CARLSBAD, N.M. -- A man who claimed his best friend begged him to put him out of his misery after they got lost in the desert without water pleaded no contest Monday to murder.
Raffi Kodikian, 26, of Boston admitted stabbing to death his friend, David Coughlin, last August during a camping trip in the backcountry of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. He pleaded to second-degree murder.
''You start understanding people in dehydrated states do some crazy things,'' said defense attorney Gary Mitchell.
Kodikian could get up to 20 years in prison at the end of a sentencing hearing that is expected to end on Wednesday.
Under the plea bargain, Kodikian preserves the right to appeal a judge's ruling barring him from mounting a defense of temporary insanity based on dehydration-induced dementia.
Kodikian said Coughlin, 26, of Millis, Mass., pleaded with him to end his pain after the two got lost and ran out of water. Kodikian said he and his friend believed Coughlin would die.
''David pleads with Raffi to end his life, and Raffi -- in what most people call a mercy killing -- does as his best friend wishes,'' Mitchell said.
Park workers rescued Kodikian about six hours after his friend died.
State investigators said that Coughlin had moderate to severe dehydration but that his body fluids were not at a lethal level when he was killed.
Dr. Dennis Klein, who performed an autopsy on Coughlin, said Coughlin had three cuts on his right wrist that could have been the result of a suicide attempt. While Coughlin was dehydrated, Klein said, the cause of death was two stab wounds to the chest.
Dr. Mark Hopkins, who treated Kodikian at Carlsbad Medical Center the day he was found, testified that Kodikian was dehydrated, had a fever of 102 and had an extremely elevated sodium level and pulse rate. Kodikian was treated and released in three hours, Hopkins said.
Prosecutor Les Williams said that Kodikian had agreed to kill himself as part of a pact they made after running out of water and getting lost.
Kodikian ''did have marks on his wrist, across his wrist, but they were not deep,'' and he said his knife was too dull, Williams said. He was dehydrated, ''but not to the point that he didn't know what he was doing.''
Mitchell said the two men didn't take enough water and were totally unprepared for possible trouble.
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