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.
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:
August 4, 2021 Recap
- 8 witnesses take the stand on first day of Chad Isaak trial
- Recap of opening statements in Isaak trial
- WATCH: Opening Statements by the State and the Defense in the Chad Isaak case
7:50 a.m.: Opening statements are scheduled to begin this morning at 8:30 a.m. at the Morton County Courthouse as the next phase of the Chad Isaak trial starts. Isaak is accused of killing four people at the Mandan office of the property management company RJR Maintenance and Management in 2019. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges. The opening remarks by the prosecution and defense may shed a little light on each side’s trial position and strategy.
8:36 a.m.: The Chad Isaak trial has started.
8:49 a.m.: Introductions of the prosecution and defense teams. Judge David Reich is reading jury instructions and the legal charges against Chad Isaak. Isaak has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
9:00 a.m.: Opening statement from the prosecution. Attorney Karlei Neufeld tells the jury they will hear from the people who were at the scene of the killings and later arrived at the scene. She outlines how they believe surveillance videos, photos, physical and forensic evidence point to the defendant, Chad Isaak, as the one who committed the four killings.
9:10 a.m.: Opening statement by defense attorney Bruce Quick. Says Chad Isaak had minimal and overall reasonable interactions with RJR. Details events leading to the discovery of bodies at RJR, paramedic and police arrivals, how the initial call for a medical emergency involving one man turns into a crime scene with four bodies.
9:30 a.m.: Attorney Quick notes how the crime scene for some time was an open scene with many people and law enforcement walking through the building. Says a crime scene entry log was not started until hours after the initial discovery of the bodies. Suggests crime scene integrity was possibly compromised by lack of strict control of potential evidence from being disturbed. Says the solo suspect captured on camera is covered with a mask and coat, with no one specifically identifiable. Says the time frame for killing the four people is too short to be attributed to the suspect caught on camera.
9:40 a.m.: Attorney Quick says there are gaps in the surveillance videos from businesses along Memorial Highway of the white Ford truck supposedly involved in the crime, meaning it is not an uninterrupted linear video narrative, but one with gaps of several minutes and hours. Also says the description of the suspect varies in height and attire.
9:55 a.m.: Attorney Quick notes how several suspects were identified by RJR employees, “disgruntled tenants” who at one time or another had made threats to employees. Other suspects outside RJR tenants were also identified. Says 3,325 white F-150 trucks 2004-2008 registered in ND with the ND Highway Department, with over 300 in several counties in western North Dakota. Says investigators did not check these out to identify owners and, thus, possible suspects.
10:05 a.m.: Attorney Quick suggests searches of Chad Isaak’s vehicle, home and business involved investigators not wearing protective coverings or gloves. Suggests investigators fell victim to “confirmation bias,” that is, ignoring other relevant information that might be contrary to the information that supports a particular view and only looking for information that reinforces their view.
10:21 a.m.: Attorney Quick notes no motive has been established. Interviews with RJR employees suggest few, if anyone, had heard of Chad Isaak or knew of him. Quick says analysis of DNA evidence from the crime scene excludes Chad Isaak. Says no DNA of Chad Isaak was found in samples taken from the victims. Says multiple weapons and ammunition were seized from Isaak. Says evidence suggests testing could not show that any of the bullets at the scene matched any weapons seized from Isaak’s residence. Further, analysis suggests bullets fired at the scene could have come from any one of numerous types of weapons. Says authorities could not determine which, if any, of the shoe impressions at the crime scene came from the suspect.
10:34 a.m.: Attorney Quick says clothing taken from Chad Isaak’s residence did not match photos of clothing in photos and videos at the crime scene. No DNA evidence was found on the clothing. Says other people were walking on Memorial Highway around the time of the crime as were other white trucks. Quick also says investigators ignored other bits of evidence from around the crime scene. Says police ignored other potential suspects as well. Says given all this, Chad Isaak must be found not guilty.
10:39 a.m.: Attorney Quick concludes his opening statement.
