Our heartfelt condolences and sympathy go out to the families and friends of Haile Kifer and Nicholas Brady.
The two teens were killed by a 64-year-old male suspect during what police are calling a break-in on Thanksgiving Day near Little Falls. I realize circumstances of this case are unfolding and will continue to unfold daily, and because the rest of us don’t know and may never know what actually occurred during the crime, it’s never wise to jump to conclusions or condemn a suspect until all evidence is gathered and the trial has concluded. After all, all suspects must be presumed innnocent until proven guilty. The man should not be tried in the media.
Still, the most recent facts are these: Byron David Smith has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, bail has been set at $2 million and authorities are saying Smith used unnecessary and excessive force. Morrison County Attorney Brian Middendorf described the killings as “cold-blooded” and the circumstances of the murders “appalling.”
No, the teens were not perfect angels as more news of connections with prior crimes started coming out. But still kids make mistakes. That’s how they learn.
As a mother of an 18-year-old daughter myself, I’m sure Haile’s (and Nicholas’s) parents are replaying this nightmare second by second, minute by minute, day by day and asking over and over, “Why?”
Why were the teens near that man’s house in the first place? Why Thanksgiving Day? Why would the two youth break a window to enter his home? Why was the man ready and waiting with loaded guns? Why did the suspect so brutally and repeatedly shoot each teen and then, instead of calling 911 for an ambulance and police, reload his weapons and continue the rampage after each was disabled by the first shot well after he realized both were unarmed? Why did he drag the bodies into a basement room and not leave the evidence intact? Why did it take more than 24 hours to report the crime? Why would the girl “laugh,” as the suspect claims, when his gun jammed after she’d already been shot once? Why did the suspect feel compelled to fire several more bullets and then “a good clean finishing shot” to put her out of her misery, yet was “thoughtful” enough not to disturb the authorities on a holiday?
When all we have is the suspect’s version of the incident, how will we ever know what truly happened? How will the teens have a voice?
So many unanswered questions. Hopefully forensics will help shed some light.
Still, as a parent, my heart aches for anyone who hears that awful news their precious child is dead.
And when the parents lay these two to rest last Saturday, so did they also lay to rest their dreams and hopes for their futures: no plans for celebrating graduation from high school or beyond, no excitement over their first “real” jobs, no meeting their significant others with the hopes of wedding bells, no pattering of little feet – of a new generation that would remind them of their children when they were little.
Such tragic loss. Such utter despair, not only for the families, but for the community and the world at large.