Forensic evidence the focus as third week of Isaak trial begins

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In the third week of the RJR murder trial, the prosecution continued its effort to prove the defendant, Chad Isaak, murdered four people the morning of April 1, 2019.

Brooke Williams has been following the trial closely.

On Monday, we heard about the forensic evidence.

Up until this point, we’ve heard a lot about what could be considered circumstantial evidence, such as clothing found in Isaak’s dryer that was similar to what the suspect was seen wearing on surveillance video.

Witness testimony was focused on what the blood and DNA evidence shows.

Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Pat Lenertz testified blood was present on and in Isaak’s vehicle.

“The person who operated this vehicle likely had blood on their hands or their person getting into the vehicle and operating it at some junction,” said Lenertz.

But the defense challenged the validity of the findings.

“So the reason you end up doing the lab testing is this product, will actually detect false positives on occasion as well, correct?” said Defense Attorney Bruce Quick.
“It does have the ability to do false positives, yes,” said Lenertz.
“And what sort of things would it be falsely positive for?” asked Quick.
“I’ve been instructed that there are some fruits, some citric acid type fruits that will give a false positive. I have not confirmed that myself but bleach or cleaning solutions will give a false positive and I have actually done them myself,” said Lenertz.
“Point is this test doesn’t actually determine anything,” said Quick.

North Dakota Crime Lab Analyst Emily Hoge also testified that lab tests on samples taken from Isaak’s car testified presumptively positive for blood and were sent for further analysis.

Other items belonging to Isaak were absent of blood, but the lab analyst did find something else of interest.

“Did you notice anything odd about that wristwatch?” asked Prosecuting Attorney Gabrielle Goter.
“In my worksheet, I noticed, recorded that there was spots, white spots, or white residue, that was characteristic of either water spots or bleach,” said Hoge.

“There was no human blood detected on the firearm parts from the residence, correct?” asked Defense Attorney Luke Heck.
“Correct,” said Hoge.

The day’s testimony also revealed details about Isaak’s personal life.

BCI Special Agent Joe Arenz acknowledged the information gathered provided investigators little insight into Isaak.

“He had been married and divorced. He had a daughter. He had spent time in the military as a medic. I believe he went to chiropractic school in Iowa and he had family that lived I believe in the Hazen area. And I believe he was a chiropractor for a while in Hazen and he opened a clinic in Washburn. We didn’t have a lot of information on him,” said Arenz.

The defense continued to point to a confirmation bias, trying to show that once investigators closed in on Isaak, they spent little time looking at anyone else.

“So the focus on that point was almost entirely on Dr. Isaak, correct?” asked Quick.
“I would say yes,” said Arenz.
“You didn’t even interview Jackie Fakler about the alleged affair that her husband had until April 30th, correct?” asked Quick.
“Correct,” Arenz replied.
“Did you ever determine Lisa Nelson’s ex-husband’s name?” said Quick.
“I don’t recall. I now know it, but to say that I knew it back then, I couldn’t tell,” said Arenz.
“Did you do any sort of investigation into their marital history, his criminal history?” said Quick.
“No, I did not,” Arenz replied.

The defense worked to create a reasonable doubt as the state sets out to prove the Washburn chiropractor is the only person who could be responsible for the murders.

As the trial enters its third week, there are new billboards around town. They feature an image of a heart with three letters inside: RJR.

You can watch the trial live through our KX News app as well as through our website.

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