Little Falls area resident Byron D. Smith — who’s been charged in the Thanksgiving Day shooting deaths of Nick Brady Schaeffel, 18, and Haile Kifer, 17 — was indicted Thursday by a Morrison County grand jury with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder.
Smith, 64, who was initially charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the November 2012 deaths of Brady and Kifer in his rural Little Falls home, appeared at 1:45 p.m. Thursday in front of Morrison County District Court Judge Douglas Anderson in Little Falls. A first-degree murder charge can only be charged by a grand jury indictment under Minnesota state law. Each count carries a penalty of life in prison without parole.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput stated in a news release that the grand jury handed down a sealed indictment.
Orput and his first assistant Brent D. Wartner are handling the case as special assistant Morrison County Attorneys as that office had a conflict of interest in the case. Orput requested that bail be set at $2 million given the nature of the offense and the possible penalties involved. Judge Anderson kept bail at $50,000 with conditions. The omnibus hearing has been set for 10 a.m. July 1.
Orput stated, “We thank the grand jury for their hard work in giving great consideration to the evidence presented and rendering a very considered decision. We look forward to proving this case before a Morrison County jury and bringing justice to these two high school students whose lives were so violently and prematurely ended.”
Smith’s attorney, Adam T. Johnson with Meshbesher and Associates Attorney At Law in the Twin Cities, said Thursday via telephone that their defense in defending Smith does not change with the grand jury indictment. Johnson said that Smith had every right to defend himself in his home in rural Little Falls.
According to the criminal complaint, Smith told investigators two people had broken into his home through a window. Smith was sitting in his basement when he heard footsteps around his house leading him to believe someone was attempting to get inside. Smith heard a window break in the upstairs of his residence and then footsteps walking down the hall. Smith said he shot Schaeffel as he was descending the basement stairs, then fired again into the teen’s face as he lay on the floor looking at him. Smith told investigators that he put Schaeffel’s body on a tarp and dragged the body into his basement workshop before returning to his chair.
A few minutes later, Smith said he once again heard footsteps on the main floor of his home and then saw Kifer descending his basement stairs. Smith waited until she was halfway down the steps and then shot her. He said Kifer tumbled down the steps to the basement floor. Smith attempted to fire another shot at Kifer, however his mini 14 rifle jammed and he was unable to fire.