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Suspect in German exchange student fatal shooting due in court

MISSOULA, Mont. - A Montana man accused of fatally shooting a German exchange student is due to be arraigned in court Wednesday, Reuters reports.

Last month, 29-year-old Markus Kaarma, of Missoula, allegedly shot and killed 17-year-old Diren Dede, of Hamburg, Germany, for breaking into his garage. The former U.S. Forest Service firefighter has been charged with deliberate homicide, according to the news agency.

Paul Ryan, the defendant's attorney, said his client will plead not guilty by invoking a defense that is in line with Montana's version of the "castle doctrine," which permits homeowners to use force if they believe there is impending harm or a threat to life, reports Reuters.

Court documents obtained by the news agency state Dede was in Montana for a single school term and his host family lived only two houses away. A witness said the exchange student was unarmed when he entered Kaarma's open garage as part of a popular local high school prank known as "garage hopping."

Kaarma's house had been recently burglarized, according to Reuters. He was alerted to Dede's presence in his garage by motion sensors and a video monitor that he had installed after the burglaries.

Prosecutors said the suspect went outside and fired a shotgun into his darkened garage, hitting Dede in the arm and head. The boy died a short time later.

Ryan has cited a 2009 amendment to state law which shifts the burden of proof onto prosecutors as to whether a homeowner was in fear for his life when exercising lethal force, according to the news agency.

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