Updated: 04/24/2014 9:23 PM
Created: 04/24/2014 9:20 PM WDIO.com
By: Beth McDonough
An 18-year-old woman who was fatally shot by a Minnesota homeowner was high on cough syrup and marijuana when she and her cousin broke into the man's home, a medical examiner testified Thursday at the homeowner's murder trial.
Byron Smith, of Little Falls, is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of Haile Kifer and Kifer's cousin, 17-year-old Nick Brady, on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Smith, 65, claimed he was defending himself and feared for his life after several break-ins at his home.
The killings stunned Little Falls, a central Minnesota community of 8,000, and stirred debate about how far people can go to defend their homes. Under Minnesota law, a person may use deadly force to prevent a felony from taking place in one's home or dwelling. But authorities have said Smith planned the killings, sitting in his basement and waiting for the teens to enter his home, and then continuing to shoot them after they were no longer a threat.
Under cross-examination by the defense, Dr. Kelly Mills with the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office said Kifer had an ingredient from cough medicine in her system at a level that would make her intoxicated. Mills said the drug, dextromethorphan, can cause hallucinations, disassociation and an out-of-body experience.
Kifer's toxicology tests also showed the presence of a marijuana metabolite that Mills says had no hallucinogenic effects. Brady had no drugs or alcohol in his system, Mills said.
The question of possible drug use became an issue after the killings as Smith's friends claimed the teens were high on drugs, and authorities said a car linked to Brady and Kifer contained prescription drugs that had been stolen from another house. However, those drugs won't be allowed as evidence in court.
Prosecutors showed jurors autopsy photos as Smith's trial entered its fourth day. Mills testified that Brady was shot three times, Kifer six times. The final shot to Brady, which went through his hand and into his right temple, was the "most immediate fatal," Mills said. She described it as a close-range shot.
Kifer also was shot in the head at close range, Mills testified. She said the shot that killed Kifer, the fifth fired by Smith, was a close-range shot behind her left ear. The autopsy photos showed bloody bodies with burn marks from the gunfire.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Steven Meshbesher pointed out that before the fatal shots, both Kifer and Brady would have been able to move and could have been perceived as threats.
The prosecution rested its case about 3 p.m. and the defense started trying to make sure the self-defense argument holds up.
Earlier this week, prosecutors played for jurors an audio recording Smith made of the shootings. The tape was presented to jurors as a sequence of events, but defense attorneys raised questions about the recording on cross-examination, noting it had been spliced and altered, and some key pieces of information were left out.
Testimony is expected to resume at 9 a.m. Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sheriff: Man Attacked Homeowner before Fatal Shooting
Koochiching County Sheriff Brian Jespersen says a son who shot and killed an intruder was defending himself and his mother, who had been attacked by the man.
Appeals Court Upholds 'Last Place' Injunctions
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the injunctions that shut down a Duluth head shop that openly sold synthetic drugs. In an opinion Monday, a three-judge appeals panel said a lower court's permanent injunctions against the Last Place on Earth were justified.
Search for Missing Hurley Man May Be Over
Ironwood officials said that the search for a missing Hurley man may be over after a vehicle was found submerged in 10 feet of water. The Public Safety Department posted to their Facebook page that the vehicle was found in Ironwood in the caves near Alfred Wright Boulevard.
Dunkin' Donuts to Open 7 Restaurants in Duluth Area
Seven Dunkin' Donuts restaurants are coming to the Duluth area, with the first location expected to open in spring of 2015. Rumors about Dunkin' Donuts coming to Duluth began to swirl last month when the company announced plans to return to Minnesota.
How Can Kids Avoid the Summer Brain Drain?
Kids this summer are swimming at the beach, playing in on the playground, and hanging out with friends among other things. However, after three months of fun, will they suffer from the summer brain drain?