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State rests its case against Byron Smith; Defense motion for acquittal denied

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LITTLE FALLS — After calling their final witness, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) forensic scientist Nathaniel Pearlson, state prosecutors rested their case against Byron Smith in Morrison County Thursday.

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Smith is on trial for murder in the shooting deaths of Nick Brady and Haile Kifer on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

Pearlson returned to the stand after giving testimony Tuesday and Wednesday in regard to his findings in the personal effects of Brady and Kifer, including their clothes and shoes.

Pearlson previously testified to the results of testing conducted to determine the distance from which Byron Smith of rural Little Falls fired his guns at Brady and Kifer.

Pearlson testified Thursday that he was in the basement workroom of Smith’s home where the bodies of Brady and Kifer were found. Pearlson said he saw Agent Chad Museus test a land line telephone in the workroom and carry on a conversation with someone on the other end of the line.

Pearlson said Museus told the person “he was just checking to make sure the phone was functional and capable of making that call.”

Museus previously testified that he made a 911 call to determine if the phone was working.

At the completion of the state’s case, defense attorney Steven Meshbesher asked the court to acquit Smith of the indictment against him and find him not guilty.

The defense’s motion was denied.

The defense called Morrison County sheriff’s deputy Jamie Luberts as its first witness. Luberts testified to an Oct. 27, 2012 burglary reported by Byron Smith. Luberts responded to Smith’s home to take a report.

Photographic evidence was presented showing an exterior door panel damaged with evidence of a forced entry. Smith reported to Luberts that the door’s deadbolt was unlocked and his house had been “gone through.”

Meshbesher said a shoe print was found on the damaged door panel consistent with tread from an athletic shoe, adding that athletic shoes were recovered from Smith’s home following the shooting of Brady and Kifer.

Luberts said fingerprints were not retrieved from the door, but fingerprints were obtained from a night stand in Smith’s bedroom.

Luberts was unsure whether the prints were further investigated.

Photographic evidence also showed a handprint on top of a box found in Smith’s bedroom. Luberts said the print was not lifted because it was not “worthwhile.”

Luberts said he followed up with Smith 20 days after the reported burglary, but had no leads on suspects in the burglary.

“The suspects were still at large,” Meshbesher said. “Neither you or Mr. Smith knew who those suspects were.”

Luberts confirmed that Smith reported firearms were taken from his home on Oct. 27. Luberts said Smith told him Oct. 27 was the second time he had been broken into, and reported several more burglaries with property taken from his home, including firearms.

Luberts testified that Smith submitted a report documenting a break-in at a property owned by Smith adjacent to his home.

It was reported that a screen door was torn off the property’s breezeway door.

Smith told Luberts he had chained off the driveway to his property in an effort to keep cars off the driveway “as a response to the burglaries.”

The court recessed during Luberts’ testimony. Luberts will return to the stand Friday.

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

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