The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 21, 2014

Minnesota homeowner goes on trial in teens' deaths

Byron Smith, 65, of Little Falls, is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the slayings of two teenagers

(Continued)

Wartner said Smith heard the door of his house rattle at about 12:30 p.m., then someone walking across the deck, then a window breaking.

"And he waited," Wartner said.

But Meshbesher said his client was hiding after break-ins that had gotten increasingly more violent.

"He became frightened and scared to live in his own home," he said of Smith, later adding, "He began to wear a holster and pistol in his own house. That is how afraid he is, and became."

Prosecutors say as Brady descended the basement steps, Smith shot him in the chest, then in the back while Brady fell, Wartner said. Smith fired a final shot into Brady's head, the bullet passing through Brady's hand, Wartner said. Smith put Brady's body on a tarp so he wouldn't get blood on his carpet, dragged the body into his workshop, reloaded his Mini-14 rifle and sat down again, the prosecutor said.

A few minutes later, Kifer walked down the stairs and Smith shot her, Wartner said. He tried another shot, but his rifle jammed, Wartner said, and Smith told police he believed Kifer laughed at him.

"He was angry," Wartner said. He said that Smith then pulled out his revolver and he shot her twice in the head, once in the left eye and once behind the left ear.

Smith dragged Kifer's body into the workshop and laid it on top of Brady's, Wartner said. Smith told investigators he thought he heard Kifer gasping, so he placed his revolver under her chin and fired what he told police was a "good clean finishing shot to the head," the assistant prosecutor said.

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.

After their deaths, authorities said a car linked to Brady and Kifer contained prescription drugs that had been stolen from another house, apparently the day before they were killed. Court documents from another case show Brady had burglarized Smith's property at least twice in the months before he was killed.

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