Federal authorities do not intend to pursue additional charges against the 25-year-old Massachusetts man accused of fatally stabbing his best friend during a camping trip in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, according to prosecutors in New Mexico.
Raffi Kodikian, of Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood, faces an open count of murder in New Mexico for allegedly stabbing his hiking partner, 26-year-old David Coughlin, twice in the chest with a small pocketknife. Kodikian contends the pair had been lost for two days and ran out of water. They both expected to die, he told investigators, and Coughlin begged to be put out of his misery.
So what began as a Jack Kerouac rite of passage ended with Kodikian's diary entry for Aug. 8: "I killed and buried my best friend today."
Court records show the pair drove into the national park in southeastern New Mexico and took out a two-day camping permit on Aug. 4, the Associated Press reported. When they had not returned to the visitor center four days later, park rangers began a search and found their campsite, located only 250 feet from the trail and a mile from Coughlin's car in a remote area at the bottom of the Rattlesnake Canyon near the Mexican border.
Large rocks in the middle of the campsite had been moved to spell "SOS," and one of their sleeping bags apparently was set ablaze to start a signal flare, according to the Carlsbad Current-Argus. Kodikian was found lying under a small tarp; Coughlin was buried in a small grave nearby.
"I killed him," Kodikian told rescuers. He also said, "I hope you brought water."
Autopsy results showed Coughlin was moderately to severely dehydrated, indicating he may have suffered some pain and delirium before he died. There was no sign of trauma or struggle. Kodikian attempted to fulfill a suicide pact between the two men by slitting his own wrists, but the knife he used was too dull, his attorney Gary Mitchell told the Boston Herald. "There was no evil intent whatsoever," Mitchell said.
Kodikian was allowed to return to his family's home near Philadelphia after posting $50,000 bail. He must return to New Mexico for a trial, which was moved to state district court last week following the waiver of a preliminary hearing in lower court, the district attorney's office said. Mercy killing amounts to assisted suicide, which is illegal in New Mexico, and carries penalties ranging from those for capital murder to involuntary manslaughter. Local prosecutors confirmed they are handling the case and have been notified that federal agencies will not file additional charges, even though the incident occurred in a national park.
Coughlin, who worked until recently as a management analyst, had been headed for the University of California at Santa Barbara and asked his friend of five years to join him on a coast-to-coast journey. At a memorial service in Wellesley, Mass., earlier this month, Coughlin's brother offered words of compassion for the trip's lone survivor.
"This is very, very important to me," Michael Coughlin reportedly told mourners. "Everyone here, please say a prayer for Raffi because I know how much he loved David, and I know how much my brother loved him."
This was not the first time Kodikian traveled across the country. An aspiring writer, Kodikian once served as an editorial assistant at the Boston Globe and published a 1998 travel story recounting a solo cross-country trek after graduating from Northeastern University in Boston. Full of the dangers and thrills accompanying a young man's quest for adventure, one article was written from a small town in southwest New Mexico named Truth or Consequences.
CAPTION: David Coughlin in a 1991 yearbook photo.
CAPTION: Raffi Kodikian is escorted to Eddy County Magistrate Court in Carlsbad on Aug. 9. He faces an open count of murder for fatally stabbing his hiking partner, 26-year-old David Coughlin.