LITTLE FALLS (WJON News) -- It's been ten years since the murder of two teenagers rocked the town of Little Falls and divided the community over whether the killings were justified under Minnesota's castle doctrine.

Byron Smith shot and killed 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady after they had broken into his home on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

Haile Kifer and Nick Brady - Emblom Brenny Funeral
Haile Kifer and Nick Brady - Emblom Brenny Funeral

Smith waited in his basement as the teens broke into his home in the latest of what was a number of burglaries at his property.

The case continues to divide the town of 9,000 people because some think Smith was justified under the law to protect his life and his home. Others believe Smith hatched an elaborate plan to lure the teens in and kill them in cold blood.

Byron Smith and his lawyer Steven Meshbesher
Ashli Gerdes, WJON News

More than two years later, a Morrison County jury found Smith guilty on two counts of first-degree premeditated murder and two counts of second-degree murder. He was immediately sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The teens were shot multiple times as they came down the basement stairs.

The law states that if a person acts in self-defense or defense of their dwelling that no crime is committed. Smith argued self-defense, however, the jury said an audio recording of the killings was "damning evidence" in convicting Smith.

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Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher says Smith made that recording because he was afraid he'd be killed in his own home and wanted to have evidence for police. Meshbesher also said that fear had driven Smith into madness and he couldn't deal with reality.

An appeal of his conviction was denied.

Dateline NBC featured the case in a 2018 episode. Click on the links below to watch "12 Minutes on Elm Street".

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