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Montana man charged with shooting German exchange student in his garage

Prosecutors say a Missoula, Mont., homeowner lured a German exchange student to his death.

By Frances Burns

MISSOULA, Mont., May 1 (UPI) -- The death of a German exchange student, shot in a garage in Missoula, Mont., has raised questions about how far people can go to protect their homes.

Markus Kaarma has been charged with the deliberate homicide of Diren Dede, 17. He is free on bail, awaiting a preliminary hearing May 12.

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Dede was shot early Sunday morning. Prosecutors say that Kaarma set a trap, leaving the garage door partly open with a purse inside in plain view and using a baby monitor to detect intruders.

The case is similar to that of Byron Smith, a Little Falls, Minn., man who was sentenced to life Tuesday for killing two teenagers who broke into his home in 2012. Prosecutors in that case argued -- and the jury agreed -- that Smith ambushed the teens after moving his truck so they would believe the house was unoccupied.

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The shooting of Dede, a student at Big Sky High School, has brought international attention to Missoula, a city near the Idaho border best known for its spectacular setting amidst mountains and river valleys. A German consular official traveled from San Francisco to assist the teen's father and German reporters and photographers descended on the town.

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Rep. Ellie Hill, a Democrat representing Missoula in the state legislature, says she would like to repeal parts of a 2009 law. While Hill said she supports the right to bear arms, she thinks the Defense of an Occupied Structure act went to far in allowing the use of deadly force.

“What the castle doctrine has done in this country is it has created a culture of gun violence and vigilante justice,” Hill told the Missoulan. “And it’s created a culture that it’s OK to shoot first and ask questions later.”

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Kaarma regrets Dede's death, his lawyer said. But Paul Ryan also said Kaarma and his wife feel like they are in danger with one person coming to their door and refusing to leave until they called police.

“They’re not enjoying it. It’s very difficult," Ryan told NBC Montana. "They're not people that seek the spotlight or any attention, and obviously it has come very aggressively, and through lots of different sources, and so they're struggling with it and they just continue to try to make the best of their day.”

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