10:40 a.m.: Judge David Reich declares a 15-minute recess.
10:56 a.m.: Trial resumes. The jury is brought back into the courtroom.
11:02 a.m.: Judge Reich reads facts to the jury both sides have stipulated, or agreed to. These are basic facts about RJR Maintenance and Management, the four victims and the causes of death.
11:04 a.m.: Witness called – Colleen Stockert, dispatcher, CenCom. She handles 911 calls. She describes receiving the 911 emergency call from RJR Maintenance and Management on April 1, 2019. The recording of the call is played for the jury.
11:08 a.m.: Witness called — Justin Bockheim, RJR Maintenance and Management employee. Testifies to discovering the bodies at RJR in Mandan on April 1, 2019. Arrived at RJR around 7:19 a.m. on April 1, 2019. Went inside the building at 7:25 a.m. Says the first thing he saw was Robert Fakler’s body to the left about 10 feet from the entrance. Thought at first Fakler had slipped and fallen. He then called 911 and rolled him on his back to do chest compressions, thinking Fakler had a medical emergency. Justin’s 911 call was played for the court. Bockheim says paramedics and police arrived about five minutes after he called 911. He went to the bathroom in the shop to wash the blood off his hands after paramedics arrived and, when he walked out, he was told by authorities, “I no longer needed to be in the shop,” and he was escorted out.
11:38 a.m.: Cross-examination of Bockheim by defense attorney Bruce Quick. Focus is on how many entrances into the shop area of the RJR building and how many people were there on the morning of April 1, 2019. Also testified how, once, in January 2019, a tenant pointed a gun at him when he went out on a call. Quick asked about situations where there have been “emotionally distraught tenants.” Bockheim acknowledged there are such instances.
11:51 a.m.: Redirect by prosecution. Bockheim describes standing outside with other employees after being ushered out of the building by law enforcement.
11:57 a.m.: Judge Reich recesses the trial for lunch. Will resume at 1:15 p.m.
1:17 p.m.: The Chad Isaak trial has resumed after a break for lunch, Judge David Reich presiding.
1:18 p.m.: Witness called — Tanner Arthaud, a former employee of Metro Ambulance Service. He and his partner, Kylan Williams, responded to the 911 call at RJR Maintenance and Management on April 1, 2019. Arrived three minutes after being dispatched, roughly 7:31 a.m. Came in and found Bockheim performing CPR on Robert Fakler. Noticed a large amount of blood around the body. Soon found three puncture wounds near the chest. Used defibrillator to try and revive Fakler. While working on Fakler, he heard from other officers another body was found. About 8 minutes after first working on Fakler, Arthaud pronounced him deceased. Went into the office area to assess other individuals who were reported down. First went to Lois Cobb. He noticed a large amount of blood around her. Then to the next person in a separate office, William Cobb. Noticed a large number of puncture wounds to his chest. Then went to another body in the north end of the shop, Adam Fuehrer. He testified it appeared he had been dead the longest of the four.
1:41 p.m.: Cross-examination by defense attorney Bruce Quick. Arthaud says they were there about 20 minutes. Arthaud is asked about others who were in the shop or arrived at the shop while Arthaud was there. Arthaud acknowledges there were roughly 3 Mandan police officers and 2 firefighters are at the scene. Quick works to establish a large number of people — RJR employees, ambulance, police and fire crews — were walking around the crime scene in the shop and office.
1:49 p.m.: Redirect by prosecutor Gabrielle Joy Goter. Arthaud testifies there was nothing unusual about the number of people who responded to the scene. He said it was the exact number of people that would be expected to respond. Doesn’t recall anyone being near him or the bodies he was working on.
