WARNING: The following story contains quotes with profane language.
LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — One day after hearing a Minnesota homeowner’s taped confession of how and why he killed two teenagers, jurors Tuesday heard the actual shootings in a crystal-clear audio recording.
Byron Smith, 65, installed an elaborate surveillance system in his Little Falls home after a series of break-ins.
When 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady broke in on Thanksgiving Day 2012, he killed them both, by shooting each multiple times.
A 14-minute audio recording from Smith’s home surveillance system starts with the sounds of a broken window, then Brady’s footsteps descending the basement stairs.
After two quick rifle shots, the teenager is heard groaning. That’s when jurors heard a third gunshot as Smith fired into Brady’s face, saying “you’re dead.”
“It may show, or go to show, that factor of just how afraid he was,” said Kelly Moore, a criminal defense attorney with Groshek Law in Minneapolis.
She says the emotion-charged recording could be troubling for Smith’s defense, but adds that jurors will have to weigh it equally with all other evidence.
“Is it reasonable,” Moore said, “for someone to get to the point where they’re feeling more than fear – but anger? That they are being invaded in a spot that’s supposed to be the safest place on earth for them?”
Smith is then heard breathing heavily while reloading his Ruger mini-14 rifle with more cartridges.
About 10 minutes after Brady was shot, the recording picks up Kifer’s voice as she whispers for her cousin.
Again, a shot rings out, and she too tumbles down the stairs.
In a mocking voice, Smith is heard saying, “Oh, sorry about that.”
Kifer screams, “Oh my God, oh.”
At that point, Smith tells her “you’re dying.”
Using his .22-caliber revolver (his rifle jammed), Smith is heard shooting Kifer’s body repeatedly, saying “bitch.”
Jurors then heard what sounded like someone dragging a body on a tarp across the floor and into a basement workshop.
Prosecutors stopped playback of the recording after jurors heard what was presumably Smith putting one final shot into Kifer’s head. After the loud bang, they once again heard him say “bitch.”
The courtroom was silent except for a woman holding back sobs.
Also Tuesday, the judge denied a defense request to declare a mistrial, the St. Cloud Times reported.
Defense attorney Steven Meshbesher told Judge Douglas Anderson that the judge’s pretrial rulings about what jurors can’t hear about the teens have severely restricted his case.
The defense also objected to the prosecutor’s comment to a TV station that he would be willing to try the case in front of 12 board members of the National Rifle Association.
Anderson denied both mistrial motions but cautioned attorneys against discussing their opinions with the media.
Prosecutors said during opening statements Monday that Smith planned the killings and was waiting in his basement. Smith’s attorney said that his client was terrified after several increasingly violent break-ins and that Smith hid after he heard a window break and footsteps upstairs.
Smith is a retired security engineer for the U.S. Department of State. Kifer and Brady were were well-known in the community, and both were involved in sports.
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