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Moorhead man accused of killing roommate can't withdraw guilty plea, judge rules

It’s unclear when Ethan Broad will be sentenced, but it is inevitable now that a judge ruled he knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily admitted to murdering Dystynee Avery last year.

Ethan Broad.jpg
Ethan Broad
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MOORHEAD — A Moorhead man accused of killing and dismembering his roommate last year will not be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, a judge ruled this week.

Clay County Judge Tammy Merkins denied a bid on Tuesday, May 11, by Ethan Martin Broad, 28, to go to trial for the April 3, 2020, death of 19-year-old Dystynee Avery. Broad pleaded guilty in January to a charge of second-degree felony murder without intent.

He admitted to hitting Avery over the head with a pipe before cutting her throat. He said he did it because he was angry at Avery, claiming she swung the pipe at him first.

Dystynee Avery.jpg
Dystynee Avery

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Court documents alleged Broad dragged Avery’s body to his garage, dismembered her with saws and threw her remains in a dumpster. Her body was found three weeks later in the Clay County landfill.

In a last-minute decision, Broad said during a February sentencing hearing he didn’t freely and knowingly plead guilty. He claimed he was innocent and didn’t understand the plea agreement, which called for him to serve more than 30 years in prison.

Broad suffers from mental health and developmental issues, his attorney Kenneth Kludt said. Court documents said he has a low IQ, and his reading skills are that of a first-grader.

The sentencing hearing was delayed until Merkins issued her opinion on the matter. The judge ruled Broad did enter the plea intelligently, voluntarily and knowingly, and he understood the consequences of pleading guilty. She also noted Broad was found competent to proceed in the case.

“While (Broad) does suffer from some mental health issues, there is nothing in the record to suggest that these issues interfered with his ability to fully understand the proceedings or the consequences of his plea,” Merkins wrote in her opinion.

Broad will be sentenced on May 21.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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