1:56 p.m.: Witness called — Kylan Williams, a former employee with Metro Ambulance Service and partner with Tanner Arthaud on the call to RJR on April 1, 2019. Testifies seeing a person performing CPR on a “downed individual” when they arrived at RJR. Williams took over doing chest compressions on Robert Fakler. Did not find a pulse on Fakler. Noticed a very large amount of blood around Fakler and saw puncture wounds on Fakler’s chest. When law enforcement said they found additional bodies, he and Arthaud went outside until the area was considered safe. The two were then directed to the office to check on the two bodies found there. Williams testified he and Arthaud found “injuries incompatible with life,” that is, the injuries were too extreme for anyone to survive. The two were then directed back to the shop area to assess a second body found, Adam Fuehrer. Testifies he and Arthau
2:11 p.m.: Cross-examination by defense attorney Bruce Quick. Williams testifies he was not wearing coverings over boots and other items that would be used at a crime scene. Acknowledges they were initially responding to an unresponsive person, not expecting a crime scene. Quick seeks to establish other people at the scene — RJR employees and first responders — were in and around the shop on April 1, 2019.
2:14 p.m.: Redirect by Goter. Williams testifies he doesn’t recall how many people or what people were in the shop area. Doesn’t recall bystanders in the shop or office areas.
2:15 p.m.: Witness called — Clayton Schaff, Mandan Fire Department firefighter/EMT. Was dispatched to assist other fire department units that responded on April 1, 2019. Went inside to assist on what was initially considered a cardiac arrest call. Testified he saw Metro Ambulance crews working on one person, Robert Fakler, down in the shop. Went to assist the ambulance crew. Testifies he saw a fair amount of blood, especially for a cardiac arrest, so he thought something not right. Told there was another patient in the office, so he followed the Metro Ambulance crew to assist. Testifies he saw “a lot of blood” and severe neck trauma on Lois Cobb when he entered the office. Noticed the fire extinguisher wasn’t mounted on the wall but on the floor, tipped over. Testifies it looked to him as if it was used in a defensive manner. Found a fourth body, Adam Fuehrer, in the shop and he helped Metro Ambulance crew assess the body. Testified it appeared Fuehrer had been down some time due to the stiffness and coldness of the body.
2:30 p.m.: Cross-examination by Quick. Schaff testifies the crime scene was something he had not encountered before. Testifies was not prepared for a crime scene. Testifies a second ambulance arrived.
2:33 p.m.: Redirect by Goter. Schaff testifies the number of people who responded seemed to be appropriate. Testified procedures followed seemed appropriate.
2:34 p.m.: Judge Reich has called a 15-minute recess.
2:54 p.m.: Chad Isaak trial resumes, Judge David Reich presiding.
2:55 p.m.: Witness called — Bruce Tessness, former employee of the Mandan Police Department. Dispatched to RJR for a cardiac call on April 1, 2019. Arrived around 7:30 a.m. When he arrived, Metro Ambulance was on the scene. Helped with CPR on Robert Fakler. Noticed a lot of blood. Said paramedic pointed out chest wounds on the body. Called for additional detectives and staff. Testifies he was the first law enforcement officer on the scene. Testifies when a second officer arrived, and another, the officers worked to clear the building. Testifies outside of the early law enforcement and medical, no one else was in the building. Testifies he and another officer entered the office area and he could see Lois Cobb on the floor, laying partially in the office and partially in the office restroom. He checked on her and testified she appeared lifeless. Testifies he then saw William Cobb on the floor in another office near the doorway. Paramedics had arrived in the office and were checking the two victims. Testifies was told another body was in the shop, Adam Fuehrer. Testifies everyone was cleared out of the building — paramedics, fire personnel. RJR employees were also outside the building. Waited until his superior from the police department arrived and gave him a walk-through of the scene. Later started a log of who was coming and going from the scene. Testifies while he was at the scene, nothing was removed from the building.
