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Little Falls Murder Trial Evidence Released; Juror: Audio Recording was Key

Updated: 04/30/2014 6:31 PM
Created: 04/30/2014 2:36 PM KSTP.com
By: Beth McDonough

Evidence has been released for public viewing following the murder conviction of a Little Falls man who shot and killed two teenagers during a break-in at his home on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

300-plus photos reveal the inside of Smith's home and his state of mind, "it's very clear cut that he planned this out, it wasn't just him being surprised by intruders defending himself," according to a juror, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

The pictures show close-ups of a rifle, loaded handgun, broken window, stairwell where the teens were shot, the floor stained with their blood, the surveillance system, the lifeless bodies of Nick Brady and Haile Kifer and the audio recording, "I don't see them as human," said Byron Smith.

The juror told KSTP, "the audiotape played a major role in everybody's decision, there was a lot of evidence on that audiotape."

We asked all of the jurors, six men and six women to talk with us.  Only one agreed to, as long as we don't identify him.  That's how sensitive the case was and how stressed he still is. "There were hang ups, one juror was hesitant to convict somebody on such a major sentence," said the juror.

The pictures represent only a part of the evidence. In a trial that's captured international attention. "It's a very unique case of a small community, the topic and issues hit home for a lot of people," according to Rhonda Bot, the Morrison County Court Administrator. 

The juror went on to say, "it's a great burden, a ton of pressure, a major decision to send somebody to prison for the rest of their life."

After three hours of deliberation Tuesday, jurors convicted 65-year-old Byron Smith of premeditated murders of 17 year old Nick Brady and 18 year old Haile Kifer.

Smith set up a hand-held recorder on a bookshelf, which captured audio of the shootings, and had installed a surveillance system that recorded images of Brady trying to enter the house.
    
The audio, which was played several times in court, captured the sound of glass shattering, Brady descending the basement stairs and Smith shooting Brady three times. Smith can be heard saying, "You're dead." Prosecutors said Smith put Brady's body on a tarp and dragged him into another room, then sat down, reloaded his weapon and waited.
    
About 10 minutes later, Kifer came downstairs. More shots are heard on the recording, then Kifer's screams, with Smith saying, "You're dying." It's followed soon after by another gunshot, which investigators said Smith described as "a good, clean finishing shot."
        
Smith can also be heard referring to the teens as "vermin." Smith waited a full day before asking a neighbor to call police.

Smith claimed he was simply defending himself during the break-in at his home. Smith's attorney said he was fearful after previous burglaries.

But prosecutors argued that Smith waited in his basement and intended to kill the teens. A total of nine shots were fired at Brady and Kifer.

Minnesota law allows a person to use deadly force for defense, but that action must be considered reasonable. Jurors found him guilty of both first-degree and second-degree murder charges.


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