Updated: 04/24/2014 8:43 PM KSTP.com By: Beth McDonough
Photo: Photo: KSTP/File
An 18-year-old woman who was fatally shot by a Minnesota homeowner was high on cough syrup and marijuana when she and her cousin broke into the man's home, a medical examiner testified Thursday at the homeowner's murder trial.
Byron Smith, of Little Falls, is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of Haile Kifer and Kifer's cousin, 17-year-old Nick Brady, on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Smith, 65, claimed he was defending himself and feared for his life after several break-ins at his home.
The killings stunned Little Falls, a central Minnesota community of 8,000, and stirred debate about how far people can go to defend their homes. Under Minnesota law, a person may use deadly force to prevent a felony from taking place in one's home or dwelling. But authorities have said Smith planned the killings, sitting in his basement and waiting for the teens to enter his home, and then continuing to shoot them after they were no longer a threat.
Under cross-examination by the defense, Dr. Kelly Mills with the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office said Kifer had an ingredient from cough medicine in her system at a level that would make her intoxicated. Mills said the drug, dextromethorphan, can cause hallucinations, disassociation and an out-of-body experience.
Kifer's toxicology tests also showed the presence of a marijuana metabolite that Mills says had no hallucinogenic effects. Brady had no drugs or alcohol in his system, Mills said.
The question of possible drug use became an issue after the killings as Smith's friends claimed the teens were high on drugs, and authorities said a car linked to Brady and Kifer contained prescription drugs that had been stolen from another house. However, those drugs won't be allowed as evidence in court.
Prosecutors showed jurors autopsy photos as Smith's trial entered its fourth day. Mills testified that Brady was shot three times, Kifer six times. The final shot to Brady, which went through his hand and into his right temple, was the "most immediate fatal," Mills said. She described it as a close-range shot.
Kifer also was shot in the head at close range, Mills testified. She said the shot that killed Kifer, the fifth fired by Smith, was a close-range shot behind her left ear. The autopsy photos showed bloody bodies with burn marks from the gunfire.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Steven Meshbesher pointed out that before the fatal shots, both Kifer and Brady would have been able to move and could have been perceived as threats.
The prosecution rested its case about 3 p.m. and the defense started trying to make sure the self-defense argument holds up.
Earlier this week, prosecutors played for jurors an audio recording Smith made of the shootings. The tape was presented to jurors as a sequence of events, but defense attorneys raised questions about the recording on cross-examination, noting it had been spliced and altered, and some key pieces of information were left out.
Testimony is expected to resume at 9 a.m. Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.