The audio recording made by a 65-year-old Minnesota homeowner as he shot and killed two teenage burglars was the evidence that led to his conviction of premeditated murder according to at least one juror.
Byron Smith was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for killing Haile Kifer, 18, and her 17-year-old cousin, Nick Brady, on Thanksgiving Day 2012.
Prosecutors claimed that Smith set a trap for the teens by moving his truck to make it appear as though we was not home. They said he then sat in a chair at the bottom of his basement stairs with a rifle, a .22 caliber handgun, bottled water and energy bars and waited for the teens to enter his home so he could kill them.
Smith also had with him that day a handheld audio recorder which he stashed on a nearby bookshelf to record the events. His defense attorney, Steve Meshbesher, claimed Smith feared for his life and made the audio recording as way to leave behind proof should he be killed.
Jurors didn’t see it that way.
“That was the most damning piece of evidence in my mind," Wes Hatlestad, one of 12 jurors, told the Associated Press. "That audio recording of the actual killings and the audio recording of Mr. Smith's interview immediately after his arrest ... pretty much convinced me that we were dealing with a deranged individual."
In the grim recording Smith can be heard taunting the teens once he shot them. After firing three shots into Brady he is heard uttering a simple “you’re dead.”
A few moments later on the recording Kifer can be heard searching for her cousin. She whispers, “Nick?” A shot rings out then Smith can be heard trying to unjam his rifle. He then shoots Kifer four more times before he says, “you’re dying.” A sixth and final shot is heard. A shot Smith described to investigators in a separate recording as a “finishing shot.”
The case raised questions in the state of Minnesota about self-defense and property protection.
Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel told Minnesota’s Star Tribune after the verdicts were delivered that the case did not call into question rights to self-defense at all. Instead, he argued, the case was about determining the limits on those rights.
“This isn’t a case about whether you have the right to protect yourself in your home. You very clearly do. That’s a given,” he said. “Rather, this was a case about where the limits are, before and after a threat to you or your home occurs. In this case, a jury decided there are limits and they decided where they are.”