Little Falls Murder Trial Goes to Jury

Updated: 04/29/2014 12:14 PM By: Megan Stewart

Byron Smith, center, comes out of a Morrison County courtroom in Little Falls, Minn., Monday.
Byron Smith, center, comes out of a Morrison County courtroom in Little Falls, Minn., Monday.
Photo: Photo: AP/St. Cloud Times

Closing arguments are over in the case against a Little Falls man charged with fatally shooting two teenagers who broke into his home on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

The fate of 65-year-old Byron Smith is now in the jury's hands.

Smith is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady. The retired U.S. State Department security officer told investigators he was defending himself when he shot the two cousins in his basement because he feared for his life after several break-ins.

Jurors are to decide on four counts, including two first-degree murder charges, which means Smith not only planned, but intended to kill.

Jurors could also decide on lesser charges of second-degree murder, meaning Smith intended to kill the teens, but it wasn't premeditated.

Prosecutor Pete Orput told jurors in his closing argument the killings were premeditated. He said the way Smith set himself up in his basement that day was almost like deer hunting, with the chair Smith sat in like a deer stand.
Smith shot the unarmed teens a total of nine times as they descended the stairs into his basement.

Smith cried after the prosecution replayed his personal audio recording of the shootings during its argument Tuesday morning.

Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher argued people are meant to feel safe in homes and Smith was a victim of a burglary.

Meshbesher said it's reasonable to infer when Kifer heard gunshots, she thought Brady shot the homeowner and not other way around.

It was the teens who decided to break into Smith's home and Smith didn't even know who they were, Meshbesher said.

Jurors will be sequestered at a nearby hotel until they reach a verdict.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.