MOORHEAD, Minn. — A judge has delayed the sentencing of a Moorhead man accused of killing and dismembering his roommate a year ago until the court can determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

Clay County Judge Tammy Merkins ordered on Wednesday, March 31, that a doctor form an opinion on whether 28-year-old Ethan Martin Broad’s mental condition makes him incompetent to face prosecution for the April 3 death of 19-year-old Dystynee Avery. Dr. Nancy Hein-Kolo evaluated Broad’s condition but could not definitively say whether he was faking a mental illness or needed treatment, Merkins said Wednesday in court.

Prosecutors allege Broad hit Avery over the head with a pipe and cut her throat at their Moorhead apartment, 1310 28th Ave. S. He then dragged her body to a garage in a tote, dismembered her body and put her remains in a dumpster, a criminal complaint alleged.

Investigators found Avery’s remains three weeks later at the Clay County landfill.

Dystynee Avery
Dystynee Avery

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Broad previously pleaded guilty on Jan. 8 to second-degree murder with intent, a felony that would have sent him to prison for more than 30 years, under a plea deal. Broad claimed he was angry with Avery because she swung a pipe at him.

Broad was slated to be sentenced Feb. 18, and a second murder charge would have been dismissed. However, Broad told his attorney during that hearing that he wanted to withdraw his plea.

In arguing for a trial, Broad claimed he didn’t enter his plea freely and knowingly.

The court previously determined, based on an examination report completed last year, that Broad was fit to stand trial. Merkins ordered a second mental evaluation last month at the request of the defense.

“The mere fact that the defendant wants to withdraw his plea is not the basis of counsel’s concern,” the defense said in its Feb. 18 motion for a competency examination. “Information provided by the jail is.”

The motion did not specify what that information was.

The contents of the second evaluation were not available to the public.

Enough facts existed that would have allowed the court to determine that Broad is competent, Prosecutor Pamela Foss argued Wednesday. Hein-Kolo likely couldn’t form an opinion based on what she learned from Broad if she completed another evaluation, Foss said.

Ultimately, the court has the ability to decide on Broad’s competency, Foss added.

The court should find that Broad is unfit to stand trial since Hein-Kolo didn’t state her opinion or ask another doctor to make a determination on Broad’s mental health, defense attorney Kenneth Kludt said Wednesday.

“We need a definitive evaluation,” Kludt said.

If Hein-Kolo can’t form an opinion, Merkins said she would order another doctor to evaluate Broad.

Three others were charged with helping Broad cover up Avery's death. Two have pleaded guilty.