In April 2019, four people were killed in Mandan in what is considered one of North Dakota’s more notorious crimes. Several days later, Chad Isaak of Washburn was arrested and charged with the murders. After two years of court procedures and delays, Isaak’s trial finally began on August 2, 2021. Jury selection took two days and, on August 4, opening statements and testimony began. The trial ended August 20, 2021.
In addition to live streaming coverage of the trial, KX News also kept a rolling reporter’s notebook of what happened in the courtroom, tracking the events and testimony as they unfolded and updating it all online.
It is not a trial transcript reflecting every word spoken in the courtroom. It’s a series of information summaries of what was happening, transcribed as quickly as possible by the reporter. As a result, some sentence structure and other grammatical usage errors may be noticeable.
Below is the notebook from the trial coverage exactly one year ago today:
8:00 a.m.: Day 6 of testimony in the Chad Isaak trial, Day 8 in the trial overall, is expected to start at 8:30 a.m. The trial started Monday, August 2. Jury selection took two days. Testimony began August 4.
8:32 a.m.: The Chad Isaak trial has resumed, Judge David Reich presiding.
8:33 a.m.: Witness — Alex Droske, Bureau of Criminal Investigation special agent. Direct examination by prosecuting attorney Gabrielle Joy Goter. Discussing digital timeline for April 1, 2019, a series of videos tracking the suspected white truck from Mandan to Washburn as captured on surveillance videos from various businesses and locations.
Starts with the arrival of the white pickup at the McDonald’s parking lot near RJR on the morning of April 1, 2019. Plays surveillance video from Big O Tires showing the arrival of the white pickup truck at McDonald’s at 5:25 a.m., April 1, 2019.
Plays video of suspect exiting the white pickup around 5:30 a.m., April 1, 2019. He goes to the passenger side of the vehicle, opens the door, closes the door a minute later and walks across the Big O Tires parking lot. The suspect appears to be wearing dark-colored clothing and some type of head covering.
The next video shows the suspect walking past the west side of the Bog O Tires building. Droske notes the suspect had extraordinarily long strides. The right arm appeared to be tucked up in the suspect’s body cradling something.
The next video is from a third camera from Big O Tires shows the suspect more clearly. He is wearing dark-colored shoes, pants, jacket, gloves and that his head and neck area are covered by some sort of head covering.
Next video is from Bill Barth Ford surveillance videos at 5:43 a.m. showing the suspect going through the dealership parking lot. He appears to start jogging toward the end of the videos. Droske says the clothing of the suspect is consistent with the suspect seen in the Big O Tires videos.
Next video is from RJR. It shows William Cobb entering the office reception area on April 1, 2019. The next RJR video shows Lois Cobb standing outside, then Bill Cobb enters the scene and gives Lois some keys around 6:34 a.m. world time.
The next RJR surveillance video shows William and Lois Cobb enter the building on the shop side around 6:34 a.m. world time.
The next RJR video shows the suspect entering the RJR building at 6:42 a.m. through the south shop door. He appears to be wearing blaze orange and is holding a wire object in his right hand. It appears to be the wire saw located in the shop.
Next security video shows the suspect leaving the shop around 6:47 a.m. Suspect appears to be wearing a blaze orange hunting jacket with a hood.
Next video shows the suspect re-entering the shop door seconds later.
Next video shows the suspect moving inside the shop area along the south wall at RJR. Suspect is taking long strides as he walks.
Next video shows the suspect walking again through the shop, wearing blaze orange jacket, head covering.
Next video shows the suspect opening the south shop door around 6:48 a.m. world time, looks outside and goes back into the shop. The video shows the suspect appears to be a light-skinned caucasian. He is either looking for something or waiting for someone.
Next video shows the suspect walking in the RJR shop, leaves the frame and reappears carrying a small black shop rug.
Next video shows a tire rolling into the video. Droske says the movement shows there is some activity out of the video that caused the movement.
Next videos at 6:56 a.m. show Adam Fuehrer arriving at RJR in an RJR vehicle carrying a coffee mug and a clipboard with his cellphone on top and he enters the shop. At the crime scene, the clipboard and phone was located on the shop floor between Adam Fueher’s body.
Next video shows Robert Fakler arriving at RJR around 7:01 a.m. world time and enters the south shop door carrying a coffee mug and a bag full of eggs.
Next video shows the suspect exiting RJR through the shop door at 7:03 world time. The suspect appears to be carrying something in his left arm while he appears to be putting something in his jacket pocket with his right hand.
