs, the newspaper reported.

Also Tuesday, the judge denied a defense request to declare a mistrial, the St. Cloud Times reported.

Defense attorney Steven Meshbesher told Judge Douglas Anderson that the judge’s pretrial rulings about what jurors can’t hear about the teens have severely restricted his case.

The defense also objected to the prosecutor’s comment to a TV station that he would be willing to try the case in front of 12 board members of the National Rifle Association.

Anderson denied both mistrial motions but cautioned attorneys against discussing their opinions with the media.

Prosecutors said during opening statements Monday that Smith planned the killings and was waiting in his basement. Smith’s attorney said that his client was terrified after several increasingly violent break-ins and that Smith hid after he heard a window break and footsteps upstairs.

Smith is a retired security engineer for the U.S. Department of State. Kifer and Brady were cousins. The two were well-known in the community, and both were involved in sports.