Montana Man Claims Self-Defense After Shooting Exchange Student

PHOTO: Markus Kaarma is followed into Missoula District Court by his girlfriend, Janelle, with their child, May 21, 2014 in Missoula.
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A Montana man who had been repeatedly burglarized has pleaded not guilty to deliberately killing a 17-year-old German exchange student who entered his garage.

The case has ignited debate about laws allowing people to kill to protect their property.

Markus Kaarma, 29, was arraigned Wednesday in the April 27 death of Diren Dede. Kaarma faces a charge of deliberate homicide.

He’s accused of killing Dede in his garage after the exchange student walked in – allegedly looking for alcohol - setting off motion sensors and Kaarma's camera. Kaarma told police he’d been robbed before. He said that when he fired he was fearful and was just trying to protect himself, his girlfriend and baby.

Kaarma's attorney, Paul Ryan, has said his client didn't intend to kill Dede.

"He was scared for his life," Ryan said.

Missoula County Deputy Attorney Andrew Paul says this wasn’t an act of self-defense, but of murder by an angry man who set a trap.

Kaarma had left the garage door partially open and Kaarma blindly fired four shots into the garage after they spotted a trespasser, charging documents said. Dede was hit in the head and arm and died a short time later at the hospital.

“Many of his neighbors have contacted our office and have expressed serious concerns about neighborhood safety,” Paul said. “They are scared of him.”

In court documents, Kaarma is described as acting aggressively toward other drivers on the road and telling stylists at a hair salon that he’d been waiting up at night for intruders, saying “I’m seriously going to kill some f--king kids.”

Prosecutors argued his bail should be raised to $500,000, but District Judge Ed McLean didn’t agree, leaving Kaarma free on his current, lesser bail. His attorney denies he was out to get anyone, saying Kaarma is now virtually a prisoner in his own home, afraid to go outside.

“There’s been some death threats,” Ryan said. “Certainly he’s uneasy being in his own house.”

Even if Kaarma is cleared in the case, his troubles may not be over. German authorities have now submitted a letter saying they are watching closely and could pursue a case of their own.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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