Next videos from Midway Lanes surveillance shows William Cobb’s vehicle exiting the RJR parking lot and heading east on 32nd Ave SE., turn on to Memorial Highway and then turn into Indigo Signs.
Next, a Schmidt Auto video at 7:06 a.m. shows the suspect running away from William Cobb’s vehicle at Indigo Signs and then walking rapidly toward Midway Lanes. Suspect in how wearing dark colors. He doesn’t appear to be wearing the blaze orange jacket.
Next, three Midway Lanes videos show the suspect walking through the Midway Lanes parking lot and toward Bill Barth Ford.
Next video from Bill Barth Ford camera shows the suspect coming out of the Midway Lanes area and walking through the parking lot at 7:08 a.m. world time. Droske says the suspect is still wearing dark-colored clothing and a head covering that it is apparent he is carrying something in his left arm.
Next video from Bill Barth Ford surveillance camera shows the suspect walking by and turning on to Red Wing Drive.
Next video is another surveillance video from Bill Barth Ford showing the suspect walking through the parking lot at along Red Wing Drive.
Next Bill Barth Ford video shows the suspect continuing along Red Wing Drive and is observed by an Armstrong Sanitation employee.
Next video from Big O Tires at 7:15 a.m. shows the suspect walking along the backside of the business. He walks behind a tree and follows a fenceline along the Big O Tires property and then continues off-screen.
10:16 a.m.: Judge David Reich calls a morning break for 20 minutes. The trial will resume at 10:35 a.m.
10:38 a.m.: The Chad Isaak trial has resumed, Judge David Reich presiding.
10:39 a.m.: Continuation of direct examination of Bureau of Criminal Investigation special agent Alex Droske by prosecuting attorney Gabrielle Joy Goter. Droske is walking the jury through a timeline of surveillance videos from April 1, 2019, showing the movements of the suspect from when he arrived and parked his vehicle in the McDonald’s parking lot, walking to and entering RJR Maintenance and Management, exiting RJR and returning to his vehicle at McDonald’s and leaving.
The next surveillance video from Big O Tires at 7:15 a.m., April 1, 2019, shows the suspect walking along a tree row behind the business and then turn around and return.
The next video from Big O Tires briefly shows the suspect walking north, essentially retracing his steps. Droske says the suspect still appears to be wearing the same clothing he had when he was first seen arriving and walking past Big O Tires earlier in the morning.
The next video from Big O Tires shows the suspect walking by the business at 7:18 a.m. Droske says the suspect is still cradling something inside his jacket and being held in place with his left arm.
The next video from Big O Tires shows the suspect moving past the business. Can more clearly see the camouflage head covering and that he is carrying something in his jacket that is being held in place with his left arm.
The next Big O Tires video shows the suspect walking by at 7:19 a.m., April 1, 2019, and heading to his truck at the McDonald’s parking lot, pause for a while on the passenger side of the truck, then drive off from McDonald’s on to Memorial Highway and head east around 7:21 a.m. Droske says still shots from the video show the vehicle is a white Ford truck. Can also see the pattern of the tire rims and that there is only one door handle on the two-door truck.
The next video from Ron Lowman Motors (now Terry Barnes Motors) shows the white Ford truck pulling into the business parking lot, turn around, and then exit back to Memorial Highway and head west. Droske says rust can be seen in the driver’s side rear wheel well. along with black railings on the pickup bed and no bed lining, as well as distinct tires and rims.
The next surveillance video from Railway Credit Union on Main Street in Mandan shows the suspect white pickup truck passing by, going west at about 7:30 a.m., world time.
The next video from Cenex on Main Street near 6th Avenue captures the suspect vehicle drive by, still going west.
The next video from Flying J truck stop in Mandan off Highway 10, at 7:38 a.m., shows the suspect pickup truck drive by.
The next video at 8:33 a.m. from Security First Bank in Center shows the suspect vehicle going by. The video in still shots shows the unique characteristics of the vehicle: The five-spoke wheel pattern of the vehicle, the rust pattern along the driver’s side rear wheel well, the snow buildup on the rear bumper and covering the rear license plate and the black railings along the truck box.
The next video from River Ag in Washburn at 9:02 a.m. shows the suspect vehicle passing by.
Droske testifies he followed the route based on the videos and the travel times at the speed limits were consistent with the times on the video timestamps at various locations.
Droske now shows a presentation of video surveillance videos from March 25, 2019 in a linear timeline.
