- Minnesota court releases tapes recorded by killer Byron Smith, 65, of the moments he killed the two teens who tried to rob him on Thanksgiving 2012
- Byron Smith, a 65-year-old retiree who once set up security in American embassies for the U.S. State Department, shot Nick Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18
- The recordings capture the shocking moment Smith taunts Kifer just before he shoots her, saying, 'You're dying, b****'
- Prosecutors key evidence was an audio recording that captured the killings in chilling detail, including Smith's taunts as the teens died
- On Tuesday jurors convicted Byron Smith, 65, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the killings
- Smith never denied shooting the teens, but told police he had feared for his life
By JAMES NYE
PUBLISHED: 14:21 EST, 1 May 2014 | UPDATED: 14:59 EST, 1 May 2014
A window shatters.
The sound of footsteps is followed by sharp cracks of gunshots, a teenager's groans and a fall. Minutes later, there are more bangs and screams from another teen before she, too, was silenced by a central Minnesota homeowner who was convicted of plotting the whole thing.
A day after Byron Smith was found guilty of premeditated murder, jurors said the audio of the Thanksgiving Day 2012 killings of two unarmed teens - a recording that the 65-year-old switched on before the break-in occurred - was key in his conviction.
The recording captured the sounds of Smith shooting Brady as he came down the stairs. Brady groans after the first and second shots, but is silent after a third shot, and Smith can be heard saying, 'You're dead.'
Scroll Down to Listen: WARNING GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING CONTENT
Guilty: Byron Smith on Tuesday in Little Falls, Minnesota on the day the jury took only about three hours to reject his claim of self-defense. He was immediately sentenced to life without parole
Prosecutors say Smith put Brady's body on a tarp and dragged it into another room, then sat down and reloaded his weapon.
Rejected defense: Byron Smith walks into the courtroom to hear the verdict in his murder trial
Kifer whispers, 'Nick?' A shot is fired, and Kifer screams 'oh my God'. Smith apologizes as his gun jams, then fires at Kifer four more times and says: 'You're dying, b***h'.
A sixth and final shot - Smith described it as a 'finishing shot' to investigators - was heard soon after.
'That was the most damning piece of evidence in my mind,' Wes Hatlestad, one of 12 jurors, said Wednesday.
'That audio recording of the actual killings and the audio recording of Mr. Smith's interview immediately after his arrest ... pretty much convinced me that we were dealing with a deranged individual.'
Smith shot 17-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer as they descended the stairs into his basement, where prosecutors say Smith was waiting.
Jurors convicted Byron Smith, 65, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing at his home in rural Little Falls, Minnesota, on Thanksgiving Day in November 2012.
Shot: In this undated photo released by Morrison County Attorney's Office, the basement of Minnesota homeowner Byron Smith where Smith shot and killed two teenagers during a break-in is seen
On a day most Americans spend gathering with family and friends, Smith had turned on an audio recorder and sat down with a novel alone in a basement chair wedged between bookcases with a rifle at his side and a handgun on his hip
The case helped fuel a national debate about how far a person can go to protect himself from bodily harm and his home. It also divided Little Falls, a town of about 8,300 located 100 miles north of Minneapolis.
Smith never denied shooting the teens, but told police he had feared for his life.
Prosecutors say Smith had moved his truck to make it look like no one was home, then sat in a chair at the bottom of his stairs with a book, energy bars, a bottle of water and two guns. He also set up a hand-held recorder on a bookshelf.
Kifer's aunt, Laurie Skipper, read a statement from her niece's parents: 'Byron Smith made a conscious choice to shoot and kill our beautiful daughter Haile. The feelings of helplessness are overwhelming.'
Prosecutors said Smith's plan was set in motion on the morning of the killings, after Smith saw a neighbor whom he believed responsible for prior burglaries.
Prosecutors say Smith moved his truck to make it look like no one was home, and then settled into a basement chair with a book, energy bars, a bottle of water and two guns.
Lost life: Cousins Haile Kifer, 18 (left), and Nick Brady, 17 (right), were shot dead on Thanksgiving Day 2012 after breaking into Smith's home in Little Falls, Minnesota
Hunted: Smith claimed he killed the teens in self-defense, but prosecutors proved that he staked out in the basement of his home - waiting for burglars
On a day most Americans spend gathering with family and friends, Smith had turned on an audio recorder and sat down with a novel alone in a basement chair wedged between bookcases with a rifle at his side and a handgun on his hip.
Smith also set up a hand-held recorder on a bookshelf, which captured audio of the shootings, and had installed a surveillance system that recorded images of Brady trying to enter the house.
Defense attorneys said Smith was afraid after prior break-ins and was hiding from intruders, whom he feared were armed. Smith had previously installed video surveillance, and defense attorney Steve Meshbesher said Wednesday that Smith set up the audio recording as another means of protection.
'He was afraid that he might be killed,' Meshbesher said. 'He did it in case he was shot and killed in his house, and the police would have some evidence to use, and the family would be able to find the perpetrators.'
Meshbesher said jurors should have heard the whole recording, not just the portion selected by prosecutors. He said Smith plans to appeal.
Ted Sampsell-Jones, a criminal law professor at William Mitchell College of Law, said the audio recording was devastating to the defense, noting that Smith's taunts to the victims don't show a man in a panic.
'It was very powerful, and it makes it very clear that ... he didn't do this because he had to. He did it because he wanted to. And that is not what self-defense is about,' Sampsell-Jones said.
Vermin: Audio recordings played in the trial revealed Smith calling the teens 'vermin' after shooting them dead in his basement. Pictured above leaving court on Tuesday
Time lapse: After killing the teens, he hid them in his house and waited a full day before telling a neighbor to call 911 about the break-in. Pictured above in court on Tuesday
Fighting: Smith's lawyer said they would be appealing the case. pictured above on Tuesday
Hatlestad said he felt early on in the trial that the killings were planned.
He said the fact that Smith moved his truck from his home was significant, and he was struck that Smith positioned himself at the bottom of the stairs in 'a little hidey hole,' with a tarp ready.
He said jurors went through each charge point by point, 'and reasonably quickly came to the conclusion that we thought it was in fact premeditated,' Hatlestad said.
He said jurors talked about the 'deer stand' that Smith set up to wait for the teens, and he also compared the set up to a 'shooting gallery' - a carnival game where a shooter waits for an object to march into view.
The two cousins were active in athletics at two local high schools. They were also linked to a burglary the day before they were shot and killed, though the judge excluded evidence about their histories from the trial as irrelevant
The teens' killings stirred debate around the state and in Little Falls - a Mississippi River city of 8,000 about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis - about how far a homeowner can go in responding to a threat.
Minnesota law allows deadly force to prevent a felony from taking place in one's home or dwelling, but one's actions must be considered reasonable under the circumstances.
Hatlestad said jurors gave careful consideration to the self-defense and defense-of-dwelling claims. He said the jurors supported Minnesota's laws, but found that Smith's actions didn't meet the requirements to justify the teens' killings.
'I do think he had some fear,' Hatlestad said. 'But his reaction to it was very unreasonable.'