Posted at: 11/27/2012 5:26 PM
Updated at: 12/01/2012 5:14 PM
By: Scott Theisen
Hundreds of mourners packed into a Minnesota church Saturday to remember two teenage cousins who were shot to death during an alleged home burglary on Thanksgiving.
People lined the hallways and even sat on the floor Living Hope Assembly of God Church in Little Falls, while others gathered in an overflow where the proceedings were broadcast by video.
Friends and classmates remembered Haile Kifer and Nicholas Brady as sweet and fun-loving, and said regardless of what they were doing when they were shot, they still should be alive.
"They shouldn't have been doing what they were doing, but they definitely didn't deserve this," said Tiffany Kostohryz, a friend of Brady's family.
Kifer and Brady were shot to death in the home of 64-year-old Byron Smith, who has been charged with second-degree murder. He told investigators he shot the unarmed teens multiple times after they broke into his house.
Minnesota law gives homeowners the right to protect themselves and their property, but authorities said they don't have the right to execute an intruder once any threat is neutralized.
Many people who attended the funerals were still overcome with emotion, as some students yelled at reporters standing near the church or refused to comment. Some wore shirts printed with the teens' photos.
"He was friends with everybody," classmate Shania Morawczynski said of Brady. "It's been really sad. A lot of people want to know what happened."
The day seemed surreal for 17-year-old Carrin Long, who had been friends with Brady since fifth grade. She said she never imagined she'd see Brady in casket.
"He was a sweet guy," Long said. "When I found out that Nick died I didn't know what to do. In a town like this, this stuff doesn't happen."
Byron Smith retired six years ago from his position as a security engineer for the U.S. Department of State. He told investigators his home had been broken into several times before.
A car linked to the cousins contained prescription drugs stolen from another house, police have said.
Youth pastor Sam Muhlbauer, who knew Brady from church, tried to comfort teens who are grieving because of the deaths.
"It's important we talk and find these people to connect those shared memories and not bottle up the emotions of what's going on," he said. "It's brought us together. People are really rallying around each other."
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