LITTLE FALLS, Minn. - A central Minnesota man has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of two teenagers he claims broke into his home.
Byron David Smith, 64, is charged in a criminal complaint filed Monday in Morrison County court. He sat quietly during a court appearance, entering no plea. A judge set bail at $2 million bond or $200,000 cash without conditions, or $1 million bond or $100,000 cash with specified conditions. The conditions include surrendering his passport and firearms, and remaining law-abiding.
At this point it is uncertain if Smith will be able to post bail.
The complaint says Smith told investigators he was in his basement Thanksgiving afternoon when he heard someone breaking in upstairs. During questioning, authorities say Smith admitted shooting 17-year-old Nicholas Brady and his cousin, 18-year-old Haile Kifer as they came down into his basement.
Investigators say Smith described the killings in detail. He told them he shot Brady twice before the teen tumbled down the stairs. As Brady looked up at him Smith says he shot the 17-year-old in the face.
Minutes later, Smith says, he heard more footsteps and saw a person walking down the stairs. That person was Haile Kifer. Smith says after he shot the girl once his gun jammed; he claims she then began laughing at him causing him to become angry.
The complaint says Smith then grabbed a .22 revolver he was wearing and shot Kifer several times in the chest, "more shots than I needed to," he reportedly told detectives. He then dragged her body into his workshop where he had also placed Brady.
At that point, Smith told investigators, Kifer was still gasping for breath so he put the handgun under her chin and fired a bullet into her head, describing it as "a good clean finishing shot."
Smith acknowledged that the teens were unarmed, although he maintains that he was fearful the entire time that they might be carrying weapons.
Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel says investigators believe the teens were carrying out a burglary when they were killed. He made sure to emphasize that Minnesota law clearly states that a person has the right to use a firearm to defend their home, but believes that Smith went beyond his legal boundaries.
"The law doesn't permit you to execute a person once the threat is gone," Wetzel told reporters.
A friend of Smith told KARE 11 that his supporters are confident that he has a good case to support the shootings, and believe Smith will eventually be exonerated.
He also confirms Smith is a retired U.S. State Department worker where he did surveillance work for the government. An official with the state department couldn't immediately confirm that information. Friends also say Smith volunteered for the Boy Scouts in the area.
Byron Smith's next court appearance is set for December 17.
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