UPDATE: Little Falls Man Charged in Fatal Shootings [AUDIO]
LITTLE FALLS – A Little Falls man has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two teenagers he says broke into his home.
Sixty-four year old Byron Smith was charged in Morrison County Court this (Monday) morning. He has admitted to shooting and killing 17-year-old Nicholas Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer in his basement, as they were coming down the stairs.
According to the criminal complaint, Smith says the break-in happened at about noon on Thanksgiving Day. When he heard someone coming into his house, he went down to the basement and armed himself with a pistol and a rifle. He fired the rifle when he saw Brady coming down the stairs. His body fell to the bottom of the stairs, and Smith fired several more times. He then moved the body to another room. A few minutes later, Kifer came down the stairs and Smith shot her. When her body fell to the bottom of the stairs, he shot her several times as well.
He says he was defending himself, and his home. But, Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel says Smith went beyond what the law allows.
The shootings happened on Thanksgiving Day. The neighbor called the sheriff’s department on Friday, after Smith told him he needed a lawyer.
Morrison County Attorney Brian Middendorf says it’s a complicated case.
Smith’s best friend, John Lang, says he doesn’t believe Smith should be charged.
Sana Kennedy is a family friend of the victims. She says Smith went too far.
Wetzel says Smith told them he didn’t call authorities right away because “it was Thanksgiving and he didn’t want to bother police on a holiday”.
Sheriff Wetzel says he does believe the two teens were in the home with the intent to commit burglary. Smith’s home was also broken into on October 27th.
Bail for Smith has been set at $2 million. His next court date has not been set yet.
Meanwhile, Little Falls and Pillager schools made counselors available today (Monday) for students and staff trying to cope with the shooting deaths of two cousins.
Classes in the Little Falls school district don’t resume until Tuesday, so Superintendent Stephen Jones says only a few people met with counselors Monday. But he says he expects a “vastly different situation” Tuesday when students return.
Haile Kifer was a senior at Little Falls High School. Jones says he hopes students take advantage of the counseling services Tuesday because it means the kids will be ready to get their feelings out.
Classes were back in session Monday at Pillager High School, where Nicholas Brady was a student. Superintendent Chuck Arns says a few students sought help from school counselors and local clergy members there Monday morning.
Extended Comments from Wetzel and Middendorf at today’s news conference: