- Associated Press - Thursday, April 24, 2014
Doctor: Slain Minnesota teens shot multiple times

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) - The two Minnesota cousins killed by a man who claimed he was defending himself after they broke into his home were each shot multiple times, a medical examiner testified Thursday, and while the initial gunshots caused serious injury, they did not immediately kill the teens.

Byron Smith, of Little Falls, is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Smith, 65, claims he was defending himself and feared for his life after several break-ins at his home. But prosecutors say he sat in his basement with guns, waiting for the teens to enter his house, then went too far when he continued to shoot them after they were no longer a threat.

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.

Jurors viewed autopsy photos Thursday that showed the teens’ injuries, as Smith sat still and stared at the photos projected on a screen. Dr. Kelly Mills, with the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office, testified that Brady was shot three times, and Kifer had six gunshot wounds.

Mills said the final shot to Brady, which went through his right hand and into his right temple, was the “most immediately fatal.” She described it as a close-range shot, fired from between 6 inches and 3 feet away, that went through his skull and into his brain.

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Vanska returns as Minnesota Orchestra music head

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - After quitting last fall amid a protracted lockout of union musicians, Finnish conductor Osmo Vanska is returning as music director of the Grammy-winning Minnesota Orchestra, its board of directors said Thursday.

Vanska, 61, will lead at least 10 weeks of concerts for each of the next two seasons, the board said.

In a statement, Vanska said he looks forward to “getting back to music-making with the players and together re-establishing our worldwide reputation for artistic excellence.”

Board Chair Gordon Sprenger said Vanska led the orchestra to “great heights” during his decade as music director.

“We are delighted he is back,” Sprenger said in the statement.

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Lawyers release church official’s deposition

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Lawyers for alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests said a video deposition released Thursday from a former top official in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese shows that he minimized the problem and refused to cooperate with police and internal investigators.

The Rev. Kevin McDonough gave his sworn testimony last week. He was the archdiocese’s vicar general for 17 years until 2008 and served for several years as its point man for handling complaints of clergy misconduct until September.

“Kevin McDonough, here in this deposition and throughout his time here, was a master of half-truths, which I believe are whole lies, and are often far more dangerous than an outright lie,” attorney Mike Finnegan said at a news conference.

Under 6½ hours of questioning by attorney Jeff Anderson, McDonough acknowledged he chose not to talk to St. Paul police who were looking into recent allegations of clergy misconduct. He also acknowledged declining to speak to a task force the archdiocese set up to examine how church officials handled abuse cases. And he said he was mindful when generating written materials that Anderson might obtain them through his numerous lawsuits against the church.

The attorneys released a video deposition from Archbishop John Nienstedt on Tuesday. Finnegan said they will go to court to seek more time with both men because they believe their lawyers ended the depositions prematurely. He said they’ll also seek more time to question the men about documents the archdiocese has not yet turned over.

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Mille Lacs residents sue Minn. DNR over walleye

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A group of Mille Lacs Lake residents sued the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Thursday, claiming the agency has mismanaged the lake’s struggling walleye population.

DNR officials didn’t consider a 1998 state constitutional amendment regarding Minnesota’s fishing and hunting heritage when developing its walleye management plan for the lake, attorney Erick Kaardal said. Instead, the agency focused only on a treaty with the Ojibwe bands that grants separate fishing rights, he said.

In doing so, “they’ve destroyed the Mille Lacs Lake walleye fishing heritage,” Kaardal said. “There’s no more important Minnesota ecosystem than the Mille Lacs Lake walleye fishery.”

DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said agency officials couldn’t comment on the lawsuit because they hadn’t reviewed it thoroughly.

The DNR has imposed regulations to limit the walleye harvest this year, including a ban until December on night fishing, a lucrative line for resorts. Kardaal said the lawsuit seeks to restore night fishing and consider Minnesota’s fishing and hunting heritage when making any and all future rules.

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