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Defense witnesses testify they saw fear in Byron Smith in days before shooting

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Defense witnesses testify they saw fear in Byron Smith in days before shooting
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

LITTLE FALLS — Witnesses for the defense attested Friday to fear observed in Byron Smith in the days before the Thanksgiving Day 2012 shooting of Nick Brady and Haile Kifer in Smith’s rural Little Falls home.

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Smith is currently on trial for the murder of the teens.

Smith’s neighbor, William Anderson, took the stand for the second time and told the court he has known Smith for 40 years. Anderson said he knew Smith’s parents well and helped take care of Smith’s mother — buying her groceries and cutting her grass — in the years Smith was away.

Anderson testified that Smith informed him of the Oct. 27, 2012, burglary of his residence. Anderson said he was reading the paper at his home when he heard a knock at the door.

“It was Byron (Smith),” he said. “He looked like he hadn’t slept at all.”

Defense attorney Steven Meshbesher asked Anderson if Smith looked afraid. “Severely,” Anderson answered.

Anderson said Smith called him the day after the shooting and asked Anderson to help him find an attorney, but because of the Thanksgiving holiday he could not reach an attorney.

Smith then asked Anderson to contact the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office and get in touch with the investigator who looked into the Oct. 27 burglary.

Prosecutors questioned Anderson over a comment made during a discussion of the burglaries between Anderson and Smith: “The dog will come to the dish again I know this isn’t over yet.”

Smith is heard making a similar comment on an audio recording of his interview with sheriff’s deputy Jeremy Luberts following Smith’s arrest.

Anderson told the court it was not Smith who made the dog and dish comment during the conversation, but Anderson. “I think I’m the person who made that statement,” Anderson said.

Assistant state prosecutor Kurt Wartner told Anderson his testimony contradicted what Anderson told investigators in interviews following the shooting.

Little Falls business owner, and Little Falls Alderman-at-large Brian-Paul Crowder testified that he too observed fear in Smith when he met him at his home the Saturday before the shooting.

Crowder said he and his mother visited Smith’s home to discuss cemetery deeds owned by Smith’s parents. “(Smith) wanted to know how he could have the deeds transferred into his name,” Crowder said.

Crowder testified he rang the doorbell of Smith’s home and got no answer.

When he knocked Smith came to the door.

“He was quite ... quite — he looked very afraid,” Crowder said, adding that he introduced himself and reminded Smith of their previous conversation.

“Then he looked relieved.”

Crowder said he was in Park Rapids when he learned of the Thanksgiving Day shooting. “All the papers had this about Byron Smith — that he allegedly had all these break-ins,” Crowder said.

The state had no questions for Crowder.

Crowder’s testimony followed nearly four hours of recess of the court due to a witness who could not appear until after the lunch recess. It was not clear which witness was unavailable to appear.

Private investigator Ross Rolshoven ended Friday’s testimony for the defense with testimony of his investigation of Smith’s home following the shooting.

Rolshoven testified with a tour of photos taken of Smith’s property weeks after the shooting occurred.

Nearly 100 photos showed different locations around 13-acre property, including the northwest window that was allegedly broken by Brady and Kifer to gain access to Smith home, the basement door with its broken panel that was allegedly broken in the Oct. 27 burglary incident and the staircase descending into Smith’s basement.

Photos also showed various sound systems, sound amplifiers, and computer equipment throughout Smith’s home, as well as security cameras around the exterior of Smith’s home.

Defense testimony will continue Monday in the Smith trial.

It remains unclear whether Smith will take the witness stand.

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

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