Hays — A Hays man pleaded no contest Thursday to charges of second-degree murder and assisting suicide in connection with the November death of a 21-year-old Fort Hays State University student.
Robert J. Land, 33, entered the plea in Ellis County District Court. Judge Tom Toepfer found Land guilty on both charges and scheduled him to be sentenced Sept. 19. Land was being held in the Ellis County jail.
The second-degree murder charge was in connection with the Nov. 29 death of Angela May Goddard of Russell, whose body was found southwest of Hays. The coroner determined her death was a homicide and that she died of asphyxia, Ellis County Atty. Thomas Drees said. He said several handfuls of dirt had been forced into her mouth. She also showed evidence of "blunt force trauma to the head," he said.
Two college students driving in the countryside came across her body near the end of the crime, he said.
The assisting suicide charge stemmed from a Nov. 9 attempted suicide by Goddard.
"The defendant advised her the only way to end her pain was to end her life," Drees said. "He encouraged her to take muscle relaxants."
Drees said Land told Goddard to mix the muscle relaxants with a liquid and drink them.
"She did that with him present," Drees said. "He then took her cell phone and left."
He said Goddard was discovered by a roommate, who called for medical help. Goddard was treated and recovered, Drees said.
On Thursday, Land waived his right to a formal reading of the charges, and Toepfer confirmed that Land understood the charges against him.
"As I understand it, the purpose of your client entering a plea of no contest to counts one and two is that the client has decided to accept that charge as a comprehensive means to dispose of the level one first-degree murder?" Toepfer asked of defense attorney Paul Oller.
He then asked Land if he understood the charges.
"Yes sir," Land said quietly.
Toepfer said he was considering ordering Land to pay the Goddard family $10,000 for funeral costs, in addition to court costs and attorney's fees.
The slain woman's mother, Jill Goddard of Russell, said her daughter and Land had been dating, but that Angela had been "trying to break up with him."
She said her daughter had moved back home to Russell from her Hays apartment two weeks before her death because she was frightened.