Little Falls man indicted on 1st-degree murder in teens' deaths - KMSP-TV

Little Falls gunman indicted on first-degree murder in teens' deaths

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Byron Smith Byron Smith
Haile Kifer, 18; Nick Brady, 17 Haile Kifer, 18; Nick Brady, 17
LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (KMSP) -

On Thursday, a grand jury decided the 64-year-old Little Falls homeowner who admitted to shooting and killing two teenaged cousins on Thanksgiving Day will face first-degree premeditated murder charges at trial.

The Morrison County grand jury handed down a sealed indictment on Wednesday, upgrading the two murder charges Byron Smith faces in the shooting deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nicholas Brady.

Each count carries a penalty of life in prison without parole, according to Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, whose office is handling the case due to a conflict of interest with the Morrison County Attorney's Office.

"We thank the grand jury for their hard work in giving great consideration to the evidence presented and rendering a very considered decision," Orput said. "We look forward to proving this case before a Morrison County jury and bringing justice to these two high school students whose lives were so violently and prematurely ended."

Authorities have described the double shooting as an "ambush style killing," saying Smith waited to shoot the pair after they broke in and even recorded the entire ordeal.

Under Minnesota law, a homeowner can use deadly force on an intruder if a reasonable person believes the intruder intends to inflict harm. Smith told investigators he was afraid the teens might have a weapon, but prosecutors say he went too far.

"The law doesn't permit you to execute someone once the threat is gone," said Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel. "When it becomes clear there's no threat to you, and a felony can't be committed in your home, you no longer have the right to shoot someone."

On Thursday, Smith made his initial appearance on the indictment before Judge Doug Anderson. Although Orput requested bail be restored to $2 million due to the nature of the offense and potential penalties, Anderson kept bail at $50,000 with conditions.

In December, Smith posted his $50,000 bail and was released from jail. He surrendered his passport at that time.

An omnibus hearing has been set for 10 a.m. on July 1.

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