LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) — Authorities who searched the home of a Minnesota man who shot and killed two teens testified Wednesday that they found an audio recorder that was turned on, an operating surveillance system and a cellphone jamming device.
Byron Smith, 65, of Little Falls, is on trial for first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady. Smith, a retired security engineer, claims he feared for his life and shot them in self-defense when they came into his house on Thanksgiving Day 2012.
But prosecutors say he planned the killings, which stunned the central Minnesota city of about 8,000 people and stirred debate about how far people can go to defend their homes.
Several law enforcement witnesses testified Wednesday about what they found while searching Smith’s house.
Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Special Agent William Bennett said he found an audio recorder that had been turned on. A photo displayed in court showed the recorder nestled on top of books on a bookshelf. Prosecutors say Smith sat nearby as he waited for the teens to enter his basement.
“I noticed it was on,” Bennett said in his testimony about the device. “I noticed there was batteries in it, almost as if someone turned it on and let it go until it was dead.”
A tape made with the recorder is central to prosecutors’ case. Played in court Tuesday, it captures the sounds of Smith shooting Brady several times as he was walking downstairs into the basement, including telling Brady “You’re dead” and dragging him into his workshop.
A few minutes later, Kifer is heard walking downstairs and is also shot several times. Another shot is heard soon after. In a statement to investigators, Smith called it a “finishing shot.”
Bennett also testified that he saw a DVR recorder on a workbench in the room where the teens’ bodies were found. He said he turned on the monitor and saw that the four cameras it was connected to were operating. Upstairs in the kitchen, Bennett said, he found a device designed to block incoming and outgoing cellphone calls. He said he tested it and it worked.
Defense attorney Adam Johnson requested a mistrial on Wednesday, saying the defense hadn’t seen notes on forensic evidence gathered by state investigators, including how far Smith was from Kifer when he fired. Morrison County District Judge Douglas Anderson denied the request but took a break to give attorneys time to go over the material.
Anderson also rejected a mistrial request Tuesday from defense attorney Steven Meshbesher, who argued that pretrial rulings about what jurors can’t hear about the teens had severely restricted his case.