The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 29, 2014

Minnesota man convicted of premeditated murder

LITTLE FALLS (AP) — A Minnesota homeowner who shot and killed two teenagers during a break-in was convicted Tuesday of premeditated murder.

Bryon Smith had claimed he was simply defending himself during the break-in at his home in the small city of Little Falls on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Smith's attorney said the 65-year-old was fearful after previous burglaries.

But prosecutors argued that Smith waited in his basement and intended to kill the teens. A total of nine shots were fired at 17-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer.

Jurors began deliberating Tuesday morning and within three hours had a verdict: Guilty on two counts each of first-degree and second-degree murder. Mothers of the teens cried as the verdicts were read, while Smith showed no emotion. Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher said he would appeal.

The teens' killings stirred debate around the state and in Little Falls — a Mississippi River city of 8,000 about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis — about how far a homeowner can go in responding to a threat. Minnesota law allows deadly force to prevent a felony from taking place in one's home or dwelling, but one's actions must be considered reasonable under the circumstances.

Prosecutors said Smith's plan was set in motion on the morning of the killings, after Smith saw a neighbor whom he believed responsible for prior burglaries drive by. Prosecutors say Smith moved his truck to make it look like no one was home, and then settled into a chair in his basement with a book, energy bars, a bottle of water and two guns.

Smith also set up a hand-held recorder on a bookshelf, which captured audio of the shootings — key evidence in the prosecution's case. Smith had also installed a surveillance system that recorded images of Brady trying to enter the house.

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