This is a continuing story and will be updated as new details develop during the trial. Keep checking back for the latest information available. Updates from previous days are at the end of this report. Live streaming of the trial is here.
Thursday, September 29
Hour 7, Day 3
Hour 6, Day 3
Leingang sated that she discovered a package of medication when searching the Staybridge room, as well as a phone return label and order confirmation from ATT. Earl Howard was named in both pieces of paper. The phone numbers on the listed devices were identified to not have North Dakota area codes.
One of Chad’s friends, Kent Hienle, then testified, claiming that Chad was very caring, likable, and never raised his voice at the children. Heinle also recalled selling life insurance to the Entzels for Chad, with Nikki as the primary beneficiary. When Heinle asked Nikki if she needed insurance as well, she stated she already has life insurance with another company. He continued to state that Chad was not a smoker, despite the insurance policy stating he was, and that smokeless tobacco (which Chad chewed) was filed under ‘smoker’ for insurance purposes.
A brief break was called, after which an Allstate agent and associate to Mr. Hienle took the stand, claiming Nikki asked if he had Chad’s social security number at one point.
Hour 5, Day 3
Roline’s testimony continued after the lunch break, where he confirmed that there were traces of flammable liquids (specifically medium petroleum distillent) across samples taken by the fire investigators from both the furnace and the bed. He also said that he believed there were two separate fires in two separate locations that were both purposefully started.
Jared Lemieux, a sergeant with the Burleigh County Sherrif’s Department who assisted with the search warrant of Staybridge Inn and Nikki’s Pontiac the appeared on the stand. Photos of the searches were presented to the court.
Brianna Leingang, a special agent for the ND Department of Criminal Investigation, was then sworn in, who then said that Nikki indicated she was injured in he neck and arms, though an explanation for the injuries was not given. These images were shown to the court, and no injury was observed in the neck, but a small bruise was visible on Entzel’s right arm.
Hour 4, Day 3
Court adjourned during lunch break.
Hour 3, Day 3
Roline’s photographs and explanation continued, where he noted that unbroken lines of soot and buildup would imply that the door to the bedroom was closed at the time of the fire. Photographs of the burned rooms were also provided, with extra focus being given to soot levels, peeled wallpaper and the fact that the panel on the furnace was removed prior to the fire. It is believed that the fire began in the top furnace box, although no damage to the piping or physical failure was noted. Following Roline’s inital testimony, the courtroom took a lunch break.
Hour 2, Day 3
As Arenz testified, he showed more photographs of the bedroom, including the electric heater, then the results of searching the area for blood. He also stated that he aided in extracting a piece of sheet rock from the home’s wall embedded with shotgun pellets.
Shane Weltikol, battalion chief of the Mandan City Fire Department, was then called to the stand, where he explained how K9 units are trained to search rooms for accelerants, and recounted the findings when he and his K9 Webster investigated the scene.
A change of behavior was noted in Webster once they were in the bedroom, and drew attention to the bottom-right corner of the bed as well as the area where a propane tank was previously located.
Following a short break, Levi Roline, a fire marshal formerly with the ND state Fire Marshalls, who recounted his experiences during an examination of the scene.
Hour 1, Day 3
The day’s events began with a testimony from Mike Mees, a special agent with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and agent with the Narcotics Task Force. When showing photos of his visit to the Entzel’s home, complete with the basement and burned rooms, he reported noticing a torn pack of cigarettes near the furnace. Checking the filter, the investigator stated that there was nothing wrong with the filter that would aid in starting a fire. Multiple pieces of evidence were also brought before the court, including the furnace filter and shotgun wads.
Photos of the hotel room Nikki and Earl stayed in were then displayed, of particular note was a photo of a pair of shoes that had a dark-colored pattern of soot on the sole. Mees and Silbernagel then went to conduct a search and interview of Earl Howard. A search of Howard’s pickup showed a package sent to Nikki Entzel, a folder of bank information from Wells Fargo for a bank account owned by Nikki, and advertisements for a realty group in the Bismarck/Mandan area. A pack of cigarettes of the same brand as those found in the Entzel’s basement was identified in Earl’s vehicle. A journal was also recovered in Earl’s vehicle, containing contact information for Nikki Entzel, and identifying a new phone plan that featured Nikki as an authorized user. Details regarding Kirkwood Mall were also present in the journal, with many diagrams drawn with squares, suspected measurements, breakers, fuses, and individual items, and a FedEx shipment from Earl to Chad Entzel.
Joe Arenz, another special agent with the BCI, was sworn in as the first hour concluded.
9:00 a.m.: Day 3 in the Nikki Entzel trial is now underway.
7:30 a.m.: The trial of Nikki Entzel is expected to continue starting at 9:00 a.m., this morning in Burleigh County District Court, Judge Douglas Bahr presiding. Jury selection was Monday. On Wednesday, the prosecution played an edited version of Nikki Entzel’s six-hour interrogation by police not long after Chad Entzel’s body was found in the Entzel home following a fire in the building.
During the interrogation, Entzel’s story changed several times regarding her location and actions around the time of Chad’s death and her presence at her home at the time police believed Chad was killed and two other visits after he was killed.
Nikki Entzel is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, among other charges. Prosecutors argue Nikki Entzel, along with her alleged lover, Earl Howard, Ontario, Canada, had conspired to kill Chad Entzel for life insurance money and, after murdering him, set fire to the Entzel home with the body inside.
Investigators said Chad Entzel died from two gunshot wounds and that he was apparently killed days before the January 2, 2020 house fire.
The trial began September 27 with jury selection, followed by the prosecution’s opening statement the next day. The defense has deferred its opening statement to a later time.
The trial is being live-streamed through the KX website.
Previous trial coverage