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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Byron Smith murder trial

Byron Smith 65, is a retired security engineer for the US Department of State.  He is charged with first-degree, premeditated murder of two teenager cousins who broke into his home - Haile Kifer 18, and Nick Brady 17, on Thanksgiving 2012.

Nick Brady

Under Minnesota law, a person is allowed to shoot someone breaking into their own home but prosecutors allege that in this case, Smith crossed the line when he continued to shoot the teens after they were no longer a threat.  They will try to convince the jury that Smith planned the killings and was lying in wait.

Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher said that Smith was terrified after experiencing several violent break-ins before and was hiding after he heard a window break and footsteps upstairs.  "This is not a whodunit case" he said.  "Mr Smith is the person who shot and killed those people, but he is not criminally responsible for their deaths - he is not guilty of murder."

Haile Kifer

On the second day of the trial, a tape was played to the jurors of a police interview the day after the shootings.  Smith described what happened in a chilling, matter-of-fact way and told police he finished off Kifer with a shot under her chin because his .22 calibre "doesn't go through bone very well."

The teens were not armed but Smith assumed they were as they had stolen guns from his house before. Court documents from another case show Brady had burglarized Smith's property at least twice in the months before he was killed.

When Brady came down the basement steps, Smith waited until his hips came into view and fired twice - once in the chest and once in the back as he fell, then.....  "He's looking, facing up at me and I shoot him in the face...I want him dead."  He put his body on a tarp and dragged it into his workshop, reloaded his rifle and waited for the girl.

"I just pulled out the .22 and shot her twice in the head, once in the left eye and once behind the left ear."  He dragged her body into the workshop and laid it on top of Brady's but thought he heard her gasping.  "So I did a good clean finishing shot to the head (under the chin) and she gave out the death twitch" he said.

Smith didn't call police straight away because the teens were already dead.  "Just 'cause my Thanksgiving was screwed, I don't need to screw up yours" he said. The next day he asked a neighbour to call police.

Prescription drugs stolen from another house the day before were found in a car linked to Brady and Kifer.

The case continues.

Edit:  On April 29, 2014, Byron David Smith was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder with premeditation and on two counts of second-degree murder after three hours of jury deliberations. He was immediately sentenced to life in prison without parole.