Video from the Cenex Gas Station shows the suspect video driving by, west to east, at 5:22 a.m., March 25, 2019.
Next video from Big O Tires surveillance camera shows the suspect video arriving at McDonald’s around 5:24 a.m., March 25, 2019, parking in the near same spot at McDonald’s and the suspect exits and moves toward the Big O Tires. Droske says the videos from March 25 are “eerily similar” to the movement and actions from the April 1, 2019 videos. Droske says the March 25 videos suggest the suspect is involved in preparation and planning. Droske says the videos are only 30 seconds off between the movements on March 25 and April 1, 2019. Droske illustrates this by playing side-by-side videos from March 25 and April 1 of the suspect vehicle arriving and parking at McDonald’s.
The video around 5:32 a.m. also shows the suspect walking to the passenger side of the vehicle and then walking toward and across the Big O Tires parking lot. Droske says the suspect was wearing clothing similar to that worn on April 1, 2019. Droske says the video is “astonishingly similar” to the April 1, 2019 video from the same time period.
Droske then sows a side-by-side comparison of videos from March 25, 2019, and April 1, 2019, from the same time
The next video from Big O Tires at 5:34 a.m., March 25, 2019, shows the suspect walking past along the property. In a still from the video, Droske says the suspect is wearing clothing and a head covering similar to that worn by the suspect on April 1, 2019. He also notes the extraordinarily long strides by the person in the March 25 video.
Droske then shows a side-by-side comparison of videos from the same time on March 25 and April 1, 2019.
12:03 p.m.: Judge David Reich calls a noon lunch recess. Court will resume at 1:20 p.m.
1:20 p.m.: The Chad Isaak trial has resumed, Judge David Reich presiding.
1:22 p.m.: Continuation of direct examination of BCI special agent Alex Doske by prosecuting attorney Gabrielle Joy Goter. Droske is walking the jury through a timeline of surveillance videos from March 25, 2019, showing how movements and actions by the suspect on March 25 mirror the same movements and actions on April 1, 2019, the day of the RJR killings. In side-by-side video presentations showing clips for nearly the same times and actions on March 25 and April 1, Droske has testified the March 25 videos suggest “practice and preparation” by the suspect for the actions taken on April 1, 2019.
The next video from Big O Tires at 5:34 a.m., March 25, 2019, shows the suspect walking by.
Droske compares a shoe image from the March 25 video and a shoe recovered from Chad Isaak’s home on April 4, 2019. Says there are areas of similarity between the video of the shoe and the shoe recovered from Chad Isaak’s home.
Droske also shows an image of a shoe worn by the suspect while inside RJR on April 1, 2019. Says the shoe from the video shows characteristics similar to a shoe recovered from the dryer in the home of Chad Isaak on April 4, 2019.
Another video from Big O Tires on March 25, 2019, shows the suspect walking by in clothing similar to those worn by the suspect in April 1, 2019 videos.
A video from Heart River Storage at 7:22 a.m., March 25, 2019, shows the suspect walking by and turning toward McDonald’s.
A video from Big O Tires on March 25 shows the suspect returning to his vehicle at the McDonald’s parking lot.
A video from Big O Tires on March 25 shows the suspect getting into the white truck, sitting for several minutes and then leaving McDonald’s, turning east on Memorial Highway.
Says the white pickup has the same characteristics as the suspect vehicle in the April 1, 2019 surveillance videos.
The next video from Ron Lowman Motors on March 25, 2019 around 7:38 a.m. shows the white pickup driving into the parking lot and loops around a number of vehicles and out of the lot. Droske says similar characteristics are seen on the vehicle in the March 25 and April 1 videos. Droske says the driver’s side rear wheel well from the March 25 video shows similar rust patterns of the vehicle in the April 1 video.
Droske shows side-by-side videos of the white pickup driving through the Ron Lowman parking lot on March 25 and April 1, 2019.
Droske shows photos of a white Ford F-150 pickup truck from the March 25, 2019 video, April 1, 2019 video and from the pickup of Chad Isaak during execution of a search warrant on his property. Droske notes the rust pattern around the driver’s side rear wheel well are similar.
Another series of photos from March 25, April 1 and April 4 are shown. Droske says there is a green hue on the passenger side of the white pickup in video from March 25 and April 1. An April 4 photo of the interior of the passenger side of Chad Isaak’s white pickup shows a green Menard’s bucket.
Another series of photos highlights a dirt or mud streak on the white pickup in the March 25, April 1 and April 4 photos. Droske says the marks are “astonishingly similar.”
