BISMARCK, ND (KXNET) — Nikki Entzel, convicted of conspiring to kill her husband, Chad Entzel, in 2019 for life insurance money, received a life sentence Friday afternoon for her role in the crime. She also received another 15 years combined on two other charges against her.

Nikki Sue Entzel

She will have to serve 85 percent of her sentence, or 36 years, 105 days before she can be considered for parole.

Originally, her sentencing was set for March 6. It was moved to today, starting at 1:30 p.m. It concluded around 2:37 pm.

At the outset of Friday’s sentencing, Entzel and her attorney, Thomas Glass, took issue with some of the information in the presentence investigation report and psychological evaluation prepared for the court. Burleigh County District Court Judge Douglas Bahr said they would discusss that later in the sentencing.

Victim impact statements then followed:

  • First up, Deb Entzel, mother of Chad Entzel. She said Chad is missed. “It is a wound that will never heals,” she said. “No mother should ever have to bury her child.”
  • Laurie Krause was next, Chad’s sister. “You took many things away from,” she said to Nikki. “But most importantly, a piece of my heart. … We are not victims, but a community of broken survivors. [Chad] will be forever and missed. I speak for a lot of people when I say I hope you rot in eternity.”
Chad Entzel family and friends

The state, represented by Julie Lawyer, noted the presentence psychological profile revealed Nikki Entzel made statements that appeared to be lies, or contradicted facts or contradicted things she said earlier.

The state went through a number of points that might mitigate the sentence to be imposed on Entzel. Essentially, Lawyer said there was nothing that would require a lighter sentence.

Lawyer also noted Entzel appears to blame others for her actions and has not demonstrated any grief or remorse over the death of her husband.

Defense attorney Glass criticized the presentence investigation report and the psychological profile in terms of their content and conclusions.

He also noted the other person involved in the crimes, Earl Howard, accepted a plea agreement that, on Feb. 14, 2022, resulted in a 50 year sentence with 25 suspended.

“I would think a similar sentence would be appropriate,” Entzel’s attorney suggested.

Glass also suggested many of the negative issues in her life didn’t start until she met Earl Howard. He noted, after the killing, Earl Howard ran to Canada, while Nikki Entzel stayed in Bismarck.

Judge Bahr interrupted, saying none of the evidence supported the idea that Howard was manipulating her. Glass responded that it was something that should be considered in sentencing.

Bahr asked if Entzel wanted to say anything before sentencing was imposed.

She outlined the hard life lessons she’s had to learn since she was young.

She said her life and her boys’ lives with Chad were good for a while. One day, she said her boys told he they were hit by Chad. Later, she said her boys told her they were locked in a room all day and told her she and they needed to move out.

“Your honor, I have been through all kinds of abuse, my boys have, I live through this every single day,” Entzel said.

“I’m told to take a plea deal. I don’t want to,” referring to activities after she was arrested and charged. She said she wanted to go to trial.

She said, while in jail, she has had to deal with the loss of direct, daily contact with her two sons.

She asked Bahr to take into account all the losses she has endured. “Have some consideration for me,” she said.

Judge Bahr then imposed sentence, noting some of the factors going into his decision.

He said Entzel was involved in a conspiracy to commit murder and the murder was actually committed. She was involved in the plan to kill someone. “The harm is extremely significant,” Bahr said.

Judge Douglas Bahr

An attempt to burn the body and the house was an aggravating act, Bahr also noted.

He referenced her efforts at insurance fraud and other criminal acts.

He said the presentence psychological profile report concluded Entzel had a 58 percent chance at recidivism, a very high number and a significant consideration.

He noted her numerous inconsistent statements, making it impossible to tell whether events or conditions she described were true or not. At one point, he said, there was no evidence or testimony during the trial of Chad having hit or abusing Nikki’s two boys.

Bahr said he saw no mitigating circumstances that he should consider when sentencing Entzel.

He took into consideration the sentence of Entzel’s co-conspirator, Earl Howard. Bahr noted his circumstances were different than those of Entzel. Howard’s sentence was based on a plea agreement while Entzel went to trial. Bahr noted that difference, and other factors, did not make Howard’s sentence a precedent for Entzel’s.

Based on all the information he considered, Bahr:

  • Sentenced Entzel to life with the possibility of parole on the conspiracy to commit murder charge. She has to serve a minimum of 85 percent of that sentence. That, based on actuarial tables used by the court, means Nikki Entzel must serve at least 36 years, 105 days before she can be considered for parole. And even then, she might not be granted parole at that time if circumstances warrant.
  • 10 years with 3 years of probation, and 5 years with 3 years of probation on the two other counts on which she was convicted.
  • All sentences are to be served consecutively

During her trial September 26 through October 4, 2022, prosecutors argued that 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.

To bolster their argument, prosecutors presented phone logs, surveillance videos, police interrogations, bank records, photos and other logs and videos aimed at outlining a coordinated series of actions on the part of Entzel and Howard leading up to and after the killing of Chad Entzel.

In October 2021, Earl Howard pleaded guilty to arson, conspiracy to commit arson, conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to tamper with physical evidence. In a plea deal, Howard received a 50-year sentence, but will serve 25 years.

Howard did not testify at Nikki Entzel’s trial.

Neither did Nikki. In fact, the defense didn’t call any witnesses. Instead, during closing arguments, the defense argued the state showed a lot of evidence documenting a crime, a lot of inference and speculation, but no hard or specific evidence that proved Nikki Entzel engaged in a conspiracy to kill her husband and then set fire to her home. The evidence, if anything, the defense suggested, pointed to Earl Howard, and he did not appear or testify at the trial.