Byron Smith's monologue revealed in audio recordings
LITTLE FALLS — Audio recordings captured conversations Byron Smith had alone in his home following the Thanksgiving Day 2012 shootings of Nick Brady and Haile Kifer.
Several law enforcement agents testified Wednesday that two digital recorders were recovered from Smith’s home. One found in the workroom space of Smith’s basement was found with dead batteries.
The second recorder was discovered on the top shelf of a bookshelf in Smith’s basement living room with six hours, 24 minutes and 58 seconds of audio recording from the day of the shooting.
The six hours of audio from the shootings and events that occurred before and after were condensed into a 29-minute audio presentation heard in a Morrison County coutroom Wednesday.
Jurors again heard the recording of the shooting, including the 11 minutes that passed between the time Smith shot and killed Brady in living room of his basement and the moment he shot Kifer.
To listen to the recording (29:20 min.)- click here [ CAUTION GRAPHIC ]
Smith was indicted on two counts of first-degree, premeditated murder in connection with the deaths of the two teens.
Prior to the recording of the shooting, Smith is heard talking in what appears to be an imaginary conversation with a person he identifies as Bruce.
Smith’s brother’s name is Bruce Smith.
“Stop by tomorrow, Bruce,” Smith is heard saying. “No rush, but as soon as it is convenient.”
Smith then goes on to tell “Bruce” to park north of the house and walk in from the west side.
Smith is also heard saying, “I realize I don’t have an appointment, but I would like to see one of the lawyers here.”
The next thing jurors hear is a repeat of the minutes that pass from the time Nick Brady enters Smith’s home, eventually descends the stairs to Smith’s basement and is shot several times. Finally Smith tells Brady, “You’re dead.”
Eleven minutes pass.
The initial criminal complaint documents that during this time Smith admitted to wrapping Brady’s body in a tarp and moving him to another room, before reloading his gun — facts consistent with what jurors heard on the audio recording.
Smith is then heard apparently breathing heavily, sitting down and standing up from his chair.
What appears to be the sound of Kifer entering the upper level of the home is also heard.
Kifer descends the stairs, a shot is fired and Kifer falls down the stairs. Smith’s gun audibly jams and Smith is heard saying, “Oh sorry about that.”
Kifer is heard saying what sounds like, “Oh my God ... I’m sorry,” before Smith shoots several more times and says, “You’re dying ... bitch.”
More rustling sounds are heard as Smith drags Kifer out of the basement living room.
In the time that elapsed over the several hours after the shooting, the audio-tape records Smith’s conversation while he remains alone in his basement. Smith first says: “Cute ... I’m sure she thought she was a real pro.” And later a continued imaginary phone call, “No rush but, you know, when it’s convenient for you. ... I feel a little safer. ... I feel totally safe. I’m still shaking a bit.”
Later Smith says: “I refuse to live in fear,” and “I left my house at 11:30 (a.m.), and they were dead by 1 (p.m.).”
Smith makes dozens of statements, some fully audible, some difficult to hear, about the shooting, about not wanting to live in fear and about the repercussions of entering into the home of a stranger.
“It’s all fun and cool and exciting and highly profitable until somebody kills you,” Smith said. “I was doing my civic duty. ... They messed with the wrong person, I had to do it.”
Smith makes several references to “the mess” left, calling it far worse than spilled food, vomit or other human waste.
“I don’t even see them as human,” Smith said at one point in the recording. “I see them as vermin.”
Smith is heard talking about the intruders taking “a slice” out of him.
“A $5,000 slice, a $10,000 slice,” he said. “If I gather enough evidence they may be prosecuted.”
Smith went on about going to court and, if the teens were found guilty, they might spend six months to a year in jail, “getting out” and “needing more money.”
“I cannot live a life like that,” he said. “I cannot have that chewing on me for the rest of my life.”
Twice Smith said, “I refuse to live with that level of fear in my life.”
Near the end of the recording Smith makes statements about it being fun until “you go too far.”
“Until you take advantage of somebody who’s not a sucker. Who’s not a pansy.”
At the end of the 29 minutes Smith is heard talking about receiving a death threat.
“I gave you a copy of a death threat,” he said. “I expect you to do something about it.”
The defense questioned the markers made in the audio recording and some of the sounds left out. Defense attorney Adam Johnson asked what was left out of the recording presented.
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Agent Janet Nelson told him there were sounds of footsteps, heavy breathing and long periods of silence.
“It added to the time and not the content of what was going on,” Nelson explained.
Johnson pointed out that sounds of heavy breathing indicated a person’s emotion.
The defense also questioned what Johnson called “the manipulation” of the audio recording.
Nelson confirmed increasing sounds “too soft to hear” enhanced parts of the recording.
Testimony also revealed BCA investigators discovered a cellphone jammer in the days after shooting.
BCA agent William Bennett told the court that the device, which he referred to as a “cellphone interrupter,” was discovered on the kitchen counter of Smith’s home.
Photos submitted as evidence showed the device, approximately the size of a cigarette box, near a window hidden behind what appeared to be a bottle of cooking oil.
Bennett said the device was high end; the kind that could block out both kinds of cellphone signals and block a phone from making or receiving calls.
“It would rendered a cellphone useless,” Bennett said.
Bennett told the court he turned the device on and attempted to use his own cellphone inside the house and then the phone of another agent. Neither phone worked.
Defense attorney Steven Meshbesher asked Bennett if the cellphone jammer was seized as evidence. It was not seized and not available in court as evidence. “I tested it on scene and it was doing its job,” Bennett said.
Meshbesher questioned the size of the device and whether it would have been difficult to catalog as evidence. Bennett said it would not have.
Video surveillance footage showed the final moments of Nick Brady and Haile Kifer’s lives before they entered Smith’s home.
Nelson narrated the four-camera video as it showed nearly 90 minutes worth of footage taken from surveillance cameras outside Smith’s home. Nelson said the recordings began at 11:25 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and continued until 12:53 p.m. the same day. Brady and Kifer are shown several minutes apart attempting to open doors and looking into windows on the lower level of Smith’s home. Both wore hoods over their heads. Kifer carried a large red bag.
At one point, Brady spots one of the four cameras hidden atop a wood pile and turns it so that the camera view is obscured.
Another camera view shows Kifer waiting just past the tree line on the north side of Smith’s property.
Brady is seen at 12:39 p.m. on the upper level of the home. “That’s the last we see of him on camera,” Nelson told the court.
The defense presented the same camera footage, but included footage recorded from Nov. 21-23, 2012 — the 24 hours before and after the shooting.
The footage appears to show Smith kneeling on the upper deck of his home and later walking out of the breezeway on the front of the house. At 11:08 a.m. on the day of the shooting, a person appears to be walking in the wooded area north of Smith’s home.
Later, Nick Brady appears in front of the upper deck camera and seems to point at the camera, something mentioned in Nelson’s testimony.
Johnson asked Nelson if she could see whether or not Brady had a firearm.
Nelson said she couldn’t tell.
“He could have had one in his jacket,” Johnson said. “Or more than one.”
Johnson focused on the large purse carried by Kifer asserting that she too could have had a weapon concealed.
No firearms were ever found on Brady or Kifer.
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5879.