LITTLE FALLS —The gray skies and cold temperatures matched the mood Saturday as mourners gathered by the hundreds to say goodbye to the two Little Falls teenagers shot to death Thanksgiving Day at the home of Byron David Smith.
The parking lot at Living Hope Assembly of God Church just north of Little Falls was full long before the joint service for Nick Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, began. By the time the service started at 10 a.m., cars lined both sides of Haven Road.
Friends and family outside the service described both teens as fun, outgoing, athletic and friendly.
Pastor Keith Thompson said the sanctuary at Living Hope was set to handle about 370 attenders, but the number in attendance reached closer to 550.
The church also provided a live feed of the service to about 60 guests in the fellowship hall.
Tiffany Kostohryz, who said she was a friend of Brady’s family, said the church was so full people were overflowing into the lobby, flooding the hallways and in classrooms nearby.
Kostohryz said Brady’s grandmother, Bonnie Schaeffel, read the eulogy for her grandson while Kifer’s mother, Jenny Kifer, read the eulogy for Hailey. Brady’s mom, Kim Brady, played Amazing Grace on the piano.
Kostohryz said the mood in the service was sad, as she expected it would be; however, Brady’s Grandmother, Bonnie made the crowd laugh with her eulogy reading. “Other than that it’s all tears,” Kostohryz said.
While mourning the loss of the two teens, many funeral goers, including Kostohryz, couldn’t help but question the decisions Brady and Kifer made that ultimately cost them their lives. “They definitely shouldn’t have been doing what they were doing,” Kostohryz said. “But they didn’t deserve this.”
Kostohryz expressed her sorrow not only for Kifer and Brady’s family, but also the family of Byron Smith who awaits trial in Morrison County. “Three families are now destroyed,” she said.
Devon Rausch, a junior at Pillager High School, said he has known Brady since elementary school and reconnected with Brady when he returned to Pillager this fall. “It was weird,” Rausch said of attending the service. “I’ve never been to a friend’s funeral before.”
Raush described Brady as fun and kind. He was at a loss for answers as to why Brady and Kifer might have resorted to burglarizing Smith’s home Thanksgiving Day.
“They shouldn’t have broken into the house, but he didn’t deserve to die,” he said.
Eric Elliott said he met Haile Kifer just recently in a recovery program. Elliott did not say what Kifer was recovering from, only that “she died for the disease of addiction.”
“She was trying to face her demons,” Elliott said.
Elliott described Haile as being fun-loving, high spirited and the “kind of person you would remember.” He said Haile was trying to turn her life around.
“I don’t think God created bad people,” Elliott said. “He created good people who get sick and do bad things.”
The service for Brady and Kifer lasted a little over an hour. When the service ended, pallbearers — most of who appeared to be teenagers themselves — carried the two caskets to the awaiting hearses.
The crowd from inside the church slowly filed out to their vehicles in near silence with more tears and embraces exchanged than words.
Passing by the church’s marquee — which read, from Psalm 34, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5879.