State rests its case in Little Falls murder trial
By Sarah Nelson Katzenberger, Forum News Service
LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — State prosecutors rested their case Thursday against the man charged with murder in the shooting deaths of two teens in his rural Little Falls home, and the defense began with testimony about break-ins at his home.
Byron Smith is being tried in Morrison County on first-degree murder charges in the shooting deaths of Nick Brady and Haile Kifer on Thanksgiving Day 2012.
Smith has admitted shooting the two teenagers after he says they broke into his house. But Smith, who told investigators he lived in fear in his own home, did not immediately report the shootings, waiting until the next day to call a neighbor, while the teens lay dead in his basement.
Family members of the teens covered their faces and wiped away tears as Ramsey County Medical Examiner Kelly Mills testified for the prosecution Thursday.
Mills conducted autopsies on Brady and Kifer and described the gunshot wounds suffered by the teens, with her testimony accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation of photos of their injuries.
Mills said the first gunshot entered through the back of Brady’s right hand, exited his right palm and re-entered Brady in the right temple. Mills said the shot, taken from between 6 inches and 3 feet away, would have been immediately fatal.
Brady also suffered two other gunshot wounds, both of which “would have been fatal had Mr. Brady lived long enough,” she said.
Mills described five wounds suffered by Kifer, calling the second shot, which wounded Kifer behind the left ear, consistent with close firing range.
“This is a fatal shot,” Mills testified.
Mills said toxicology tests were conducted on both Brady and Kifer. Brady tested negative for drugs and alcohol. Kifer tested negative for alcohol, but Mills said urine samples from Kifer tested positive for a cough suppressant substance called Dextromethorphan and a marijuana metabolite. Mills said the metabolite did not contain hallucinogenic material.
At the completion of the state’s case, defense attorney Steven Meshbesher asked the court to find Smith not guilty.
The defense’s motion was denied.
The defense called Morrison County sheriff’s deputy Jamie Luberts as its first witness. Luberts testified to a burglary reported by Byron Smith on Oct. 27, 2012, about a month before the fatal shootings.
Luberts confirmed that Smith reported firearms were taken from his home on Oct. 27. Luberts said Smith told him Oct. 27 was the second time he had been broken into, and reported several more burglaries with property taken from his home, including firearms.
Smith told Luberts he had chained off the driveway to his property in an effort to keep cars off the driveway “as a response to the burglaries.”
Photos from the Oct. 27 report showed an exterior door panel damaged with evidence of a forced entry. Smith reported to Luberts that the door’s deadbolt was unlocked and his house had been “gone through.”
Luberts said he followed up with Smith 20 days after the reported burglary, but had no leads on suspects in the burglary.
“The suspects were still at large,” Meshbesher said. “Neither you or Mr. Smith knew who those suspects were.”
The court recessed during Luberts’ testimony. Luberts will return to the stand today.