LITTLE FALLS, Minn. - Convicted murderer Byron Smith did not testify in his own defense during his high-profile criminal trial, gambling that prosecutors had failed to make a case against him.
Smith lost that bet, and was convicted in the shooting deaths of Haile Kifer and Nicholas Brady, two Little Falls teens that had broken into his home. On Tuesday Smith changed course, taking the stand to testify in an attempt to have nearly $22,000 in restitution to one of the teen's family overturned.
Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher questioned Smith about his personal losses in a series of break-ins and burglaries that have been linked to Nick Brady. Smith told the court his home had been broken into four separate times, and burglarized five times. He says a sixth attempted burglary, the day when he waited for Brady and Kifer and fatally shot them, was unsuccessful.
Smith broke down into tears when describing how much he loved his home, and how it was built by his family. He testified that he reported more than $42,000 in losses to State Farm Insurance, and was awarded just $16,000.
Also taking the stand was Nick Brady's friend Cody Kasper, who was paid to do odd jobs for Byron Smith. Casper told the court that he and Nick had stolen items from Smith's home three times, including once when Brady emerged from the home with an envelope filled with $100 and $50 bills. There was enough money for Brady to buy a used car and a brand new 4-wheeler, and some left over to take Cody on a shopping spree for clothes and shoes.
Casper also testified that Brady and his sister pawned a number of gold coins stolen from Smith. The teen was ordered last month to pay $3,976 to Smith in restitution for his involvement in the break-ins.
Nick's parents Kim and Jason Brady were grilled by the defense, but insisted they had no knowledge of their sons activities or the items he stole.
The $21, 859 restitution Smith was ordered to pay when sentenced involved funeral and burial expenses for Halie Kifer. Her mother Jenny Kifer testified that she has not been reimbursed or tapped into a memorial fund set up for Haile and her cousin Nick.
Court was recessed after the morning of testimony: Smith's attorneys now have two weeks to file written arguments in the restitution appeal, and then each side will have until November to respond to those arguments.
Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher says today's testimony will set the stage for Smith's appeal, when the court will hear what he calls the "real" story behind the fatal shootings.
Smith is currently serving out two life sentences inside the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Stillwater.