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Police: Man may have killed German exchange student after smoking pot

Lawyer for a Montana homeowner charged with murder says a German exchange student was "garage-hopping" when he was shot.
By Frances Burns   |   May 7, 2014 at 2:52 PM

MISSOULA, Mont., May 7 (UPI) -- A Montana man charged with killing a German exchange student who invaded his garage may have lost marijuana in previous burglaries, police in Missoula say.

In a request for a search warrant, investigators said that Markus Kaarma may have smoked marijuana before the shooting. Kaarma has been charged with the deliberate homicide of Diren Dede, 17, who was spending his junior year at Big Sky High School in Missoula.

While Kaarma’s lawyers suggest he was fearful after earlier burglaries in his garage, police said in the search warrant application that his losses included both marijuana and pipes.

Paul Ryan, who is representing Kaarma, said that Dede and another exchange student, a teenager from Ecuador, were “garage hopping.” He said they had heard about the sport from other Big Sky students.

The Ecuadorian student ran away when he heard gunfire but was interviewed by police before he flew home, Ryan said.

Ryan said Kaarma was especially nervous about the burglaries because he and his wife, Janelle Pflager, have a 10-month-old son. The couple set up a motion detector and baby monitor in the garage to alert them to anyone entering it and left the door partly open with a purse inside, investigators said.

“Markus felt a high level of fear and anxiety for himself and his family due to the burglaries and lack of response from law enforcement,” Ryan said.

A Minnesota man, Byron Smith, was convicted April 29 of killing two teenagers who broke into his home in 2012. A jury found him guilty of premeditated murder, agreeing with prosecutors that he lured them into the house by pretending to be away and then ambushed them in the basement.

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