Neighbor: Minnesota Man Fearful After Burglaries
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LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) — A sheriff’s deputy testifying in the trial of a Minnesota man who killed two teens when they broke into his house on Thanksgiving Day 2012 testified Friday that the homeowner had told him just weeks earlier that he wanted to catch the people who had been burglarizing his home.
Morrison County Sheriff’s Deputy Jamie Luberts said he told Bryon Smith, of Little Falls, that if he happened to catch anyone, he should call authorities immediately, the Star Tribune reported.
Weeks later, Smith, 65, shot 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady. He is on trial on charges of first-degree premeditated murder. Smith claims he was defending himself and feared for his life after several break-ins, but prosecutors say he waited for the teens, then went too far when he continued to shoot them after they were no longer a threat. Smith waited until the following day to ask a neighbor to call authorities.
Neighbor William Anderson testified that Smith came to his door after an Oct. 27 burglary appearing “severely” frightened. Anderson testified that Smith told him that burglary was “number five or six.”
The day after the shootings, Smith called Anderson, asking him to find him a lawyer. Anderson then alerted authorities.
Brian-Paul Klein Crowder, a town alderman and hair stylist, testified that he stopped by Smith’s house the Saturday before the shootings and saw fear. Smith told Crowder he was worried because he had been broken into so many times, Crowder testified.
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.
The trial is also gaining more public interest, as there was a waiting list Friday for members of the general public who hoped to get into the packed courtroom.
Sheriff Michel Wetzel also testified Friday, as defense attorneys asked him about a gun that had been stolen from Smith in a prior burglary.
The St. Cloud Times reported that Wetzel said he met someone after the shootings who told him where to find the shotgun. Wetzel recovered the gun seven days after the teens were killed.
Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher told reporters outside the courtroom that he wanted to show jurors that Smith feared the person who took the high-powered shotgun would come back and use it against him.
Both teens were unarmed at the time of their deaths.
According to a criminal complaint and court testimony, Smith told authorities he was in his basement that Thanksgiving Day when he heard a window break upstairs and heard footsteps in his house. He saw Brady coming down the basement stairwell, and shot him three times. He then put Brady’s body on a tarp and dragged it into his workshop, and sat back down.
Kifer came down the stairs about 10 minutes later and he shot her too, and put her body in the workshop. The next day, he asked a neighbor to call authorities.
Closing arguments are expected early next week.
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