Jurors hear from former State Forensic Examiner on extent of injuries to RJR victims

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Jurors in Chad Isaak’s trial heard Monday from the former state forensic examiner, who testified about the extent of the injuries the four homicide victims suffered.

Brooke Williams has been following the trial from the Morton County Courthouse.

A big part of Monday centered on the testimony of Dr. William Massello III.

Now retired, Massello performed the four autopsies on the victims back in April 2019, and he spoke at length about what he says those autopsies reveal.

Jurors are now getting a glimpse into the last moments of life of the four RJR homicide victims.

Lois Cobb sustained roughly 50 stab and cutting wounds, and a single gunshot wound to the chest. The other victims also had stab wounds and each also had gunshot wounds with the exception of Robert Fakler, a finding Massello called surprising.

“Was there anything else unique in comparison to the other autopsies?” asked Prosecuting Attorney Karlei Neufeld.
“Well, the absence of a gunshot wound was something unique and then, of course, what’s different is he’s had a lot of mutilating stab wounds to the front of his face,” said Massello.
“Again, that would be different from what you saw in the previous victims?” said Neufeld.
“Yes, they didn’t have mutilating injuries to the face,” Massello replied.

The doctor also testified he believed it’s possible for a single perpetrator to commit all four murders in the span of 21 minutes or less, the span of time in which the suspect is believed to have been at RJR.

“Theoretically possible. I can’t tell you whether it was or wasn’t, but theoretically, yes,” Massello said.

But on its cross, the defense zeroed in on the doctor’s response.

“I think the word you used this morning was theoretical, correct?” asked Defense Attorney Bruce Quick.
“Theoretical, that’s correct,” Massello replied.
“Nothing further,” said Quick.

Sgt. Brent Wilmeth with the Mandan Police Department was called to the stand next and testified about collecting and preserving evidence.

But on its cross, the defense questioned the sergeant about other potential suspects.

“You followed up on a report that was received on April 1st that there was an employee at RJR named Mitch Kessel who had been known to deal drugs at work in the recent past,” said Defense Attorney Luke Heck.
“That’s correct,” replied Wilmeth.
“Who had been fired?” said Heck.
“That sounds correct,” said Wilmeth.
“And he was also involved in a recent fight involving drugs, correct?” said Heck.
“Correct,” Wilmeth replied.

Isaak had little visible reaction through much of the day’s testimony.

BCI Special Agent Joe Arenz was also called back to the stand.

Again, the defense raised the possibility of other potential suspects and whether those potential suspects were followed up on after Isaak’s arrest.

To follow the full trial, you can catch our live stream on our website.

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