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:
August 5, 2021 Recap
- Jackie Fakler, wife of victim Robert Fakler, testifies
- Day 2 of Isaak trial: RJR owner, wife of victim testifies
8:30 a.m.: The second day of the trial has started, Judge David Reich presiding. The jury is being brought in.
8:38 a.m.: Witness called — Jackie Fakler, RJR Maintenance and Management owner, wife of victim Robert Fakler. Prosecuting attorney Karlei Neufeld is asking questions related to Jackie Falker’s general family life with Robert Falker prior to April 1, 2019. Questions about Robert Falker’s hobbies, things he liked to do. Testifies she currently owns and runs RJR. Testifies she and Robert Fakler started RJR around 2011. Testimony related to starting and growing the company. Describes employees at RJR as “close family,” both in 2019 and present. Testifies it’s probably not as close a family now because everyone misses those who are gone. Testifies to an all-around close-knit operation among management and employees. Emotional testimony describing victims Bill and Lois Cobb as friends, fellow workers. Testifies Bill and Lois Cobb were usually the first employees to show up at work, around 6:30 a.m. Testifies she and Robert Fakler would arrive after the Cobbs. Says RJR’s public office hours were generally 7:45 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. and closed at 5:00 p.m. Testifies Adam Fuehrer would also arrive early, after Bill and Lois Cobb, around 6:45 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. Describes Fuehrer as a good employee, that he enjoyed working at RJR, describes him as laid back. Says early arrivers Adam Fuehrer, Bill Cobb and Robert Fakler would chat each morning, a gathering called “the coffee club.”
Testifies she and Robert Fakler drove to work separately on April 1, 2019. Says she arrived at work around 7:20 a.m. on April 1. Testifies she saw ambulance and police cars in parking lot. Says she ran to the shop to see what was going on after arriving. Went inside the shop and was stopped by her sister-in-law. Testifies she saw Robert Fakler on the ground and people trying to resuscitate him. At first she thought he was having a heart attack but then saw the blood on the floor. Testifies she was inside the shop area about 5 minutes before police asked her and others to leave the shop. Noticed Bill Cobb’s truck was not in the parking lot so she thought Bill Cobb and Adam Fuehrer had gone out on a call. Says she thought Bill, Adam and Lois Cobb were not at the office, so she tried to call them with no response. Says the employees were outside and that the atmosphere was “heavy.” Police later told her there were other bodies inside RJR and told her who they were. Later went to the police department along with Adam Fuehrer’s family and other members of her family. Testifies she gave police permission to search the RJR building and access the surveillance system. testifies law enforcement asked her about potential suspects but said she didn’t have any ideas. Could not think of anyone who might have a grudge against Robert Fakler.
Testifies she, Robert Fakler, Bill Cobb, Lois Cobb carried personal handguns. Testifies none of them feared for their personal safety and never used the guns. testifies she does not know the defendant, Chad Isaak. Saw him in spring 2018 at a mobile home “Meet and Greet” to allow mobile home park tenants to meet RJR, which had acquired management of the mobile home park. Says Isaak lived in one of the homes. Testifies Robert Fakler met Isaak in the fall 2018, but Bill Cobb and Lois Cobb did not. Robert visited with Isaak to see if he moved snow into a cul de sac and wanted to know if he still wanted to do the snow removal. testifies Isaak always paid rent on time, usually early each time. Testifies Isaak also had a dog in his home and had pet accommodation paperwork. Testifies there were no problems with the dog.
Testifies RJR had no outstanding debts or loans. When Robert Fakler died, ownership of RJR fell to Jackie. Testifies she never wanted to be the sole owner of RJR and finds running the company now a heavy demand on her personally and professionally.
Testifies there would be occasional employee conflicts. Said there were no conflicts that led to any firing or threats made. testifies on tenant conflicts such as disputes on deposits, deposit refunds, repair issues. testifies RJR receives about 1 tenant complaint a day. Never had a tenant complaint turn threatening or violent. Testifies never received any direct threats of violence against RJR or employees.
Testifies she didn’t know her husband was having an affair prior to April 1, 2019. She never suspected anything. Says she never threatened to kill Robert if he ever had an affair. Was asked that by law enforcement. She learned on April 30, 2019, that Robert had an affair. She learned of it from some of the investigators on the case. She was told by authorities Robert was having an affair with Lisa Nelson, a person she had known for about 15, 16 years.
