MOORHEAD — A Moorhead man accused of killing his roommate, dismembering her body and throwing her remains in a dumpster plans to argue that he acted in self-defense, an attorney said Thursday, Nov. 14.

Defense attorney Kenneth Kludt briefly discussed the defense strategy as he entered not guilty pleas for Ethan Martin Broad, 27, on Thursday in Clay County District Court. Broad is charged with two second-degree felonies of murder in connection to the early April death of 19-year-old Dystynee Avery.

The trial scheduled to start March 2 should last three weeks, attorneys projected.

Prosecutors alleged Broad killed Avery on April 3 in their Moorhead apartment at 1310 28th Ave. S. Court documents describe the two arguing while a third roommate, 27-year-old Andrea Catherine Payne, was in another room.

Dystynee Avery
Dystynee Avery

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Payne then heard several thumps before Broad came out of the back room, a criminal complaint said. Broad said he hit Avery over the head with a lead pipe and “cracked her skull open,” according to the complaint.

Payne left the apartment without checking on Avery, prosecutors alleged. Broad then dragged Avery’s body to his garage, dismembered her body with saws, put her remains into garbage bags and threw the bags into a nearby dumpster, the complaint said.

Avery’s remains were found about three weeks later at the Clay County landfill near Hawley, Minn.

Payne, David Marvin Erno, 23, of Moorhead, and Brandon Everett Leroy Erbstoesser, 34, of West Fargo, face aiding an offender charges. Prosecutors allege they helped Broad cover up Avery's death.

A self-defense argument for Broad comes after a judge ruled, based on a mental health evaluation, that he was fit to stand trial.

Kludt didn’t give further details on the defense strategy and did not return a message left Thursday afternoon by The Forum.

The state claims Broad tried to kill Avery and another woman in the past, but no charges were filed for those accusations.

Clay County Attorney Brian Melton said he is confident with the evidence the state has to prosecute Broad.

Prosecutors will seek a sentence that is closer to the 40-year maximum penalty. The state alleges Broad and Payne “treated (Avery) with particular cruelty,” according to court documents.

Payne also could face a harsher sentence that is closer to the 20-year maximum if found guilty of aiding Broad. Her attorney plans to argue she was under duress when she allegedly lied to police about Avery’s whereabouts, noting Broad was in the room when officers interviewed her.

She feared retaliation from Broad if she told the truth, her attorney said.