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Moorhead woman pleads guilty in cover-up of dismemberment killing

On Monday, Andrea Catherine Payne told the court she came home to Avery and Broad arguing, but she didn’t know what about.

Andrea Payne
Andrea Payne
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MOORHEAD — A 27-year-old woman said she helped a Moorhead man cover up the killing and dismemberment of their roommate last year because she wanted to protect him.

In a settlement conference that turned unexpectedly into a plea hearing, Andrea Catherine Payne pleaded guilty Monday, March 22, in Clay County District Court to a felony count of aiding an offender in second-degree murder intentional in connection with Dystynee Avery’s death. Prosecutors alleged Ethan Martin Broad, 28, killed the 19-year-old Avery on April 3 in the bedroom of their Moorhead apartment at 1310 28th Ave. S.

Payne was in a different room of the apartment when she heard “several loud thumps or strikes,” according to a criminal complaint. She left without checking on Avery after Broad told her he “cracked her skull open,” according to court documents that detailed what Payne told authorities.

On Monday in court, Payne said she came home to Avery and Broad arguing, but she didn’t know what the argument was about. Then Broad came out of the room and told her to leave, but she said she didn’t remember what he told her about Avery.

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Dystynee Avery.jpg
Dystynee Avery

As Payne left, she heard Avery say, “Ethan, I’m sorry,” Payne said. When the defendant came back several hours later with David Marvin Erno, 23, of Moorhead, she saw Broad sitting on a couch with blood on his face, she said.

Broad admitted in January during a plea hearing to hitting Avery over the head with a pipe and slitting her throat. Prosecutors alleged he dragged Avery’s body to his garage in a tote, dismembered her, placed her remains in garbage bags then put her in a dumpster.

Her remains were found three weeks later at the Clay County landfill.

Broad told Payne that he killed Avery, Payne acknowledged. Prosecutors alleged she told Erno to wipe Avery’s computer, though Payne denied that Monday. She also said she called Brandon Everett Leroy Erbstoesser, 34, and told him what Broad told her.

Payne had planned on using a duress defense by claiming she feared retaliation from Broad if she told police the truth. Police interviewed Payne at the apartment on April 16 while Broad was there.

Ethan Broad.jpg
Ethan Broad

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Payne denounced that defense strategy on Monday. She said she lied to police, both at the apartment and at the Clay County Jail, about Avery’s whereabouts.

“I was trying to protect my friend,” she said in court.

In a last-minute change of mind, Broad asked during February sentencing hearing to withdraw his guilty plea. His attorney said Broad claimed he didn’t willingly and knowingly admit to the second-degree murder charge.

A second competency evaluation has been ordered for Broad as he awaits another hearing set for Wednesday, March 31. He previously was found fit to stand trial, despite having an IQ equal to a second-grader.

If Judge Tammy Merkins finds that Broad did willfully enter a plea, he likely will be sentenced next week to roughly 30½ years in prison. If not, he could go to trial or, depending on the findings of the evaluation, be found incompetent to stand trial.

Related:

Erbstoesser and Erno also face aiding charges. Erbstoesser, who's accused of telling Broad how to cover up the killing, has not entered a plea. He's expected to appear in court Thursday.
Erno pleaded guilty last week to the same charge as Payne, and his sentencing is set for April 19.

Payne's sentencing is slated for May 3. She had faced up to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors agreed to argue for no more than four years.

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Judge Michelle Lawson acknowledged that Avery’s family disagrees with the plea agreement. They will be allowed to speak at Payne's sentencing hearing.

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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