9:36 a.m.: Cross-examination by defense attorney Bruce Quick. From 2015, Jackie and Robert Fakler owned RJR and went from about 300 units managed to 3,000 or more units. Works with roughly 100 owners of properties encompassing 3,000 units. Testifies acquired current RJR building in 2017. Testifies Bill and Lois Cobb would drive to and from work in an RJR vehicle. Says RJR had been involved in about 5 to 6 evictions per month back in 2019. Says reasons are usually nonpayment of monthly rent or payment. Says sometimes there would be lawsuits for damage to property. Testifies Robert Fakler usually handled evictions. Says staff gave law enforcement a list of current lawsuits/evictions at the time, roughly 55 lawsuits that were pending prior to April 1, 2019.
Says RJR provided maintenance and management for the Northview Trailer Park in Washburn, a task they took on in 2018. testifies the purpose of the “Meet and Greet” in Washburn was to allow trailer park tenants to meet RJR. Says animal agreements are signed between the tenant and RJR. Quick is referring to a list provided to law enforcement by RJR after April 1, 2019, of people that were evicted that were “really upset.”Jackie Fakler says someone in her office likely provided that list to law enforcement from RJR files.
9:55 a.m.: Judge David Reich has called a 20-minute recess in the trial.
10:18 a.m.: The trial has resumed, Judge David Reich presiding.
10:20 a.m.: Cross-examination of Jackie Fakler resumes by defense attorney Bruce Quick. She notes she and Ben Pace, RJR marketing director, were to leave April 1, 2019, for a convention in Las Vegas. Doesn’t recall how many people were inside when she arrived and saw Robert Fakler on the floor. Restates Robert Fakler met Chad Isaak on one occasion, that to talk about snow removal at the mobile home park. Says Isaak never met Adam Fuehrer, Bill Cobb or Lois Cobb. No work calls were ever made from Chad Isaak. Testifies she knew Lisa Nelson personally. Testified Nelson’s ex-husband had a criminal history and was mentally abusive to her. Law enforcement told her they discovered Robert’s affair on his phone. Doesn’t recall making a statement at some time if Robert ever had an affair she would have him “taken care of.” Even though she was asked about such a statement during an interview with law enforcement.
10:29 a.m.: Redirect by prosecuting attorney Karlei Neufeld. Discuss the growth of RJR over the years and relationships with owners of units managed by RJR. Testifies didn’t have any negative relationships with owners over the years. RJR was a new building in 2017. Says sister-in-law Deeana was involved in the building purchase, so a part-owner of the building but not of the RJR business. Testifies eviction process something all property owners are involved in at some time. Says she was not aware of any threats stemming from evictions prior to April 1, 2019. Testifies what she meant by Robert Fakler handling evictions was that he went to court as an RJR representative, not that he specially went to homes and physically evicted people. Testifies she recalls Lisa Nelson’s first husband left her for another woman and the second husband was involved in criminal activity. Says she was surprised by news of Robert’s affair with Lisa. Testifies she does not recall ever making threats against Robert’s life. Says she might have made comments to Robert jokingly before April 30th when she learned of the affair, but reiterated she would never would have makd serious threats against him.
10:40 a.m.: Witness called — Pat Haug, Mandan Police Department lieutenant. Describes his experience and training. Testifies he responded to RJR. He heard the medical call to RJR as he was driving to work. Heard an officer request a detective at the scene and, later, heard there were multiple victims, so he headed to RJR. Arrived around 7:30 a.m. – 7:45 a.m. Noticed police officers, ambulance and fire crews on scene, along with roughly 5 to 10 RJR employees. All were outside the building in the parking lot. Police officers were grouping people outside, getting them collected for police to take statements. Spoke with officer Bruce Tessness inside the shop when he arrived. Testifies authorities were just securing the inside of the building, clearing people out and setting up a perimeter around the building. Did a walk-through of the crime scene in the building. Says did not touch or move anything. Testifies first saw Robert Fakler’s body as he walked into the shop. Saw that Fakler had a severe laceration to his face and blood on him. An officer pointed out to him a second victim behind a work bench, Adam Fuehrer. Walked into the office and saw William Cobb. His shirt was up from medical personnel working on him. Observed numerous stab wounds and blood near his head and body. Testifies the walk-through helped him get a sense of the crime scene and what needed to be done next. Requested additional help from Mandan Police and the Bureau of Criminal investigation. BCI helps small police departments in criminal investigations. BCI arrived shortly after 8:00 a.m., 8:30 a.m. Says the integrity of the crime scene remained from the time he called for BCI help to the time they arrived. Moved people away from the building.