2:12 p.m.: Judge David Reich calls a one-minute stretch break.
2:13 p.m.: Trial resumes. Droske says he believes the videos show there is one suspect and one suspect only.
2:14 p.m.: Prosecution and defense attorneys are discussing an objection with the judge regarding the direction of pending testimony.
Testimony resumes. Droske says he created a video of Chad Isaak while he was in a holding cell in McLean County. He created a condensed version of the video, going from a raw 2-hour video down to a 17-minute video.
Defense has objected to the introduction of the video, saying the original raw video has not been accepted into evidence. The judge is withholding a ruling on the issue, pending other questions related to the video.
2:25 p.m.: Cross-examination by defense attorney Jesse Walstad. Droske says he spent 100 to 120 hours between April to June 2021 analyzing and creating the videos. Says he limited what he selected to relevant information in the videos.
Droske says he was assessing relevance to decide which video to use and which video to not use. Says he and Joe Arenz also helped in making the decisions on what to include and not include in preparation of the videos. Says others were also involved in the process.
Says he used a sophisticated forensic video software package called Amped FIVE to edit the videos. The software is sold only to the military and law enforcement.
Droske says logs identifying the editing process for the videos are usually generated and were generated for the videos he edited.
Says the RJR video timestamp is off by 5 minutes from world time. Says he has not reviewed any RJR video outside of the 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. period on April 1, 2019.
Defense reviews the timeline on the RJR video and plays a copy of the RJR video.
- At 6:47 a.m. on April 1, 2019, the suspect enters RJR, based on the RJR video timestamp.
- At 6:51 a.m., the suspect exits RJR, based on the RJR timestamp. Re-enters the building shortly thereafter.
- At 6:53 a.m., the suspect is seen peeking out the back door, based on the RJR video timestamp.
- At 7:01 a.m., Adam Fuehrer arrives and enters RJR, based on the RJR video timestamp.
- At 7:06 a.m., Robert Fakler arrives and enters RJR, based on the RJR video timestamp.
- At 7:08 a.m., the suspect leaves RJR, based on the RJR video timestamp.
2:44 p.m.: Judge recesses for an afternoon break for 20 minutes. Trial will resume at 3:05 p.m.
3:07 p.m.: The Chad Isaak trial has resumed, Judge David Reich presiding.
3:08 p.m.: Continuation of cross-examination of BCI special agent Alex Droske by defense attorney Jesse Walstad. Droske says he had a chance to review all the raw video collected.
Now discussing the cropped versions Droske produced.
Big O Tires video at 5:24 a.m., on April 1, 2019 shows the suspect truck arrives at McDonald’s. At 5:31 a.m., the video shows the passenger side door is open, then the suspect walks away.
At 5:41 a.m., on April 1, an individual is seen jogging by Big O Tires. That person appears to be wearing jogging clothing. Droske says all other individuals in the area were excluded as suspects. Says the video of the jogger was not included in the edited video presentations because it was not considered relevant.
Walstad now shows video from Big O Tires on March 25 at 5:25 a.m., shows the suspect white truck pulling into McDonald’s. At 5:31 a.m., the suspect vehicle passenger side door is open and the suspect later walks away. Around 6:00 a.m., a jogger appears and runs past Big O Tires. Asks if Droske considers the two videos of the jogger “astonishingly similar.” Droske replies he would consider it a pattern.
Next, Walstad shows surveillance video from Bill Barth Ford from April 1, 2019. At 5:42 a.m., At 5:44 a.m., the jogger appears in the video. At 5:52 a.m., a third person enters the video and walks through the Bill Barth Ford parking lot, wearing a camouflage jacket, black stocking cap and blue jeans.
Next, the focus on Schmidt Auto video, which Walstad claims has a 40-second gap. He shows the video and the gap to Droske. Video goes from 7:05:54 to 7:06:34. Droske says he was unaware of the gap.
Droske acknowledges he can’t say where the jogger originated when he appeared at McDonald’s.
The Railway Credit video is discussed next. It was edited down to 5 seconds. Droske says he excluded many trucks in the raw video that were not relevant to the vehicle he was looking for, based on certain unique characteristics.
Flying J raw video ran an hour. It was cropped down to 15 seconds. Droske says he watched the video that was relevant using the timeline. Says he watched the one hour video. Walstad says the on-ramp to I-94 is not visible in the video. Droske acknowledges it would be impossible to determine if the white truck went on the on-ramp to I-94 east or west since the ramp is not visible in the video.