3:17 p.m.: Witness called — John Henry, Mandan Police Department officer. Dispatched to RJR around 7:30 a.m. on April 1, 2019. Initially sent to help on a medical assist. Arrived and saw Metro Ambulance personnel and Bruce Tessness. Saw blood on the patient, Robert Fakler. Testifies the scene went from a medical call to a crime scene. At that point, he removed 2 RJR employees from the scene. Saw blood droplets leading from the body to the door entry to the shop. Checked around to clear any other people that might be in the shop area who didn’t need to be there. Going around, he entered the office area and came across the bodies of Lois Cobb and William Cobb. Testifies he requested additional assistance from the two officers on the scene. When they arrived, Henry went to clear out any people from the other offices in the building. Testifies no one else was in the office area. While checking, he came back to the shop and discovered Adam Fuehrer’s body. Testifies later went on to provide scene security, blocking off traffic to RJR on 32nd Avenue and around the back of the building, guarding a door to keep people from coming or going through the door. Testified he spoke around 9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., on April 1, 2019, with Angela Davis, a McDonald’s employee, about a report of a suspicious person in the RJR-McDonald’s area. Testifies he also requested the restaurant’s surveillance footage.
3:43 p.m.: Cross-examination by defense attorney Luke Heck. Henry testifies he and another officer had guns drawn, per procedures. Testifies was dispatched to McDonald’s to interview Angela Davis about a suspicious person. Conveyed what he learned about the suspect to investigating officers. Testifies the information he collected was for an individual about 5’8″ or 5’9″, wearing boots, camouflage ski mask, black sweater, medium build, blue jeans. Testifies he and three other officers had their boots photographed in May 2019 to check against boot prints at the scene.
3:50 p.m.: Redirect by Goter. Heck testifies someone who describes someone at 5’8″ may be describing someone who is 6 feet or taller because laypeople are not trained specifically in height estimation.
3:52 p.m.: Re-cross-examination by Heck. Henry testifies about the training he has that is different from laypeople when it comes to estimating height. Henry acknowledges some laypeople can probably estimate height accurately as police.
3:53 p.m.: Witness called — Garret Stepp, Mandan Police Department officer. He arrived on the scene at RJR shortly after 7:30 a.m., April 1, 2019. Testifies employees had started arriving on the scene for work. Encountered Jackie Fakler in the building when he arrived. Testifies she was visibly upset and he asked her to step outside. Asked by fire or ambulance personnel to go outside and ask employees outside to identify the first body found, Robert Fakler. Jackie told Stepp it was her husband. He passed that information inside to the crews on the scene. Testifies he was then told other bodies were inside. Said he and Officer Bruce Tessness decided to go around and clear out anyone else left inside the building. Testifies he saw William Cobb’s body, slumped against the door. Testifies Cobb appeared to have chest wounds and no signs of life. Continuing his sweep, he saw Lois Cobb’s body on the floor, the upper half in a bathroom, the bottom half in the office. Testifies he noticed cut wounds to her neck. Said he and Tessness checked a computer server room — no one was inside. Then checked the shop where numerous cars were inside. Checked the cars to make sure no one was inside the vehicles. During this check, he found Adam Fuehrer’s body behind a work bench in the shop. Then went outside to establish a crime scene perimeter and secure the people outside to hold for interviews by investigators. Approximately 20 to 30 minutes after he arrived at RJR, he was told an RJR vehicle was parked at Indigo Signs north of RJR that wasn’t supposed to be there. He was sent over to secure the vehicle. Stayed at the vehicle at Indigo Signs for about 15 minutes before being relieved.
4:12 p.m.: Cross-examination by defense attorney Luke Heck. Stepp testifies guns were drawn while doing a security check of the building. Heck leads a query of Stepp about one incident where a white Honda pulled up near RJR. One employee is told to go get the employees in the car. When that happened, the car sped away and later returned. Two RJR employees exited the car and came over to where the other RJR employees were standing.
4:16 p.m.: Re-direct by Goter. Stepp testifies he observed red smears on the passenger handles and door seams of the RJR vehicle parked at Indigo Signs. Testifies he did not touch the vehicle and that no one touched the vehicle while he was watching it.
4:19 p.m.: Judge David Reich recesses the trial for the day. Testimony will resume on August 5 at 8:30 a.m.