10:55 a.m.: Cross-examination by defense attorney Luke Heck. Discussing the law enforcement officers and agents on scene. Some were in the building, others never went inside. When BCI agents arrived, some went inside for a walk-through. He and other officers broke the news to Jackie Fakler that, based on an examination of Robert Fakler’s phone, he was having an affair. Says he told her the affair had been going on a number of years and that the text messages were very explicit. Says Jackie Fakler told him that Lisa Nelson’s ex-husband had been in prison.
During the police interview, asked Jackie whether she made the statement, based on someone having overheard her, saying a divorce would never occur and that she would have Robert “taken care of.” She said she might have.
11:04 a.m.: Redirect by prosecuting attorney Karlei Neufeld. Testifies the number of officers that would have been inside the crime scene was about five, a standard response. Says there were no concerns about the response provided. Did two walk-throughs and noted he followed the same path during each walk-through. Says during those walk-throughs, no one touched or removed anything. Says he made the decision to tell Jackie Fakler about the affair to determine whether it would play a role in the investigation or not. Says follow-up determined there was never any validity to the comments supposedly overheard that Jackie might have made regarding threats to Robert. Testifies he didn’t think her comments were literally, that it would be something she would do. She was upset and surprised when they told her about the affair, saying she was visibly shaken.
11:10 a.m.: Witness called — Shawn Banet, Bureau of Criminal Investigation special agent. Describes training and experience in law enforcement and BCI training. Says he was called to Mandan to assist in the investigation at RJR. Testifies he arrived at RJR around 9:30 a.m. – 9:40 a.m., on April 1, 2019. Says other BCI agents were on the scene when he arrived. Assigned to do video documentation of the scene inside and outside. Because the crime scene was involving a large building and a large crime scene. Took three videos during a walk-through. Took the videos before evidence collection so they have a view of the scene before things are moved or removed. Says he wore gloves and booties during walk-through. Says he didn’t move or remove anything. To his knowledge, no one else had moved or removed anything prior to his video walk-through outside of the victims being moved during medical efforts.
11:34 a.m.: The three crime scene walk-through videos shot by BCI special agent Shawn Banet are being played for the jurors. The second and third videos are from the interior of RJR. Because both contain graphic images, those videos are not being streamed to the general public, they are only being seen by those in the courtroom. The second video runs about 6 minutes and the third video runs about 15 minutes.
11:58 a.m.: Video presentations end. Banet testifies what stood out to him during the interior walk-throughs were the large number of wounds and how serious the injuries were.
11:59 a.m.: Judge Reich declares a noon recess until 1:15 p.m.
1:17 p.m.: Chad Isaak trial resumes, Judge David Reich presiding.
1:18 p.m.: Cross-examination of BCI special agent Shawn Banet by defense attorney Bruce Quick. Discussion of the importance of special protection (gloves, booties) and management of a crime scene investigation.
1:20 p.m.: Redirect by Karlei Neufeld. Banet testifies he was the evidence custodian at the scene. He oversaw collection and sealing of evidence at the scene. Describes how evidence was collected and sealed and documented on forms.
1:21 p.m.: Re-cross-examination. Banet discusses markings on evidence bags, envelopes and listings of who found it, where it was found and chain of custody, among other information. Testifies it is important to maintain a perfect chain of custody with evidence.
1:23 p.m.: Witness called –-Alex Droske, Bureau of Criminal Investigation special agent. Describes his training, experience and background. In addition to law enforcement and BCI training, he is also trained in forensic video — that is, highlighting and spotlighting things in a video or creating special videos. Another duty is crime scene reconstruction for 2D and 3D videos, virtual walk-throughs of crime scenes and more. Says he was ordered to the RJR crime scene on April 1, 2019. Says he arrived around 8:30 a.m. At the scene, he was told he would help in creating a virtual crime scene walk-through. This is done digitally, taking 360-degree photos and incorporating those into the virtual walk-through. At RJR, some photos were taken before evidence was collected and some after evidence was collected. He describes the process of creating a virtual walk-through. Says they do not embed all crime scene photos into a virtual walk-through. Says over 900 regular crime scene photos were taken at the RJR crime scene. Describes how he created the RJR virtual crime scene. Says he took eight 360-degree photos to use in recreating the RJR crime scene and embedded select crime scene photos within the 360-degree virtual crime scene walk-through. Once the virtual walk-through was completed, he reviewed it with BCI special agent Joe Arenz to make sure it was accurate and complete.