Walstad highlights one hour gap, 40 second gap, and videos without timestamps in the videos collected by law enforcement. Says other individuals were omitted from the edited videos. Can’t tell if the truck went on the on-ramp to I-94. Droske acknowledges there are gaps in space and time in the videos.
3:39 p.m.: Re-direct by prosecuting Gabrielle Joy Goter. Droske says he did not create anything that was not there. Droske says the videos he showed are true and accurate. Droske says he created the videos, the stills and the timeline, he used the characteristics of the suspect law enforcement was looking for. Says he observed all the videos provided to him and then used the relevant video portions from the raw videos. The videos provided were videos reviewed by law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office. Says there were some videos submitted that he could not use because he could not determine that it did show the suspect or relevant information.
Droske says the DVR times vary system to system from world clock time. The timeline presented to the jury corresponds to world time. Groske says he never saw video of more than one suspect entering or leaving RJR or hidden inside RJR. To the best of his knowledge, there was only one suspect.
Droske says he has investigated assaults or shoot someone or stab someone in less than a minute and 20 seconds, the time the RJR video shows lapsed between the time Robert Fakler entered RJR and the time the suspect left RJR.
Droske says he cropped video to show the jury the relevant video related to the RJR killings. The 5 or 8 seconds of relevant footage was used out of a 48-minute video that does not show relevant information.
Droske says the jogger seen in the videos did not originate from the suspect white pickup.
Droske says the details on what the suspect was wearing were not similar to what the jogger was wearing. Also says the body type of the jogger was different from the suspect.
The camouflage jacketed person’s clothing was not consistent with what the suspect in the RJR killings.
Says none of the other people seen in the videos were not wearing facial coverings or gaps.
Goter asks Droske if he would be surprised to learn the Schmidt Auto surveillance video was a motion-sensor system, meaning the system starts recording when movement is sensed by the surveillance camera. There would thus be gaps in the timestamps. Droske says he would not be surprised to learn that.
Droske says his task was to create videos that are clearer and more relevant to a jury. Says he eliminated some videos because he could not accurately say the person or vehicle in the videos were the suspect or suspect vehicle.
In identifying the suspect vehicle, he used the unique characteristics of the suspect vehicle to eliminate other vehicles in the videos.
Droske says he is confident the suspect vehicle in the Flying J video in Mandan and the Center video is the same vehicle.
4:02 p.m.: Judge David Reich calls a one-minute stretch break.
4:03 p.m.: Trial resumes.
4:03 p.m.: Witness called — Justin Krohmer, McLean County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant. Questioned by prosecuting attorney Austin Gunderson. Highlights his experience and training.
On April 2, 2019, received a “Be On The Lookout” (BOLO) email notice to watch for a suspect white pickup and a suspect. The notice had a picture of the vehicle and the suspect.
What caught his eye was the white F-150 vehicle and he thought of his chiropractor’s vehicle belonging to Chad Isaak. He had seen that vehicle in Washburn many times. He had known Chad Isaak for “a couple of years.” He and his parents had gone to him for chiropractic service. He had seen Chad Isaak’s vehicle driven around town several times. Did not see anyone else ever driving his vehicle or saw anyone in Chad Isaak’s vehicle as an occupant.
On the evening of April 2, 2019, he went looking for the vehicle at Isaak’s chiropractic office in downtown Washburn and at his home in the trailer park. Says he was not able to locate the pickup that day.
An April 3 BOLO showing the suspect vehicle and the fact that the vehicle may have been seen close to Washburn area on Highway 48 and Highway 200, about 15 miles from Washburn. Says he noticed the rust on the driver’s side rear wheel well in the BOLO images and recalled seeing rust in the same area of Chad Isaak’s vehicle.
Says he requested surveillance video from River Ag in Washburn for April 1, 2019. Says he contacted BCI to let them know the vehicle looked very familiar as was trying to locate the vehicle.
Says he found the vehicle in the early morning hours of April 4 and saw it at Chad Isaak’s residence.
Later on April 4 around 9:30 a.m., he and another officer went to River Ag to collect the video. Went to the trailer park to take photos of Chad Isaak’s vehicle around 9:45 a.m. Went to the sheriff’s office to review the video.
Says he sought and received documents showing Chad Isaak’s ownership of his mobile home.
4:30 p.m.: Judge David Reich recesses the trial. Will resume at 8:30 a.m., Thursday, August 12.