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Sarah Nelson Katzenberger, Forum News Service, Published April 25 2014

‘He looked very afraid’

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. – Witnesses for the defense testified Friday that they observed fear in Byron Smith in the days before Thanksgiving Day 2012, when he admits he shot two teenagers to death in his rural Little Falls home.

Smith is on trial in Morrison County for first-degree murder of Nick Brady and Haile Kifer. The defense maintains that Smith was defending his home after repeated break-ins.

Smith’s neighbor, William Anderson, testified that Smith visited his home and talked about an Oct. 27, 2012, burglary of his residence.

“He looked like he hadn’t slept at all,” Anderson said.

Defense attorney Steven Meshbesher asked Anderson if Smith looked afraid. “Severely,” Anderson said.

Anderson said Smith called him the day after the shootings and asked Anderson to help him find an attorney, but because of the Thanksgiving holiday he could not reach one.

Smith then asked Anderson to contact the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office and get in touch with the investigator who looked into the Oct. 27 burglary.

Prosecutors questioned Anderson over a comment made during a discussion of the burglaries between Anderson and Smith: “The dog will come to the dish again, I know this isn’t over yet.”

Smith is heard making a similar comment on an audio recording of his interview with Deputy Jeremy Luberts after Smith’s arrest.

Anderson told the court that it was not Smith who made the dog-and-dish comment during the conversation, but Anderson. “I think I’m the person who made that statement,” Anderson said.

Little Falls business owner and Alderman-at-large Brian-Paul Crowder testified that he, too, observed fear in Smith when he met him at his home the Saturday before the shootings.

Crowder said he and his mother visited Smith’s home to discuss transferring cemetery deeds.

Crowder testified that he rang the doorbell of Smith’s home and got no answer.

When he knocked, Smith came to the door.

“He looked very afraid,” Crowder said, adding that he introduced himself and reminded Smith of their previous conversation. “Then he looked relieved.”

The state had no questions for Crowder.

Private investigator Ross Rolshoven ended Friday’s testimony for the defense with testimony of his investigation of Smith’s home after the shooting.

Rolshoven testified regarding photos taken of Smith’s property weeks after the shooting occurred.

The almost 100 photos showed different locations around the 13-acre property, including the northwest window that allegedly was broken by Brady and Kifer to gain access to Smith’s home, the basement door with a broken panel that allegedly was broken in the Oct. 27 burglary incident and the staircase descending into Smith’s basement.

Photos also showed various sound systems, sound amplifiers and computer equipment throughout Smith’s home, as well as security cameras around the exterior of Smith’s home.

Defense testimony will continue Monday.

It is unclear whether Smith will take the witness stand.