The bodies of cousins Haile Kifer, 18, and Nicholas Brady Schaeffel, 17, were found in Byron Smith’s basement in Little Falls, Minnesota on Friday – the day after they were shot dead on Thanksgiving.
When police arrived at his home after reports of suspicious activity, Smith, 64, confessed to shooting the teenagers repeatedly and stashing their bodies after they broke into his home, authorities said.
On Monday, he was charged with second-degree murder and police revealed he told them he fired more shots than necessary after his gun jammed and Kifer laughed at him.
‘A person has every right to defend themselves and their homes, even employing deadly force if necessary,’ Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said. ‘Circumstances of this case however, led deputies to believe that Smith went beyond that point.’
And as he was charged on Monday, his intentions to shoot the teens dead became clear.
In a criminal complaint, Smith said he was in the basement of his home when he heard a window breaking and footsteps. Fearful of other recent break-ins, he shot Schaeffel when he came into view.
When the teenager tumbled down the stars, Smith shot him in the face as he lay on the floor, looking up.
‘I want him dead,’ the complaint quoted Smith as telling an investigator.
He dragged the body into his workshop and then sat in the chair, the complaint said. When Kifer began walking down the stairs, he shot her and she fell down the stairs.
He tried to shoot her again with his rifle, but the gun jammed and Kifer laughed at him, the complaint noted.
‘If you’re trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again,’ Smith, 64, told investigators, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.
He then shot her several times in the chest with a .22-caliber revolver, dragged her next to her cousin, and with as she gasped for air, fired a shot under her chin ‘up into the cranium’.
‘Smith described it as “a good clean finishing shot”,’ according to the compliant, and acknowledged he had fired ‘more shots than (he) needed to’.
Smith said he left the bodies in his home overnight before calling a neighbor to ask if he knew a good lawyer. He later asked the neighbor to contact police.
A prosecutor at Morrison County District Court on Monday morning called Smith’s reaction ‘appalling’.
‘Mr. Smith intentionally killed two teenagers in his home in a matter that goes well beyond self-defense,’ Morrison County Attorney Brian Middendorf said at the hearing.
Friends have taken to a memorial Facebook page for Kifer and Schaeffel to vent their anger about the deaths. Others spoke out at a vigil for the youngsters on Sunday night.
‘They were just really great people,’ friend Rachel Stauffer, 15, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. ‘They could make anyone laugh.’
Carlee Davich, who coached Kifer in swimming at school, added: ‘She was always happy. She had a way that just made everyone happy. A lot of the swimmers and divers looked up to her.’
Emma Schmidt, a fellow classmate at Little Falls High School, said Kifer was talented and well-liked and ‘everyone’s wondering’ what she was doing in Smith’s basement.
Further insight into the lives of the cousins was given by Brady’s sister, Crystal Shaeffel, as she visited Smith’s home and spoke with his brother.
‘They were 17 and 18 years old, and didn’t need to die,’ she told Bruce Smith.
‘That all depends on your perspective,’ he responded, referring to a series of break-ins his brother had endured. In one in October, thieves stole $10,000 worth of guns and electronics, he said.
But Shaeffel insisted that her brother had no need to turn to burglary, as he made good money working for their father’s tree-trimming business.
She added that her cousin, who had undergone treatment for substance abuse, could have been after pills from the home.
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