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Charges: Rifle jammed, she laughed, so he killed her with a pistol

Curt Brown, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

A 64-year-old man was charged Monday with murdering two teenagers who broke into his home on the outskirts of Little Falls, Minn., shooting each of them at close range in the head after he had already wounded them.

Byron David Smith was charged in Morrison County District Court with two counts of second-degree murder without premeditation in the killings of Nicholas Brady, 17, and his cousin Haile Kifer, 18.

The criminal complaint says that Smith shot the two as they came down his basement stairs several minutes apart on Thanksgiving Day. The complaint adds that he shot them numerous times.

He then waited a day before asking a neighbor to alert authorities, the document added. Smith showed investigators the bodies, was arrested and has remained jailed since.

Smith appeared for a 10-minute court hearing late Monday morning wearing an orange jumpsuit, his hands and feet in shackles. Bail was set at $2 million.

In asking for the high bail figure, County Attorney Brian Middendorf said the incident was a case of cold-blooded murder. “The circumstances are appalling and far beyond any self-defense claim,” he said.

Defense attorney Gregory Larson declined to comment after the hearing, saying he wanted more time to study the case.

About a dozen family members of the teens attended the hearing.

According to the complaint, Smith told investigators:

He heard glass breaking around noon Thursday while he was in the basement. It was the latest of several break-ins that he’s experienced. Brady started coming down the stairs, and Smith shot him with a rifle by the time he saw the intruder’s hips.

Brady fell down the stairs and was looking up at Smith when the homeowner shot him in the face.

“I want him dead,” Smith explained to the investigator for the additional shot.

Smith put Brady’s body on a tarp and dragged him to an office workshop.

A few minutes later, Smith heard footsteps above him. As in Brady’s case, Kifer too started down the stairs and was shot by Smith by the time he saw her hips, sending her tumbling down the stairs.

Smith attempted to shoot her again, but his rifle jammed, prompting Kifer to laugh.

Upset, Smith, pulled out a revolver he had on him and shot her “more times than I needed to” in the chest, he said.

Smith dragged Kifer next to Brady as she gasped for her life. He pressed the revolver’s barrel under her chin and pulled the trigger in what he described as a “good, clean finishing shot” that was meant to end her suffering.

Smith acknowledged leaving the bodies in his home overnight before calling a neighbor to ask about a lawyer and to request that authorities be notified.

Tessa Ruth, an aunt of Brady, was at the hearing and said she wished Smith had fired a warning shot or called police instead of shooting. “It wasn’t right for them to be there and, yes, he had a right to defend himself. But to execute them like that…”

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