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May trial date set for slaying suspect

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A tentative trial date of May 13 was set for slaying suspect Ryan A. Klug when he appeared Thursday in Bartholomew Circuit Court to face a criminal charge that he killed a Cummins engineer in her apartment last month.

He is facing a murder charge in connection with the death of Adaobi M. Obih, 26, who was killed Nov. 17 in the westside Columbus apartment that she shared with Klug. Her throat was slit, investigators said.

Klug was flown from a Galveston, Texas, jail to Columbus on Wednesday under guard by Indiana State Police troopers.

Circuit Judge Stephen Heimann spoke with Klug via a videoconference from a secure area in the Bartholomew County Jail. Klug, 36, wore an orange prison jumpsuit and had two gauze bandages on his right arm, although he didn’t appear to be in any discomfort. His beard was neatly trimmed.

“Do you plan to hire an attorney, and if so, how long do you think that will take?” Heimann asked Klug during the 10-minute court proceeding.

Klug responded that he thought he could hire a lawyer “in a couple of days” and then asked for a list of criminal lawyers who practice in Bartholomew County. Klug added he might ask the court at a later date to appoint a public defender for him.

Heimann scheduled an attorney status conference for 10 a.m. Jan. 6. If Klug hasn’t retained a lawyer by that time, the judge said he could consider whether Klug is indigent and appoint a public defender.

A change-of-plea hearing was set for 9:45 a.m. April 28, and a trial was tentatively set for 8:30 a.m. May 13.

Klug will remain in the county jail without bond as the slaying case proceeds.

Heimann asked Klug about his medical condition and any drugs he was taking. Klug said he was taking medication to control “social anxiety, and it makes things a little bit slower.” But he told the judge he understood Thursday’s legal proceedings and the charges against him.

During the brief court hearing, Klug sat in a glass-enclosed chamber at the county jail with three sheriff’s deputies stationed outside the cubicle’s doorway. He was handcuffed.

The two-and-a-half-hour flight that brought Klug from Galveston to Columbus arrived at Columbus Municipal Airport at 6:10 p.m. Wednesday. He was booked into the county jail at 6:37 p.m.

Obih was killed between 3 and 7 p.m. Nov. 17, according to investigators. The woman’s body wasn’t found until two days later, however, after a friend became suspicious when she did not return phone calls or text messages.

Klug was arrested Nov. 23 in Galveston after Columbus police, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Indiana State Police initiated a nationwide manhunt for him. That included sending out

information on Klug’s identity, his automobile and other key facts via the FBI’s National Crime Information Center.

A break came when Galveston police queried a database that maintains records of vehicle license plates photographed as they pass through intersections in the Gulf Coast community. The camera-based system had captured an image of Klug’s 2008 Subaru and its Indiana license plate (357BPC).

A Galveston patrol officer later spotted Klug’s parked car and waited for him to return to the vehicle in order to make the arrest. Klug waived an extradition hearing during a court appearance Nov. 27 in Galveston County.

Since that time, Klug had been incarcerated in a Galveston jail cell as Bartholomew County sheriff’s officials and the Columbus Police Department considered the best and most secure way to bring him back to Columbus.

At one point, Sheriff Mark Gorbett considered using a private company, PTS of America LLC of Nashville, Tenn., to carry Klug back to Columbus on an 1,100-mile trip in a special prison van at a cost of $900.

But the sheriff later dropped that idea and opted instead to fly Klug from Texas to Indiana on an 11-seat twin turboprop state-owned plane.

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Maj. Todd Noblitt said that three Indiana State Police troopers escorted Klug on the flight from Galveston to Columbus.

“Anytime we have an extradition, we look at several options,” Noblitt said, including commercial flights, ground transport and travel on the State Police agency’s Beechcraft Super King Air 200 twin turboprop.

“It’s extremely difficult to fly commercial with an inmate, so that really wasn’t an option. We also looked at using a private extradition transport company, but issues arose with that, and they couldn’t provide the service,” Noblitt said.

So, the Sheriff’s Department turned to state police.

“They have troopers who are pilots, and they were a huge help to us in this case,” Noblitt said. “They flew down (Wednesday).” The flight left Galveston at 2:35 p.m. Central time and landed in Columbus at 6:10 p.m., according to flight records.

Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix said city police officers met the plane at Columbus Municipal Airport and drove Klug to the county jail.

Noblitt said the Sheriff’s Department has assessed Klug’s physical, emotional and medical needs and has “housed him appropriately” in the county jail. The sheriff’s spokesman declined to be any more specific about Klug’s current condition.

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