1:58 p.m.: Alex Droske is now showing to the court the virtual walk-through of the crime scene he created. That walk-through is not being streamed to the public due to its graphic nature. During the virtual tour in the shop area, Droske notes some objects/evidence that stands out to him: A zip saw on the floor, a spilled coffee cup, the large amount of broken eggs in the shop next to Robert Fakler’s body. Learned through the course of the investigation that Robert Fakler brought in excess eggs his chickens produced to share with RJR employees. Droske says the lacerations to Robert Fakler’s body and face stand out to him. Testifies a band saw in the shop had what appeared to be a bullet strike. Says investigators on April 1, 2019, began to try and determine what type of weapon was used at the scene. Using their experience and knowledge of weapons, they concluded it was likely a revolver that was used. Droske testified blood was located on the inside door handle of the entrance door of the shop. Droske says a wallet was found on the ground of the shop near Adam Fuehrer’s body. Says the wallet appears to have belonged to Fuehrer. Says Fuehrer’s ID was located separate from his wallet. Says a bullet hole was found in a box full of electric burners in the shop and a bullet with maroon fibers attached was found in the box. Says it appears the fibers were picked up by the bullet as it passed through an object. Testifies he believes the bullet passed an RJR employee’s shirt and lodged in the box.
Next Droske describes the scene and embedded photo “hot spots” in the RJR office break room area. Notes blood on the handle of the door going into the break room.
Next describes the scene and “hot spots” in the office area of RJR. Notes blood was located on a toy bear and on a sofa. It was notable because the blood was located between the two victims in the office.
Droske testifies blood in an arcing pattern found near the floor and across a cabinet in the office near Lois Cobb. Says deep cuts along her neck stood out, along with bullet wound and cut wounds to the chest. Roske says a fire extinguisher was found in the middle of Bill Cobb’s office and not in its normal location. Blood evidence was found on the walls
2:38 p.m.: Judge David Reich takes a 20-minute recess. Trial will resume at 3:00 p.m.
3:01 p.m.: Chad Isaak trial back in session, Judge David Reich presiding.
3:02 p.m.: Continuation of direct examination of Alex Droske by prosecuting attorney Karlei Neufeld. Droske testifies there was video from RJR surveillance cameras from April 1, 2019 that was collected and analyzed. He worked to highlight, spotlight elements of the video and pull still images from the video for investigative and legal presentation.
3:09 p.m.: Discussion turns to the RJR videos and the “working copies” Droske made to highlight and spotlight specific areas of the video and the still images taken from the video. Discuss the time and date stamps that record the date and time the surveillance videos were made. Clarifies that the timestamps are the RJR time, which was five minutes off from real-time. Testifies on still images made from the RJR video. Testifies there were three RJR surveillance cameras that picked up evidence related to the killings. None of the victims’ deaths were recorded on surveillance video.
3:19 p.m.: Cross-examination of Droske by defense attorney Bruce Quick.
3:24 p.m.: Witness called — Pat Lenertz, Bureau of Criminal Investigation supervisory special agent. Lenertz outlines his experience and training. Notes he is trained in bloodstain pattern analysis. Sent to RJR crime scene on April 1, 2019, arriving at RJR around 10:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Testifies there were 4 or 5 BCI agents on the scene before him. Initially tasked with searching outside RJR building for any potential evidence. Testifies he made observations of bloodstain patterns at the scene. Talks about types of bloodstain patterns: dripping, transfer, projected, smearing, spurting. Says he first started analyzing bloodstain patterns in the shop area. Observed a large amount of blood saturation on Robert Fakler’s body and transfer bloodstains on his jeans and near his feet. “Transfer stain” is where blood on one object is transferred to another object.
Lenertz also observed a transfer stain on Robert Fakler’s left palm and in his fingernails.
Next observed blood evidence on Adam Fuehrer’s body. Testifies he saw blood on chin and beard, clothes heavily saturated in clothing, transfer stains near his body, bloodstains on his boots.
Testifies he also noticed blood in an open area in the shop between Adam Fuehrer and Robert Fakler.
Then went into the office area. First saw Lois Cobb’s body. Noticed transfer stains on her clothing, saturation stains on her body, spurting stains and cast-off stains on and around her body and on her shoe. Testifies, based on the bloodstains, it appeared there were two separate altercations involving Lois Cobb, outside the bathroom and inside the bathroom. Says cast-off stains were found inside the bathroom. A rug outside the bathroom had blood pooling on it, along with transfer bloodstains on the outside bathroom door frame and wall.
Also noticed significant amount of blood on William Cobb and blood by his head and on his office walls.
4:16 p.m.: Cross-examination by defense attorney Bruce Quick.
4:21 p.m.: Redirect by prosecuting attorney Karlei Neufeld.
4:25 p.m.: Judge David Reich has recessed the trial until 8:30 a.m., Friday, August 6.
Previous One Year Anniversary Trial Stories