Wednesday was the first day court was in session for the trial of Chad Isaak, who’s accused of killing four employees of RJR Maintenance and Management on April 1, 2019.
Twelve jurors were selected Tuesday, who will decide his fate. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Opening statements started at about 9 a.m. Defense Attorney Bruce Quick spoke for an hour and a half.
The prosecution’s opening statement was just under 10 minutes. Expectations were high to hear a motive during the state’s opening, however, that was not laid out.
The state brought eight witnesses to the stand, mostly those who first arrived at the scene. That includes the 911 dispatcher, the RJR employee who found his coworkers dead and first responders who discovered the four bodies.
In opening statements, the prosecution says a long list of evidence will prove guilt, but the defense says confirmation bias and a flawed investigation led to Isaak’s arrest.
“Do you know what happened?” 911 Dispatcher Colleen Stockert said when she answered a call the morning of April 1, 2019.
”No, I walked in to work, and I found him on the floor,” RJR employee Justin Bockheim responded.
The 911 call that started it all was made public for the first time Wednesday morning.
It details the moment RJR employee Justin Bockheim found owner Robert Fakler on the ground, unresponsive.
Ambulance and police arrived soon after, discovering three more dead employees – husband and wife Lois and William Cobb, and Adam Fuehrer. An investigation was launched.
Four days later, on April 5, police arrested Washburn chiropractor Chad Isaak as a suspect.
Prosecutors say their evidence will point to Isaak as responsible for the crimes – using video surveillance, eyewitness testimony and forensic tests.
“All three of those analyses one again confirmed that the suspect from RJR was the defendant, Chad Isaak,” said Assistant Attorney General Karlei Neufeld.
Neufeld argued surveillance video shows someone matching Isaak’s build go into the RJR building, leave with a company car, then walk to his own pickup truck to flee the scene.
She says the state has the evidence and witnesses to prove it.
“Ultimately, investigators will use those surveillance videos to show you how they followed the suspect’s arrival route and exit route on the morning of the murders,” Neufeld said. “They will also show you how they use photos to locate that suspect vehicle in Washburn, North Dakota, and how they were able to identify it as a white Ford pickup belonging to the defendant, Chad Isaak.”
Isaak’s defense says the case was not properly investigated.
“This case is a rush to judgment based on erroneous information that led to erroneous conclusions,” said Defense Attorney Bruce Quick.
Among the defense’s arguments, Quick laid out what he believes to be multiple flaws in the investigation, including:
- The crime log that started after multiple first responders and law enforcement walked through the scene
- A lack of victim DNA found on Isaak
- A short time frame for the crime and video evidence that casts doubt on a single suspect
Quick also says investigators didn’t seriously pursue other suspects — like disgruntled renters, people RJR evicted or the violent ex-husband of a woman who RJR owner and murder victim Robert Fakler was said to have been having an affair with.
That woman, Lisa Nelson, will be called as a witness later in the trial.
“Law enforcement believed they solved this case in four days and they spent many months trying to prove they were right. They weren’t. They simply confirmed what they believed and ignored the rest,” said Quick.
But prosecutors say this case has multiple puzzle pieces, which the jury will be tasked with putting together based in part on what they hear from witnesses.
That includes first responders called to the scene, thinking it may have been a cardiac arrest but finding a crime scene instead.
“The amount of gruesome killings, and it seemed like the time frame we were there, it seemed incredible and thought out. I felt like there was too much done in a short amount of time,” said Clayton Schaff, with the Mandan Fire Department.
Presentation of shoeprint evidence is likely to take the forefront in the coming weeks as Quick notes it’s one of the pieces of evidence the prosecution plans to connect to Isaak.
While Wednesday’s witnesses were mostly first responders and law enforcement, those later in the list include business owners on the strip in Mandan who may have seen a suspect at RJR.
We could hear from them as soon as Thursday.
You can watch the trial live through our KX News app, as well as through our website.