Montana man charged with homicide in shooting death of exchange student

MONTANA, United States - A man who shot and killed a German exchange student in his garage over the weekend was charged on Monday with homicide, and prosecutors said he had confessed to a hairdresser that he had been waiting up nights to shoot an intruder.

Markus Kaarma fired a shotgun into his darkened garage in Missoula, Montana, shortly after midnight on Sunday, killing Diren Dede, 17, of Hamburg, Germany, after a video monitor showed a male had entered through a partially open door, prosecutors said in court documents.

Kaarma told authorities he heard a noise coming from the garage and feared the intruder would harm him, according to prosecutors. He said he did not see the intruder in the dark and did not try to communicate with him before firing four shots, two of which struck Dede in the head and in the arm, and then yelling for his wife to call 911, prosecutors said.

Kaarma, 29, told police they couldn't catch burglars in the act, that he "didn't want the male to get away and that he wanted him to be caught," Deputy Missoula County Prosecutor Andrew Paul said in a sworn statement.

Kaarma's common law wife, Janelle Pflager, said she had installed a baby monitor in the garage after the couple's Missoula home had been burglarized twice in the past three weeks and that she had placed a purse in the garage "so that they would take it," Paul said.

Pflager told police that her husband said, "hey, hey" before chambering a shell into the shotgun and that she heard the man in the garage say "hey" or "wait" before Kaarma opened fire, Paul said in the affidavit.

A hairdresser told police that Kaarma told her days before the incident that he was "just waiting to shoot some ... kid" because his home had been burgled. "He told the stylists that he had been waiting up for three nights with his shotgun," Paul said in the affidavit.

Kaarma's attorney, Paul Ryan, said his client "feels terrible" about killing Dede but feared for himself and his family.

Ryan said Kaarma, US Forest Service firefighter, intends to invoke Montana's so-called castle doctrine in his defence. The law allows use of force during unlawful entry of a home provided the person "reasonably believes" it necessary to stop an assault or prevent a forcible felony at the structure.

Dede was enrolled as a junior at Big Sky High School and placed with a host family in Missoula through a programme for foreign exchange students.