LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (WCCO) — On Tuesday, a Little Falls, Minn. man was sentenced to life in prison without parole after he shot and killed two teenagers who broke into his home.
Now that Byron Smith has been convicted of murder, the evidence that was used in his trial is being released. Much of it is too graphic or disturbing to be shown on TV.
But we can show you some of the items that convinced the jury that Smith murdered 17-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer when they broke into his home Thanksgiving Day of 2012.
Photos taken by investigators show an elaborate set-up of surveillance cameras set up outside Smith’s Little Falls home. It was those cameras that captured images of Kifer and Brady breaking into the bedroom window.
But it was the sound captured by digital recorders — recorders strategically placed throughout the home by Smith — that served as an ear witness to the shootings.
Smith can be heard talking to himself, breathing heavily and talking to Brady and Kifer after he shot them as they entered the basement of his home.
“I’m sorry, so much grief,” Smith whispers at one part of the audio recording.
Photos of the chair, placed between two bookshelves, shows where Smith sat and waited for the teens, with two loaded weapons — a revolver and a rifle. Water, snacks and a novel were also close by.
“It’s all fun, cool, exciting, highly profitable, until somebody kills you,” Smith can be heard whispering on the audio recording.
The combination of audio and photos gave the jurors what they needed to conclude this was not a homeowner surprised by intruders, but a man who planned for a violent confrontation.
“Because I try to be a decent person, they think I’m a patsy, I’m a sucker. They think I’m there for them to take advantage of — is that the reward for being a good person?” Smith whispers in the recording.
Smith’s lawyer, Steve Meshbesher, told WCCO Radio’s John Hines Wednesday that Smith installed the surveillance cameras at his home after previous break-ins and a suggestion from the sheriff. He said Smith set up the audio recorders because he was afraid of being killed and thought, if that were to happen, he’d have evidence of his death.
Meshbesher said there is “a lot” of evidence that was left out of the trial, including Brady’s best friend who would’ve testified about previous burglaries at Smith’s home where Brady allegedly stole Smith’s medals from Vietnam.
The Little Falls community has been following the trial since the beginning and says now that a verdict has been reached, they can start to move on. Still, they say it will take a while for this close-knit community to get back to normal.
“There is justice,” said resident Jarrod Kay. “I hope the parents of the victims can rest now.”
Jury members are moving on too. But juror Evelyn Mrosla said the evidence she heard during the trial still haunts her.
“It’s no longer a movie, you know. It’s reality that you’re hearing,” Mrosla said. “And as a grandparent and a parent, it’s something you don’t want to hear or even listen to.”
Mrosla and other jurors were shown dozens of pictures of evidence, including the chair where Smith was sitting in when his home was broken into.
She says the audio recordings of Smith shooting the teenagers were difficult for everyone to hear. But the 73-year-old grandmother believes it’s what Smith did with his truck that convinced her he baited the teens.
“To move the vehicle and then come home and sit, you know, I guess that was kind of a dead giveaway according to most of the jurors,” she said.
Mrosla said the jury worked hard to get the verdict right, but she thinks no one wins when lives are lost.
“He’s just as good as dead because, you know, his life has been taken away from him too,” Mrosla said. “And all because of poor judgment on both parts I’d guess you say.”
Smith will spend the rest of his life behind bars, but attorney Steve Meshbesher says they plan to appeal.