Recording of shooting, scene photos revealed in Little Falls murder trial
LITTLE FALLS, Minn. -- “You’re dead.”
The eerie phrase can be heard in a recording, just seconds after Byron Smith shot 17-year-old Nicholas Brady in the basement of Smith’s home on Nov. 22, 2012.
The recording was played for a jury Tuesday in the second day of Smith’s trial in Morrison County.
Smith admitted shooting Brady and Haile Kifer, 18, that Thanksgiving Day after they entered his rural Little Falls home without permission. Smith is charged with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder.
Smith recorded about six hours of tape before, during and after the shootings, from the basement.
In the 15-minute recording played in court Tuesday, the jury heard glass shatter, followed by footsteps upstairs.
Brady can then be heard walking down the basement stairs. Smith pulls the trigger and Brady lets out a cry of pain and falls.
“You’re dead,” Smith said in a stern voice.
Several minutes go by and Smith can be heard walking around, breathing heavily and moving objects.
Footsteps are heard running up and down the stairs, which one witness Tuesday said is Smith.
Then, more footsteps sound upstairs and Smith sits still in the basement. He falls silent.
Seconds tick by until Kifer’s footsteps are heard on the stairs.
Smith’s once rapid breaths turn heavy, uneasy.
“Nick?” she quietly calls out.
Gunfire. Kifer falls.
“Oh, sorry about that,” Smith says to the girl.
“Oh, my God,” she calls out and then screams.
“You’re dying, bitch,” Smith says.
A few seconds later, more movement.
“Bitch,” he says again.
Kifer makes a dull sound. One final shot.
About 11 minutes pass between the two shootings.
Family and friends in the courtroom Tuesday cried while the recording played. For most of the 15-minute recording, Smith sat silently, hands folded and pressed to his mouth. During the sounds of gunfire, Smith closed his eyes. One juror wiped away a few tears; most sat still, heads slightly down and eyes deadlocked forward.
Smith did not call authorities to report the shooting that Thanksgiving Day. He called a neighbor the next day and asked about getting an attorney, according to court records. The neighbor alerted authorities.
Chad Museus, a senior special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said during testimony that he saw a landline phone near the bodies of the two teens when he first investigated the crime scene on Nov. 23, 2012, the day after the shootings.
The phone was working, Museus testified, as he placed a test 911 phone call during the crime scene investigation to make sure.
Both teens also had cellphones found on their bodies. Museus said phone records later showed Kifer exchanged text messages earlier Thanksgiving Day with a friend about how Kifer and Brady were a team.
Museus said he understood that to mean a “team for burglaries.”
The jury was shown several photos Tuesday of the basement where the shootings happened.
Nate Pearlson, a forensic scientist with the BCA Forensic Science Lab, testified that a rug and two pieces of carpet “seemed out of place” at the bottom of the stairs when his team collected evidence.
Once the carpets were removed, several blood stains were revealed. One of the more saturated stains also appeared to contain brain matter, he said.
A red chair, located against the wall facing the stairs, had a jug of water and snack bars nearby, as well as a tape recorder sitting on a shelf, a photo showed.
Light bulbs were missing from the three main light fixtures in the basement. The light bulbs were in a pile near Smith’s red chair.
A photo of the teens’ bodies showed them both partially wrapped in the same camouflage tarp. The bodies were moved right after the shooting, to the front of the workroom, just inside the door.
Kifer’s sweatshirt hood was up and her purse was next to her body.
Through gunshot residue and other factors, Pearlson said he was able to determine the two bullet holes in the hood of Kifer’s sweatshirt were likely made at the distance of about 6 inches and 12 inches.
Another shot found on the right sleeve was made a foot away, he said.
Pearlson was unable to come up with specific distances for the shots fired at Brady.
Two rooms away from the teens, a photo shows a wooden chair set up, and if someone was to sit in it, Pearlson said, he would have a direct view into the workshop. Next to that wooden chair was a shotgun, three unfired shells and a Fiberglas rod.
Upstairs in a closet, investigators found a holstered blood-stained revolver with nine live rounds loaded into it, Pearlson said. In another upstairs closet, a rifle was found with two live rounds inside, he said.