Watch CBSN Live

Montana man charged with shooting teen in his garage

MISSOULA, Mont. - A man has been charged in the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy after prosecutors said he set a trap in his garage to catch any would-be burglars because he was frustrated over recent thefts.

Markus Kaarma, 29, made an initial appearance in Justice Court on Monday but did not enter a plea to the count of felony deliberate homicide filed in the death of Diren Dede, an exchange student from Hamburg, Germany.

Kaarma's attorney, Paul Ryan, said his client feels terrible about the death of the young man, but he was also was disappointed that the Missoula County attorney filed the charge.

Ryan told CBS affiliate KPAX his client will plead not guilty and will fight the charge all the way.

Court records said Kaarma and his common-law wife, Janelle Pflager, had set up sensors outside the garage, a video monitoring system in the garage and left the garage door open. Pflager said she put personal items that she had cataloged in a purse in the garage "so that they would take it."

Early Sunday, the sensors went off, and Kaarma and Pflager looked at the video feed and saw that someone was in the garage.

Kaarma went outside with his shotgun. He told investigators he heard a noise that sounded like metal on metal, and he was afraid the intruder would come out and hurt him. He said he did not see anyone in the darkened garage and did not communicate with anyone before sweeping the garage with four shotgun blasts.

According to an affidavit filed by prosecutors, Pflager told investigators that Kaarma yelled into the garage, and that someone responded either "hey" or "wait." Soon after, Kaarma fired four shots into the dark garage, she said.

Dede was struck in the head and arm and died at a Missoula hospital, court records said.

Kaarma said he didn't want the suspect to get away and added that police can't catch burglars in the act, the affidavit filed Monday said.

Pflager told police that they had been burglarized two times within the last three weeks. Ryan said.

They were frustrated, on edge and felt someone in their neighborhood was watching them, Ryan said. The couple called police "and nothing was done," he said.

Pflager had made a list of the items in the purse so if it was taken she could attempt to track the thief, Ryan said. Despite the recent burglaries, they left the garage door open, prosecutors noted.

"They certainly didn't tell the kid to come in (the garage)," Ryan said. "He entered voluntarily."

Dede was a junior at Big Sky High School. He was an All-State soccer player and also competed in track. Monday was a scheduled day off in the Missoula County Public School District, but KPAX said counselors were made available to students.

On Sunday, a woman told investigators that Kaarma had told her that he had been waiting up for three nights with his shotgun to shoot a kid, court records said.

Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech set Kaarma's bail at $30,000.

Kaarma's arrest comes as a man is on trial in Minnesota for fatally shooting two teenage intruders in his Little Falls home. Byron Smith, 65, is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady.

Smith contends he was defending himself when he shot the two cousins in his basement because he feared for his life after several break-ins. Prosecutors say he lay in wait for the teens.