A Minnesota man who shot and killed two teenage burglars in his home told himself afterwards, “I don’t see them as human, I see them as vermin.”
Byron Smith, 65, is on trial for the shooting deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady. The shootings occurred Thanksgiving Day in 2012 after the teens broke a bedroom window and entered Smith’s home.
Prosecutor Brent Wartner told jurors Monday during his opening statements that Smith was lying in wait for the burglars and killing them in his home amounted to first first-degree premeditated murder. An Associated Press story indicated that deadly force is permitted under Minnesota law to protect one’s home or dwelling, but Wartner believes Smith went too far.
"He's down in the basement, in a chair, tucked between two bookcases at the bottom of the stairs … with his Mini-14, a .22-caliber revolver, some energy bars and a bottle of water," Wartner said, adding that Smith was calmly reading a book while he waited.
Smith also had a tape recorder with him that day. He recorded the killings as well as his own thoughts in the aftermath. Jurors heard excerpts from the recording Wednesday. According to the Minnesota Star Tribune Smith can be heard saying “I was doing my civic duty.”
He continued, “I feel a little bit safer. Not totally safe, I’m still shaking a bit.”
Smith’s attorney, Steve Meshbesher, claimed Smith was justified in the shootings.
"He became frightened and scared to live in his own home," he told jurors Monday. "He began to wear a holster and pistol in his own house. That is how afraid he is, and became.”
Court documents show that Brady had burglarized Smith’s home at least twice in the months before he was killed.
Recordings of a police interview with Smith indicate that he killed Kifer after she no longer posed any threat. Smith told police, in a separate recording that was played for jurors, he tried to “finish her off” after shooting her once but his rifle jammed.
"I just pulled out the 22 and I shot her," he is heard saying. "I did a good, clean finishing shot and she gave out the death twitch.”
A forensic scientist testified that two gun shots to Kifer’s head came from 0 to 12 inches away based on powder residue analysis.
In the recording he made after killing Kifer, Smith is heard saying, “Cute. I’m sure she thought she was a real pro.”
Testimony is scheduled to resume Thursday.