The Columbus man charged with killing a Cummins engineer last fall has pleaded guilty but mentally ill to felony murder.
Ryan Klug, 36, a former state highway engineer, admitted in court he slashed the throat of his 26-year-old apartment mate Nov. 17 before fleeing to the Texas Gulf Coast. Her body was found two days later.
The plea was made during a hastily scheduled hearing at 2 p.m. Thursday before Bartholomew Circuit Judge Stephen Heimann.
By pleading guilty but mentally ill, Klug will still face 45 to 65 years in prison, Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash said.
Klug also could be fined up to $10,000, according to sentencing guidelines.
“The only special consideration set out through that plea is that (Klug) will receive psychiatric treatment through the Correction Department,” Nash said. “He’s not entitled to get anything else.”
While two psychiatrists who examined the defendant agreed that Klug is schizophrenic, they also reported that Klug knew right from wrong when he killed roommate Adaobi Obih at 2134 Limestone Lane in the Riverstone Apartment complex on the city’s west side, Nash said.
That became evident when Klug admitted fleeing to Texas to avoid being arrested, as well as turning off his cellphone and refraining from using his debit card to avoid being tracked down, Nash said.
David Nowak, Klug’s court-appointed lawyer, has acknowledged in court that Klug was treated for mental health problems in his home state of Michigan and in Missouri.
In a 2011 Michigan incident, the defendant’s brother woke up to find Ryan Klug choking him, claiming that the brother was attempting to poison his coffee, Nash said.
In that incident, a “not guilty by reason of insanity” defense was used that allowed Klug to be released from the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital that year after a period of treatment, the prosecutor said.
After his release, Klug moved to Indiana and began working for the Indiana Department of Transportation.
While Klug and Obih lived under the same roof in a two-bedroom apartment, they were doing so only to save on expenses, friends of the dead woman have said.
Klug told Indianapolis clinical psychiatrist Don Olive in interviews March 10 and 11 that, on the morning of Obih’s death, he was obeying a message on his television saying, “Killer, killer, redneck, kill her.”
After Obih returned to their apartment, according to a separate account he gave Feb. 20 to George F. Parker, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Indiana University, Klug said his roommate appeared to have a knife.
“It startled me so much I got up and choked her,” Parker’s account said. Klug then dragged her across the room, got another knife and cut her throat, according to his statement to Parker.
After that, Klug told Parker: “I packed up my clothes and left.”