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No. 1 - Little Falls man shoots teens in his home

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Tragedy seems to run a little deeper when it affects a small town.

On Thanksgiving Day Byron David Smith admittedly shot and killed teens Nicholas Brady and Haile Kifer as the pair allegedly attempted to burglarize Smith’s rural Little Falls home.

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It wasn’t until the day after the shooting when Morrison County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call for suspicious activity at Smith’s home that Smith reported the Thanksgiving Day shooting.

Smith kept the teens’ bodies in his basement overnight and told investigators he didn’t call sooner because he didn’t want to bother them on the holiday.

Smith was charged Nov. 26 with two counts of second-degree murder.

The incident launched a media frenzy forcing the stunned and grief-stricken town of 8,000 into the spotlight. The shooting sparked controversy as law enforcement, media and citizens alike questioned whether or not Smith was within his right to shoot the teens multiple times and also, as Smith himself told investigators, to take more shots than were needed.

Some voiced their support for Smith’s actions, some cried outrage in the death of the two teens, but most, stunned by the events, braced for a long, drawn-out aftermath of senseless tragedy. Morrison County Sheriff Michel Weztel said in news conference hours after Smith was charged that while Minnesota law protects a homeowner’s right to defend their property with deadly force, once it becomes a clear that a felony can no longer be committed, a person is no longer within their right to take a life. Wetzel said Smith’s actions went beyond what the law allows.

The lives of Brady, 17, and Kifer, 18, were remembered with a joint funeral service attended by more than 500 mourners. The two teens were cousins.

As the community of Little Falls copes with its grief, the investigation continues to unfold.

After requesting to have his bail amount reduced, Smith was released Dec. 18 from Morrison County jail and awaits trial.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at sarah.nelsonkatzenberger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5879.

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