LITTLE FALLS, Minn. -- The people of Little Falls are endeavoring to process the tragedy that suddenly thrust this central Minnesota city into the national media spotlight.
Some have quietly debated the culpability of the 64-year-old man who admitted killing two teenagerswho entered his home. Others have taken the dispute to social media with online barbs aimed at either the victims or their accused killer.
Many have opinions they'd prefer not to share on the record. And still others say they're internally torn.
"People are sympathetic of the kids and people are also sympathetic of this man who just in his home,"Hilda Schaffer, who manages an apparel shop in downtown Little Falls, told KARE.
"I know there's a lot of people talking on Facebook about it, and there's a lot of negative comments coming from both directions, and it's just making people pretty angry toward the other side," she added.
"Hopefully in time justice will be served. It's just sad."
Byron Smith, a 64-year-old retired State Department employee is charged with two counts of second degree murder, for the Thanksgiving Day slayings of Haile Kifer and her cousin Nick Brady, also known as Nick Brady Schaeffel.
Smith told Morrison County Sheriff's Office investigators he was in the basement of his homewhen he heard the sound of someone breaking a window on the upper floor.
He said he grabbed his Ruger Mini 14 rifle and fired two shots at Brady asthe youthdescended the stairs into the basement. Smith told authorities he fired another round atBrady after he fell to the floor.
Smith said he returned to his basement workshop and shotKifer a few minutes later as she headed down the same stairway. According to the criminal complaint, Smith's rifle jammed after she fell to the floor, prompting him to pull out his handgun and shoot Haile several more times.
Hetold detectivesthe girl continued to gasp, so he fired a finalround at close range shot under the girl's chin.
"It's a lot of wrong that ended tragically. Everybody was wrong, and nobody's going to win," Mike Corrow, who runs the town's hockey arena,told KARE.
"It's not about whose side, or what side. I think it's just needs to be about supporting families on both sides of it, and just helping everybody get through something that should not have happened."
Both Haile and Nick attended Little Falls High School in the past, before transferring to other schools for the 2012-2013 academic year. Grief counselors were available Tuesday, which was the first day of classes since the holiday break.
"It was not to dwell on it but to make sure that kids knew we were here to support them and that we're okay if they're not feeling comfortable with how they're feeling," Superintendent Stephen Jones explained.
He said students were already internally conflicted about what happened to their former classmates. When details of the shootings were released Monday, that inner turmoil only deepened.
"There are adults on our staff who are struggling with this. We want the kids to know that if our our adults are struggling it's perfectly okay for them to be struggling as well."
None of the principals in case - family members, investigators, prosecutors or defense attorneys - would comment on the case Tuesday. Both the Morrison County Sheriff's Office and the County Attorney's Office said there would be no further comments to the media, barring any new developments.
The investigation continues, and Smith remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bond.
A joint funeral is planned for Haile Kifer and Nick Brady Saturday at the Living Hope Assembly of God Church in Little Falls, on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Visitation will be held Friday, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Emblom-Brenny Funeral Service, with a prayer service scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Haile Kifer and her mother both worked at the Falls Theater downtown. Bob Bishof, who manages the theater, told KARE he'd like to spearhead a community fundraising drive for the family. No bank fund has been established at this point.