(COLUMBUS) - The Columbus man who pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, to the murder of his female roommate has been sentenced to 60 years in prison.
37-year-old Ryan Klug was sentenced Thursday afternoon in Bartholomew Circuit Court after a nearly three-and-a-half-hour hearing. Klug admitted last month that he strangled and repeatedly stabbed 26-year-old Adaobi Obih in November at their residence in Riverstone Apartments. Klug initially pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea on April 2.
Klug had one witness on his behalf at Thursday afternoon's sentencing hearing, 37-year-old Jonathan Priest, a longtime friend and pastor for a Lutheran congregation in Brooklyn, NY. Priest described a normal childhood and early adulthood for Klug. He says that he and his wife noticed a change in Klug's demeanor in 2011. Priest noted that his friend seemed to have lost the ability to empathize with others. He added that Klug seemed to look down on some women, referring to them as "bitches" during this period. Responding to an inquiry by Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash, Priest admitted that Klug seemed a little surprised and shocked to learn that Priest was serving at a largely-black church while Klug was in Brooklyn visiting him.
It was shortly after this visit when Klug was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital in Michigan. The court noted that this stay came about as the result of Klug attempting to strangle his brother, who is blind, as he slept. Heimann noted that the documentation indicated that the only reason Klug's brother survived was because he was strong and muscular. After being released from the psychiatric hospital, Klug was on medication and receiving psychological counseling. That apparently ceased when he moved to Indiana. The court noted that Klug stopped attending counseling because he felt that it was not doing him much good. He reportedly stopped taking medication, as it diminished his drive to achieve.
Once Priest had been dismissed, Klug took the stand to read a prepared statement. In it, he apologized for his actions, blaming them on a mental illness that had ceased being treated. Klug cited his Christian faith, noting that Jesus Christ was quick to forgive the thief on the Cross. He asked for that same mercy from the court, requesting leniency in his sentencing.
Nash then presented a number of Obih's family and friends to talk about what her murder meant to them. This contingent took up half of the courtroom audience space. Each witness described an intelligent, kind and hard-working young woman. Addressing Klug as he sat at the defense table, these family members wanted to know why he killed Adaobi and why he was so vicious. After the prosecution's first three witnesses were finished, Nash was about to call a fourth when Klug's attorneys issued an objection about the number of prosecution witnesses. A visibly angry Nash admonished the defense team for the tactic, opining that a defendant who has remorse for his actions should be willing to hear how his crime has impacted numerous lives. Judge Heimann ultimately ruled against the defense.
Nash finished the state's case by calling Klug's defense and mental illness into question. He noted that Klug chose to stop taking his medication for strictly personal reasons. Nash noted in Klug's interviews with police and psychological professionals that he said "voices from the television" instructed him to "kill her." Nash noted that Klug was unable to resist those non-specific messages, but when he saw "diveine messages" on billboards instructing him to turn himself in, he was able to reject those instructions as he attempted to evade authorities. Nash opined that Klug's issues have less to do with mental illness and much more to do with hating someone that was different from him.
Judge Heimann then proceeded with sentencing. He noted that the minimum sentence under Indiana law is 45 years, while the maximum is 65 years. Starting from the advisory sentence of 55 years, Heimann discussed weighing all aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The aggravating points included the viciousness of the murder. Heimann said that it is not a stretch to say that Klug "butchered" Obih. Heimann then mentioned other aggravating circumstances, including Klug's history of criminal behavior, his strangulation of a handicapped brother and two alleged incidents of sexual battery of women at a mental health facility in Michigan. The only slight mitigating factor that Heimann found is the fact that Klug pleaded guilty and saved the county the expense of a trial and Obih's family further anguish in having to go through a trial.
Klug was sentenced to 60 years in prison with 180 days credit. With good behavior, he could be paroled in late 2043 at the age of 67. Heimann also added that he would request that Klug receive psychological care while in the custody of the Indiana Department of Corrections.
Klug told the court that he intends to appeal his sentence.
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