Accused rural Little Falls shooter Byron Smith posted bail Tuesday and was released from Morrison County Jail much to the dismay of his alleged victims’ family.
Smith is accused of shooting and killing two Little Falls teens, Nick Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, Thanksgiving Day when the pair allegedly attempted to burglarize Smith’s rural Little Falls home.
Smith’s conditional bail was reduced Monday in a Morrison County District Court from $1 million dollars bond or $100,000 cash to $500,000 bond or $50,000 cash.
Brady’s grandmother, Bonnie Schaeffel, spoke out for the first time Tuesday.
Schaeffel was present at Smith’s bail reduction hearing Monday with several family members of the teens. Schaeffel said the family is not happy about Smith’s release on bail.
“In my opinion, this man committed a vigilante style killing of two kids,” Schaeffel said, pointing out the shooting happened in broad daylight Thanksgiving Day. “He knew they were kids.”
Schaeffel said attending the hearing Monday was difficult for the family as they sat two rows away from the accused killer of her grandson and his cousin and listened to Assistant District Attorney Todd Kosovich give a detailed account of the audio surveillance taken from Smith’s home.
“It was devastating,” Schaeffel said. According to search warrants obtained by the Morrison County Sheriff’s department, the audio surveillance installed by Smith before the shooting recorded the sounds of the gunshots as they happened.
Schaeffel pointed out that Smith’s attorney Steven Meshbesher asked the court to uphold Smith’s right to a fair trial.
“There is a presumption of innocence,” Meshbesher told the court Monday.
Schaeffel said she only wished Smith had extended the same grace to Brady and Kifer. “We don’t have the death penalty for theft in this country,” she said. “They should have been prosecuted and there should have been consequences.” Schaeffel did not deny Brady and Kifer may have been in Smith’s home illegally, but pointed out that, like Smith, they had no prior criminal records. “They had a right to their day in court,” said Smith, who believes any charges filed against Brady and Kifer would have been misdemeanor charges.
Schaeffel said she is a proponent of gun rights and a homeowner’s right to protect their property, but felt Smith had gone far beyond what Minnesota law considers self-defense. “I support those things, but they have laws around them,” she said. “He could have handled it so many other ways.”
Brady and Kifer were not armed when they entered Smith’s residence. “They didn’t stand a chance,” Schaeffel said.
Smith’s lawyer Steven Meshbesher confirmed from his Minneapolis office Smith was released Tuesday after he posted the conditional bail set by the Morrison County court.
“He fulfilled his legal obligation for release and he was released,” Meshbesher said in a phone interview.
Meshbesher said he didn’t have any comment on the bail reduction hearing Monday. “The hearing speaks for itself,” Meshbesher said. “I made my comments in the courtroom.”
Meshbesher told the court Monday the comments made by Kosovich were dramatic and inappropriate for a court of law.
Meshbesher said Tuesday he felt the judge, under the circumstances did a good job. “It’s a tough situation,” Meshbesher said.
Meshbesher would not comment on the possibility of a change of venue for the case. “I will deal with that issue when it arises,” Meshbesher said, adding it would not be something he would discuss with the media first.
The Morrison County district attorney’s office did not return calls for comment.
Schaeffel said she knows it will difficult to listen to the details of the Thanksgiving Day shooting, but she intends to attend Smith’s trial when it begins. “We’ll be there as often as we can be there,” she said. “It will be hard, but this level of hard we can go through.”
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5879.