By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Morrison County Judge Douglas Anderson granted a reduced bail with conditions for Byron David Smith.
Smith is the Little Falls man accused of shooting and killing teen cousins Haile Kifer and Nick Brady, who allegedly broke into his home Thanksgiving Day.
Anderson granted the request to lower bail with conditions to $500,000 bond or $50,000 cash. Anderson ordered bail without conditions remain at $2 million or $200,000 cash.
Smith’s attorney, Steven Meshbesher, had requested bail be reduced to a “reasonable amount” to $200,000 bond ($20,000 cash) without conditions or $100,000 bond ($10,000 cash) with conditions.
Meshbesher argued that a presumption of innocence existed and that Smith, a lifelong resident of Little Falls, had no criminal history. Meshbesher said he did not dispute that the charges were serious, but that they were just charges.
“This is not a case where my client stormed a school and shot people … ” he said. “My client was at his home, the home of his family.”
Meshbesher offered a memo from Smith to the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office outlining a burglary to his home, and the fact that there had been other burglaries in the area. The memo included the fact that Smith’s basement door had been kicked in, and that items in his home had been searched and flipped over. Meshbesher said the memo asked the sheriff’s office for assistance and guidance.
“The Morrison County Sheriff knew about it because my client is a good citizen, a concerned citizen and he wanted to notify them and get their advice,” Meshbesher told the court.
Smith, 64, put a security system in the home he had retired to, said Meshbesher, in case the sheriff couldn’t get there. “Not thinking his home would be burglarized when he was there,” the attorney said.
Meshbesher said the case should not be tried based on community emotion and politics, but in the courtroom.
“This is a serious case. The case should be presented in a courtroom,” said Meshbesher. “The emotion of the case cannot guide bail,” asking that an appropriate amount be set.
In arguing against bail being reduced, Morrison County Assistant Attorney Todd Kosovich said following the incident, the original thought was that Smith acted in self-defense.
“Since then, there’s been more discovery,” said Kosovich, speaking of a recording that he said demonstrated Smith went beyond self-defense.
“Within 18 seconds, he had 18 seconds, to roll out a tarp,” said Kosovich. “That’s how well equipped he was to deal with Nick Brady.”
Kosovich said it was 10 minutes plus six seconds after Brady was shot that 18-year-old Haile Kifer called out her cousin’s name and 12 seconds later she descended the stairs.
The second shot could be heard, as well as Kifer hitting the bottom of the steps, said Kosovich. “Oh, sorry about that,” Kosovich said he heard Smith say on the recording, followed by a moan from Kifer.
By that time, Kosovich said, Kifer was seriously injured and he didn’t hear her chuckling, as Smith had originally told investigators.
Kosovich said after a second shot, Kifer could be heard to say “Oh, my God; my God,” and again “My God,” after the third shot.
After shot 4, Kosovich said Smith could be heard saying, “You’re dying.”
Kosovich said Smith could be heard calling Kifer a “bitch” and dragged her to the shop where Brady was, where he would shoot her again.
Kosovich said Kifer was shot three times in the head.
“No way it was self defense,” said Kosovich.
Smith had set up bookshelves so it would be difficult to see him and had taken out all the light bulbs, except for the one under the stairs.
“This was an ambush and murder,” said Kosovich and said Smith would be a danger to anyone who crossed him.
That this was Smith’s first offense was no surprise, said Kosovich, who has encountered the same from others over the past 20 years, he said.
“When he misses his stuff, he calls police,” said Kosovich. But, Smith sat with the bodies for 24 hours, which Kosovich said is indicative of his character.
“Bail should be doubled … he is a danger to society,” Kosovich argued.
Meshbesher called Kosovich’s argument “very good drama.”
“This is not supposed to be a drama. This is not theater, this is a courtroom,” said Meshbesher, who said the prosecutor was testifying as if he were a witness.
“There is a presumption of innocence in the courtroom, until there’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Meshbesher, who accused Kosovich of being “dramatic” because he wanted to see his name in the “newspaper.”
The facts, said Meshbesher, need to be looked at objectively. “The facts are they broke into a home occupied by a person,” he said. Meshbesher said the facts are the teens were doing drugs and burglarizing other homes, stealing pharmaceuticals and non-pharmaceuticals.
“Two people were in his home who shouldn’t be there,” said Meshbhesher. “They were not invited, they broke a window.” Meshbesher said they used a lead pipe to break the window.
“They didn’t live there; he didn’t attack them,” said Meshbesher. “He was hiding in his own basement. Let’s stick to the facts.”
Anderson asked the attorneys to discontinue their back and forth.
When setting bail, the court considers a person’s safety, both the public’s and defendant’s safety, said Anderson. Also considered are a defendant’s financial resources.
Anderson noted that Smith had a retirement pension, and a home that was a gift, “free of encumbrance” when he reduced the bail with conditions.
The conditions include that Smith surrender his passport; sign a waiver of extradition; surrender all firearms; not leave Minnesota without permission from the court; keep in touch with his attorney and have no contact with the victims’ families.
Smith’s brother, Bruce, had the passport and it was surrendered to the court clerk.
Kosovich said he’d have the waiver of extradition prepared and ready to sign before the judge the same day.
Anderson asked that it be ascertained that all of Smith’s firearms had been removed.
In addition, Smith waived his right to a speedy trial, under advice of his attorney.