Overkill Or Self Defense Against Teen Burglars?

[Little Falls, Minnesota]

Byron Smith had been experiencing a string of break-ins in his home. A few of the items that were stolen were his father’s Rolex, thousands of dollars in coins from collecting them, cash, a camera, a chainsaw, military awards, and guns. Byron became so paranoid to live in his home alone that he started carrying a gun on him at all times and installed a security system.

On November 22nd, 2012 Nick Brady (17) and his cousin Haile Kifer (18) were riding around on Thanksgiving Day.

Around the same time, Byron devised a plan to finally catch the intruders that had violated his house for so long. He moved his car out of his driveway to make it look like he was not home. However, Byron told the court he moved his car because he was scared of his car being vandalized next. Once he returned to his house by walking, he went down to his basement where he had two loaded guns. He pulled up a comfy chair to sit in, got a few energy bars, a water bottle, and began recording on a tape recorder.

At 12:33pm, Nick Brady officially fell for the trap. He was shown on Byron’s surveillance footage peering into the windows. A minute later, Nick noticed one of the cameras so he covered his face and moved it down.

Nick then shattered a glass window to gain entry into the home.

On the tape recordings, footsteps are heard making their way down the stairs followed by two shots. Nick tumbled down multiple stairs and Byron greeted him at the bottom with one last shot. Then he hovered over Nick’s body and said “you’re dead!” The audio recording revealed that Byron moved Nick’s body onto a plastic tarp that he claimed was there for firewood. He used the tarp to help drag Nick’s body into another room before he returned to his chair and reloaded his gun.

At 12:51pm, Haile Kifer climbed through the broken window to locate Nick. The audio recording captured Haile walking down the basement steps where she was shot one time.

Haile stumbled down the stairs alive, but injured. Byron walked over to her and tried to shoot her again, but his gun jammed. He condescendingly said “oh sorry about that” while switching to his second gun and reloading. At this point, Haile was crying, begging for her life, and apologizing, but Byron didn’t hesitate to shoot her 5 more times. As he was unloading bullets into her body, he was yelling “you’re dying you’re dying!” After the final shot rang out, he stood over her and called her a bitch. Even after all of the shots, Haile was still clinging to life, so Byron placed the gun under her chin and fired one last time to ensure she was dead. He told police that he just wanted a “clean finishing shot to finish her off.”

After killing the teens, he changed his bloody pants and stuffed them behind a shelf. In addition, he took Nick’s shoes off and stuffed them under a chair followed by placing the murder weapons in different closets within the house. Byron talked to his tape recorder saying he felt a little safer now and refused to live in fear. He also said things like “I don’t see them as human I see them as varmen” as well as, “She thought she was a real pro didn’t she? She was going through her life ruining things for other people.” Instead of contacting the police, Byron waited a full day before reaching out to his neighbor, Bill Anderson. He told Bill that he needed a lawyer and to call the police for him. In his words, “I blew the top off these break-ins.”

When police asked him why he didn’t call them, he said that he was in shock and didn’t want to bother law enforcement on Thanksgiving. Byron explained that after realizing he killed them, he just sat down, frozen for hours. However, the audio recording contradicts his version of events and revealed that he did not hesitate to check for a pulse on their necks, move their bodies, and clean himself up.

Smith was found guilty on two counts of first degree murder with premeditation and on two counts of second-degree murder after three hours of jury deliberations. He was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The audio recordings were named by the jurors as the biggest influence on their decision. Wes Hatlestad, one of 12 jurors, said, “That audio recording of the actual killings and the audio recording of Mr. Smith’s interview immediately after his arrest … pretty much convinced me that we were dealing with a deranged individual.”

22. Sociology & Criminal Justice Major. True Crime Fanatic. Writer. All articles are tossed together from the comfort of my couch.