National Roundup

Slain teens may be tied to earlier home burglary

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) — The teenage cousins shot and killed during an alleged home burglary on Thanksgiving Day may have committed a similar crime a day earlier at a house nearby, authorities said.

Intruders broke into the Little Falls home of retired teacher Richard L. Johnson on November 21 and stole coins and prescription medication. Johnson was overseas at
the time, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report.

Before the burglary had been discovered, deputies were called to the neighborhood because a red Mitsubishi Eclipse was spotted in the driveway of Johnson’s empty house, Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said. Nicholas Brady, 17, had been driving that car, although it wasn’t registered to him. Deputies questioned him then let him go, Wetzel said.

A day later, Byron Smith shot and killed Brady and Brady’s 18-year-old cousin, Haile Kifer, in the basement of his Little Falls home. Smith told authorities that he disturbed the pair as they tried to break into his house and that he shot them in self-defense. The same red Mitsubishi Eclipse was discovered Friday parked around the corner from Smith’s property.

“There are some preliminary indications that the Johnson burglary may have been committed by the Brady boy and the Kifer girl, but it’s too early now to say definitively,” Wetzel said, adding that more information could be available Wednesday.

Wetzel couldn’t immediately say whether any of Johnson’s belongings were found in Brady’s car.

“I do know they found quite a bit of evidence in their vehicle that was parked near the Smith place,” the sheriff said late Tuesday. “We’re trying to investigate whether it might have come from the Johnson burglary.”

Smith, a retired U.S. State Department employee, was charged Monday with two counts of murder. According to the criminal complaint, Smith shot the teens multiple times. He told investigators his home had been broken into several times before.

Minnesota law gives homeowners the right to protect themselves and their property, but Wetzel said they don’t have the right to execute an intruder once the threat is neutralized.

Smith told authorities that he was in his basement last Thursday when he heard a window break upstairs. When he saw Brady on the basement stairwell, he fired at the teenager then shot him again in the face after he fell down.

The complaint said Smith told an investigator: “I want him dead.”

Smith said he dragged Brady’s body into his workshop. When Kifer came down the stairs, he shot her multiple times. He dragged her into the room and as she gasped for air, he fired what he described as a “good clean finishing shot” under her chin “up into the cranium,” the complaint said.

Man gets jail for mocking girl with cerebral palsy

CANTON, Ohio (AP) — A northeast Ohio man accused of making fun of a young girl with cerebral palsy has been sentenced to a month in jail.

Canton Municipal Judge John A. Poulos ordered the maximum sentence for 43-year-old William Bailey, who pleaded no contest Tuesday to reduced misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing.

The (Canton) Repository reports that Bailey was caught on cellphone video at a school bus stop in October making fun of how the 10-year-old disabled girl walks. The video of him seemingly imitating her limp was disseminated online and on local TV news. Bailey denied he was mocking the girl, saying he was reacting to name-calling directed at his 9-year-old son.

Bailey apologized to the girl and her family in a statement Tuesday.

Trial juror sent victim’s family text messages

DARIEN, Ga. (AP) — Less than two months after a juror helped convict a Georgia man in the death of the man’s stepson, the juror testified at a hearing that he sent text messages to the victim’s family during the trial.

Defense attorneys for Brian Gale asked a judge at a hearing Tuesday to grant him a new trial because of the text messages. One message the juror sent to the victim’s older brother said: “Dude. We’re doing everything we can.”

A McIntosh County jury in October convicted Gale, 41, of voluntary manslaughter and depriving a minor. His 15-year-old stepson, Daniel Head, was found dead in March 2010 lying face-down in a swamp near coastal Darien the day after the two went scouting for wild turkeys. Gale testified they got lost and he left his stepson at nightfall to seek help after the boy refused to keep moving.

The Georgia Times-Union reports that juror Michael Sinclair sent messages during the trial to Christopher Head, the victim’s brother who had known the juror in high school. He also sent a message to the Head brothers’ mother, Susan Bennett, who was married to Gale when her son died. Bennett said the message read: “Hi. How are you? I hope the trial goes well.”

Both Bennett and Christopher Head testified as prosecution witnesses at the trial. And the judge instructed jurors not to discuss the case with anyone.

“What you have heard is an outrageous disregard of the instructions you gave Mr. Sinclair,” defense attorney Carlton Gibson told the judge Tuesday.

On the witness stand, Sinclair insisted his correspondence with Christopher Head had no influence on the trial’s outcome.

Prosecutor Greg McConnell argued the juror’s messages don’t prove that he ever discussed the case with the witnesses. One of Sinclair’s text messages to the victim’s brother said he couldn’t talk about the trial but would be happy to discuss other things.

“Mr. Gale is entitled to a fair trial, but he’s not entitled to a perfect one,” McConnell said.

Superior Court Judge Jay Stewart called the text messages “an irregularity” but said he won’t rule until he gets a transcript of all the court testimony, which could take weeks.

Builder faces up to 10 years in prison for fraud

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A builder accused of taking $165,000 from his clients without finishing or even starting construction projects is going to prison.

A judge on Tuesday sentenced Greg Jarrard to between seven and 10 years in prison, the maximum allowed under a plea deal.

Defense attorneys said the 37-year-old didn’t intend to cheat anyone but got in over his head and suffered from undiagnosed depression.

Jarrard was accused of defrauding more than 20 customers. The Casper Star-Tribune reported that supporters as well as customers filled the court room for the two-hour hearing.

Jarrard’s voice wavered as he addressed the victims before he was sentenced. He said he was ashamed for what he had done and apologized for causing pain and hardship.

He pleaded guilty to five counts of larceny in September.


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