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First-degree murder indictment for Little Falls man who killed intruders

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A grand jury in Morrison County returned a first-degree murder indictment against the Little Falls-area man who shot two intruders in his home last Thanksgiving.

The Star Tribune reports the jurors heard two days of testimony before agreeing that Byron Smith should stand trial on two charges of premeditated murder.

His lawyer says Smith acted in self-defense when he fatally shot 18-year-old Haile Kifer and her 17-year-old cousin, Nick Brady. The case has sparked debate about where the legal limits are when it comes to a homeowner's use of lethal force to defend his or her property.

Authorities maintain Smith, whose home had been burglarized repeatedly, wounded each of the teenagers and then taunted them before delivering additional fatal shots at close range. Smith had an audio tape rolling during the encounter.

Until Thursday's indictment, Smith was charged with second-degree murder. KSTP reports he would face mandatory life in prison without parole if he's convicted of the first-degree charges.

Smith's next court appearance is set for July 1.

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