Criminal Justice

Minnesota man accused of shooting teen burglars is indicted on first-degree murder charges

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A retired State Department employee has been indicted on two charges of first-degree murder based on accusations he fatally shot two teens who broke into his home.

Prosecutors announced the charges against Byron Smith, 64, of Little Falls, Minn., on Thursday, report the Associated Press, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and MPR News. Smith is accused of killing cousins Nicholas Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, on Thanksgiving Day.

Smith had set up security systems for embassies in his State Department job; his security videotape had recorded the teens breaking into the home and his audio tape recorded his words during the shooting, prosecutors said at a December hearing summarized by the Star Tribune. On the tape, Smith told Brady “you’re dead” after he was shot, and he taunted Kifer and called her a “bitch” as he shot her several times, prosecutors alleged.

After the shootings, prosecutors say, Smith dragged the bodies to his workshop and waited until the next day to report the incident. According to the criminal complaint, he told authorities he fired “more shots than I needed to” and he fired “a good clean finishing shot” into Kifer’s head as she was gasping for air, MPR News says.

Smith’s lawyers say their client feared the teens had a gun and acted in self defense. Court documents indicate Brady was involved in at least two previous burglaries at Smith’s property, according to the MPR News account. Minnesota law allows the use of deadly force to prevent a felony from taking place in a person’s home.

Smith was initially charged with second-degree murder in the Thanksgiving shootings. A grand jury indictment is required in cases of first-degree murder in the state, according to AP. He has been free on $50,000 bond since December. A judge on Thursday refused to increase the bond to $2 million.

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