Minnesota Homeowner Convicted Of Murder In Shooting Deaths Of Teenage Burglars

| by Jared Keever

Jurors convicted a Minnesota man Tuesday of premeditated murder for the shooting deaths of two teenagers who had broken into his home. The Associated Press reports it took jurors only three hours to decide Byron Smith, 65, was not acting in self-defense when he fired nine shots at the intruders.

Smith shot and killed Nick Brady, 17, and Brady’s cousin, 18-year-old Haile Kifer, on Thanksgiving Day 2012, after the two broke a bedroom window and entered his home.

Smith’s attorney, Steve Meshbesher, said the elderly man feared for his safety after numerous break-ins at his home. Prosecutors disagreed, arguing instead that the killings were the result of an elaborate plan.

Prosecutor Pete Orput said in his closing arguments that Smith set a trap by first moving his truck to make it appear as though we was not home. According to Orput, Smith then situated himself in a chair between two bookshelves at the bottom of his basement stairs. He had with him a rifle, a .22 caliber handgun, energy bars and bottled water. He then waited for the teens to to enter his home so he could kill them.

“Some of you hunters will think this sounds like deer hunting,” Orput told the jury according to Minnesota’s Star Tribune. He said the scene was akin to a “deer stand.”

Smith also had with him that day a voice recorder that he set up on the bookshelves to record the killings. The recordings were played for the jury during the trial. In them jurors could hear Smith taunt the teens, once telling Kifer after he shot her, “you’re dying.” A few moments later the final shot of the episode can be heard. It was a shot delivered to Kifer’s head that Smith described to investigators as a “good, clean finishing shot.”

The case raised questions across Minnesota and the country about how far a person could go to protect his or her home. 

Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel, who was involved in the investigation, told reporters that the case was about limits to self defense not whether someone had the right to protect personal property. 

“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,” Wetzel said. “Rather, this was a case about where the limits are, before and after a threat to you or your home occurs.

Smith was sentenced after the verdict was delivered to a mandatory term of life in prison. 

His attorney said he plans to appeal the verdict.

Sources: Associated Press, Star Tribune