Slain Minn. teens may be tied to earlier burglary

Sheriff: Car linked to teens contained medication stolen from nearby home

Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel speaks at a news conference Monday, in Little Falls, Minn.
Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel speaks at a news conference Monday, in Little Falls, Minn.

MINNEAPOLIS — A car linked to two Minnesota teens who were fatally shot during an alleged home burglary on Thanksgiving Day contained prescription drugs that had been stolen from another house, authorities said Wednesday.

Nicholas Brady, 17, and his cousin, Haile Kifer, 18, were killed in the Little Falls home of Byron Smith, who has since been charged with murder. Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said Smith told authorities he shot the teens multiple times after they broke into his house.

Wetzel said Wednesday that on the night before the shootings, a homeowner just outside Little Falls reported a suspicious car was parked near the end of his driveway.

Deputies responded and spoke with Brady, who told them he and Kifer had been in the car when it ran out of gas, Wetzel said. Brady told deputies that Kifer went to get more fuel, and the deputies then gave Brady a ride into Little Falls, leaving the car behind.

On Sunday, the sheriff's office got a report that a home in that area where the car was seen had been burglarized. The resident, Richard Johnson, had been out of town for more than a week and a friend had discovered the break-in after checking on the home.

“Johnson reported numerous items were missing from the home including several bottles of prescription medication,” Wetzel said in a statement.

Authorities seized a red Mitsubishi Eclipse after the shootings and searched it. They found six prescription drug bottles bearing Johnson's name, Wetzel said. Authorities did not say who owns the vehicle.

Smith, a retired U.S. State Department employee, was charged Monday with two counts of murder. According to the criminal complaint, Smith shot the teens multiple times. He told investigators his home had been broken into several times before.

Minnesota law gives homeowners the right to protect themselves and their property, but Wetzel said they don't have the right to execute an intruder once the threat is neutralized.

Smith told authorities he was in his basement last Thursday when he heard a window break upstairs. When he saw Brady on the basement stairwell, he fired at the teenager then shot him again in the face after he fell down.

The complaint said Smith told an investigator: “I want him dead.”

Smith said he dragged Brady's body into his workshop. When Kifer came down the stairs, he shot her multiple times. He dragged her into the room and as she gasped for air, he fired what he described as a “good clean finishing shot” under her chin “up into the cranium,” the complaint said.