LITTLE FALLS, Minn. – A Minnesota homeowner who shot and killed two unarmed teenagers during a break-in was quickly convicted of premeditated murder Tuesday.
Byron Smith, a 65-year-old retiree who once set up security in American embassies for the U.S. State Department, shot Nick Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, multiple times after they broke into his home on Thanksgiving Day 2012.
Smith’s attorney said he was fearful after previous burglaries. But prosecutors argued Smith waited in his basement and intended to kill the teens, with a setup so elaborate that lead prosecutor Pete Orput compared it to a deer stand. Their key evidence was an audio recording that captured the killings in chilling detail, including Smith’s taunts as the teens died.
The mothers of the teens, who were cousins, cried as the verdicts were read: guilty on two counts each of first-degree and second-degree murder. Smith was immediately sentenced to life without parole. 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.