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Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel discusses details from the shootings at th

Little Falls shooting: Shooting victims may have links to other break-ins

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Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel confirmed Wednesday that a red Mitsubishi Eclipse seized after the shooting deaths of Haile Kifer and Nicholas Brady contained items reported stolen in a separate burglary days prior to the shooting.

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And the homeowner of that separate burglary, Richard Johnson of rural Little Falls, commented on how he came to realize that what he at first thought might be a prank was linked to the two shooting victims.

Wetzel said Morrison County Sheriff’s Deputies made contact with Nicholas Brady around 9:25 p.m. on Nov. 21 after a homeowner in Little Falls Township reported a suspicious vehicle parked near the end of his driveway.

Brady told deputies that he and Haile Kifer were driving the vehicle when it ran out of gas. Brady told the deputies that Kifer had gone to get more gas for the vehicle. Deputies gave Brady a ride to the city of Little Falls, leaving the car at its location on Hilton Road in Little Falls Township.

On Nov. 25, Little Falls Township resident Richard Johnson contacted the Morrison County Sheriff’s Department to report a burglary of his home. Johnson had been out of town for more than a week and a friend had discovered Johnson’s home, near Hilton Road, had been burglarized while checking on the home during Johnson’s absence.

Johnson reported numerous missing items from the home including several bottles of prescription medication.

Morrison County sheriff’s deputies reported finding six bottles of prescription drugs in the red Mitsubishi Eclipse.

All six bottles were prescribed to rural Little Falls resident Richard Johnson.

Johnson said in a phone interview Wednesday that he was vacationing in Spain at the time his home was burglarized. Johnson said upon arriving home Sunday he found drawers pulled out and items strewn around the house. “I thought it was a joke at first,” Johnson said.

It wasn’t until he found broken glass from the slider door in his library that he knew it was more than an innocent prank.

Even after reporting the break-in, Johnson said it took a few days, to piece together that the break-in at his house was linked to the suspicious vehicle reported, and ultimately that it was linked to Nicholas Brady and Haile Kifer in his home.

Johnson, a retired teacher, said he did not know Brady or Kifer, but did know of their families, as he taught Kifer’s brother at one point and also lives just a few houses away from the Kifer family. He learned of the murders on his way back from the airport Sunday.

“The whole thing is so tragic,” Johnson said. “(Brady and Kifer) are dead, and (Smith’s) life is ruined.”

Johnson said he has a repairman scheduled to come by to fix the damage.

“I’m going to recover,” he said. “For me, life will go back to normal.”

Years of teaching taught Johnson that lots of kids struggle with poor choices like the alleged ones that troubled Brady and Kifer, but he said most found their way again. “There’s always a few kids that just get devastated by it,” Johnson said. “It’s tragic — it’s just so sad.”

Though compassionate, Johnson did not downplay the allegations the Brady and Kifer had voluntarily entered Smith’s home — or his own for that matter.

“They were breaking the law,” he said. “If they hadn’t done it, they’d be alive.”

The Morrison County Sheriff’s Department had no further comment on other items in the vehicle, but maintained the investigation of the Thanksgiving Day shootings and the events leading up to them was still under way.

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

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