MOORHEAD — Prosecutors say a Moorhead man accused of killing his roommate and putting her dismembered body into a dumpster had a history of violence, with court documents suggesting he tried to kill his roommate and another woman in recent years.

Story written and narrated by April Baumgarten / The Forum

The Clay County Attorney's Office filed a motion on Wednesday, June 24, that would allow prosecutors to submit evidence during trial showing that Ethan Martin Broad, 27, was involved in several instances of violent behavior before the April 3 death of 19-year-old Dystynee Avery.

Broad has been charged with two second-degree felonies of murder, while three others face charges for allegedly helping him cover up Avery's death.

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Broad hit Avery over the head with a pipe in their apartment at 1310 28th Ave. S., according to court documents. He then dragged her body to his garage in a tote, used a saw to dismember her, placed her body into garbage bags and threw her remains into a nearby dumpster, prosecutors allege.

Dystynee Avery
Dystynee Avery

Investigators found Avery's body almost three weeks later at the Clay County landfill.

Wednesday's filing details previous acts of violence reportedly committed by Broad, but it appears he didn't face criminal charges for most of the instances, which date back as far as 2017. Authorities never received reports of abuse against Avery in Moorhead, Clay County Attorney Brian Melton said Friday.

The motion alleges Broad was upset with Avery sometime between May and September 2019 and tried to smother her with a chemical and/or rag while she slept in their apartment.

Prosecutors also cite a second incident in October, where Broad allegedly threw Avery onto a bed during an argument. Earlier this year, Broad hit Avery after she said she wanted to leave the apartment, prosecutors said.

Melton declined to say from where the information about Broad's alleged violence against Avery came but confirmed it wasn't detailed in police reports before her death.

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Melton's office also noted Broad's report to police on Jan. 11, when he alleged Avery and two other men threatened him. He told police, "if he has to pull his handgun or BB gun out, he will and that he was afraid his anger will take hold and it would not be good for them if they threatened him again," the filing said.

Fargo police investigated a Nov. 5, 2017, disturbance call in which a woman who is not Avery alleged Broad attempted to kill her while she slept, according to the prosecution's filing. He allegedly climbed on top of her and tried to suffocate her by covering her mouth with his gloved hands.

The case is pending prosecution with the Fargo City Attorney's Office, city police spokeswoman Jessica Schindeldecker said. A search of the North Dakota Court System database didn't show any charges connected to the incident.

City Attorney Erick Johnson did not return a message left by The Forum.

Police in Moorhead were alerted to a report claiming Broad threatened another woman and burned her property on Dec. 18. A misdemeanor charge of damage to property was filed against Broad Jan. 3 in Clay County District Court.

Ethan Martin Broad, 27, is accused of dismembering the body of 19-year-old Dystynee Avery in his garage at 1310 28th Ave. S. in Moorhead before putting her remains in nearby dumpsters. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
Ethan Martin Broad, 27, is accused of dismembering the body of 19-year-old Dystynee Avery in his garage at 1310 28th Ave. S. in Moorhead before putting her remains in nearby dumpsters. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

Even if there were no charges, Minnesota courts can allow evidence of prior crimes and bad acts if prosecutors can use the information to show there was a motive, intent, opportunity, plan or knowledge in committing a crime, Melton said. It also can show there was an absence of mistake, he said.

Prosecutors cannot use that evidence to prove Broad committed murder, he noted.

Defense attorney Kenneth Kludt said Friday he plans to object to the motion.

"There is nothing to indicate that he (Broad) was in fact involved in prior instances of this nature," Kludt said, noting the lack of charges or investigation for most of the instances laid out in the state's motion. "We feel that would be wholly inappropriate to allow that into evidence."