LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) — Jurors listened Wednesday as a man called two teenagers who broke into his central Minnesota home “vermin” on an audio recording shortly after fatally shooting them.
Byron Smith also could be heard saying he was doing his “civic duty” on the recording, which was played during his trial. He is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady.
Smith, 65, claims he feared for his life that Thanksgiving Day in 2012 and shot the teens in self-defense.
He had an audio recorder running during the shootings, and prosecutors have been playing the recording at trial. On the part played Wednesday, Smith was heard saying, “They weren’t human. I don’t see them as human. I see them as vermin.”
“I was doing my civic duty,” Smith was heard saying in another part. “I had to do it.”
Smith was alone when the teens broke in and didn’t alert anyone about the shootings until the next day. Prosecutors say he planned the killings that stunned Little Falls, the central Minnesota city of about 8,000 people where Smith lives, and stirred debate about how far people can go to defend their homes.
Authorities who searched Smith’s home testified Wednesday that they found an audio recorder that was turned on, an operating surveillance system and a cellphone jamming device.
A photo displayed in court showed the recorder nestled on top of books on a bookshelf. Prosecutors say Smith sat near it and waited for the teens to enter his basement.
“I noticed it was on,” Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Special Agent William Bennett said in his testimony about finding the device. “I noticed there was batteries in it, almost as if someone turned it on and let it go until it was dead.”
On Tuesday, a part of the recording was played in court that captured 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 could be heard walking downstairs and was also shot several times. Another shot was 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.