The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 13, 2014

Minn. man who shot, killed teens heads to trial

Case stirred debate about how far a person can go to protect one's home

LITTLE FALLS — After a central Minnesota man repeatedly shot a teen who entered his home, he dragged the boy's bloodied body into a basement workshop, authorities say, sat down — and waited.

When another teen began descending the stairway minutes later, Byron Smith fired again. The girl tumbled down the stairs and he shot her some more, including what he allegedly called "a good, clean finishing shot" into her head as she gasped for air, according to a criminal complaint.

It was Thanksgiving Day, 2012, and Smith, 65, left the teens' bodies in his basement overnight before asking a neighbor to call police, the complaint said.

Smith, of Little Falls, claims he was defending himself. Though the teens were unarmed, he told police he'd been burglarized before and feared they had a weapon. He faces two counts of premeditated, first-degree murder in a case that rocked this quiet city of about 8,000 and stirred debate about just how far a person can go to protect one's home from a potential threat.

On Monday, attorneys will begin selecting jurors to decide whether Smith acted reasonably when he shot Nick Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, or whether his actions amounted to a cold-blooded, calculated execution.

The trial is expected to stir up emotion in this rural area that straddles the Mississippi River about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis. Many residents who spoke to The Associated Press said that the teens were wrong to enter Smith's home — but that he went too far. Still, some believe Smith was justified. Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel's office received several calls in the days after the killings, some of them critical of the charges.

"There will always be those people that think that he did nothing wrong, regardless of the facts," Wetzel told the AP last week. "But once all the facts are known, I think the number of people who think he did nothing wrong is going to be reduced dramatically."

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Brain wave monitoring is better gauge than using a focus group, study says To predict a large population’s likely response to something — a product, politician or policy — political consultants, marketing gurus and advertising execs have long favored the focus group. Ask a small segment of the target audience what it thinks

    July 31, 2014

  • Argentina slides into default as debt talks fail NEW YORK (AP) — The collapse of talks with U.S. creditors sent Argentina into its second debt default in 13 years and raised questions about what comes next for financial markets and the South American nation's staggering economy. A midnight Wednesd

    July 31, 2014

  • Exchange Bee Researcher [Duplicate] Bee researcher takes aim at central Minnesota park WAITE PARK — Crystal Boyd strained four bees, three flies and one leafhopper from a yellow pan trap, the third of 12 in a transect topping a granite outcrop in Quarry Park Scientific and Natural Area.She popped everything into a labeled, zip-top plas

    July 31, 2014 4 Photos

  • Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies at 90 Filmmaker Robert Drew, a pioneer of the modern documentary who in "Primary" and other movies mastered the intimate, spontaneous style known as cinema verite and schooled a generation of influential directors that included D.A. Pennebaker and Albert M

    July 30, 2014

  • Homeowner killed, another injured in Vegas crime spree LAS VEGAS — A horrific carjacking and home invasion spree ended with two people dead and a woman in critical condition. One victim, Richard Ramos, a 59-year-old father of four, “fought to his death” to protect his wife and children from their attack

    July 30, 2014

  • Officer Shooting Minnesota-9 [Duplicate] UPDATE: Suspect in Minnesota officer killing in custody WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Police in Minnesota say a man wanted in the shooting death of an officer is in custody after being shot by police. St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos says 39-year-old Brian Fitch Sr. got out of a minivan firing at

    July 30, 2014 4 Photos

  • Officer Shooting Minnesota-3 [Duplicate] Minnesota officer killed making traffic stop WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — A police officer in Minnesota was fatally shot Wednesday while making a traffic stop and authorities said they were searching for a suspect. Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick, 47, was shot about 12:20 p.m. after pulli

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Possible suspect caught in Minnesota cop shooting WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — A potential suspect in the shooting of a police officer in Minnesota has been captured. Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the officer was killed. Television news footage showed the man being pulled from his vehicle Wednes

    July 30, 2014

  • Police shooting reported in West St. Paul WEST ST. PAUL (AP) — Police are responding to the reported shooting of an officer in West St. Paul. Details weren't immediately available. Calls from The Associated Press to several police and city departments in the area weren't immediately returne

    July 30, 2014

  • Mars rover Opportunity breaks the off-world driving record Opportunity, the little rover that could, has broken a 41-year-old driving distance record that’s out of this world. The decade-old NASA Mars rover has crossed the 25-mile mark, surpassing the 24.2-mile record held by the Russian moon rover Lunokhod

    July 30, 2014