The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 28, 2012

Little Falls shooting stirs strong emotions on both sides

MANKATO — Local officials knew the grisly killings of two teenagers who broke into a man's home on Thanksgiving Day would stir up strong emotions in their small central Minnesota town.

Some believed the homeowner went too far by repeatedly shooting the unarmed teens, including one victim as she gasped for breath. But others said 64-year-old Byron Smith was within his rights to protect his remote Little Falls home.

Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said Tuesday that his office has received several calls since Smith was charged with murder, some critical of the charges. But the sheriff said that even though he is a firm believer in property owners' rights, the charges in this case are appropriate.

"The fact of the matter is, if people have all of the facts, they would not be quite so divided in their opinions," he told The Associated Press, noting that many details have not been made public. "It's not as controversial or as unclear an issue as people might think at first blush."

Smith, a retired U.S. State Department employee, was charged Monday with two counts of murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and her cousin, 17-year-old Nicholas Brady. According to the criminal complaint, Smith shot the teens multiple times as they tried to burglarize his house, which he said had been broken into before.

Minnesota law gives homeowners the right to protect themselves and their property, but Wetzel said they don't have the right to execute an intruder once the threat is neutralized.

According to the complaint, Smith told authorities he was fearful after several break-ins at his home in the town of about 8,000 people. The complaint said he told authorities that he was in his basement on Thanksgiving Day when he heard a window break upstairs. When he saw Brady on the basement stairwell, he fired — then shot him again in the face after he fell down.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Ukraine reports overnight rebel attacks on border MOSCOW (AP) — The Ukrainian army on Friday claimed that soldiers came under artillery fire from the Russian side of the border overnight and were attacked by rebels in several other places in the restive east. Ukrainian forces are trying to close in

    July 25, 2014

  • Deal still elusive for Gaza cease-fire CAIRO (AP) — Turbulent negotiations to broker a temporary truce in the Gaza Strip are continuing against the backdrop of fresh Israeli attacks on Palestinian militants. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met twice Friday in Cairo with U.N. chief Ban

    July 25, 2014

  • Transcript shows concerns during Arizona execution FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) — U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake was attending a ceremony for a judicial colleague when he received an urgent — and unusual — request: Lawyers for a condemned inmate wanted him to stop an execution that didn't seem to be workin

    July 25, 2014

  • Sniper-Author-Ventura [Duplicate] Day 3 of deliberations ends in Ventura lawsuit Jury has deliberated 19 hours

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man accused of stealing from group HASTINGS (AP) — An Apple Valley man is charged with five counts of theft for allegedly stealing more than $113,000 from a Rosemount youth athletics group. Sixty-two-year-old Robert Steven Reischauer was the former finance manager of the Rosemount Ar

    July 24, 2014

  • Sanders offers lower-cost bill to reform VA Bill would allow vets to go to private doctors

    July 24, 2014

  • Wetland Loss [Duplicate] Report says Prairie Pothole region losing wetlands BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Federal officials and conservationists say a recent report detailing wetland losses in the five-state Prairie Pothole Region over the past decade highlights the need for increased protection for the region that provides breeding

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • France: Air Algerie flight vanishes over N Mali ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali, the plane's owner and a French government official said. Air navigation services lost

    July 24, 2014

  • Migrant children face test in Dallas immigration court DALLAS — In a packed Dallas immigration courtroom, Elsy Garcia sits next to her 16-year-old brother, Jose. She last saw him when he was 9, when she fled their home in Usulutan in southern El Salvador. Now Jose is facing deportation. His case is conf

    July 24, 2014

  • Poet takes his act to Las Vegas LAS VEGAS — The old poet is dressed in black, his platinum-blond hair rakishly moussed. He stands amid the hubbub, facing a stern test of his crafted words and carnival-barker delivery. The venue is a smoky lounge called Ichabod’s, east of the Strip.

    July 23, 2014