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.
Wednesday, September 28
Hour 8, Day 2
The interview footage concluded with Nikki stating that there was another man in the house, who was arguing with Chad in the bedroom. She believed this man to be in his mid-40s, and smelled like Crown Liquor (a picture was drawn and provided to the court). Nikki also stated that Chad had been deep in debt as a result of gambling. Nikki said she went into the car early and asked what happened while Earl was inside once he returned. Supposedly, when Earl was in the house, the gun went off. Nikki admitted that Earl stated that Chad was ‘not alive anymore’ upon his return. She also declared that it was Earl who shot Chad, and that it was his idea to start the fire. Nikki also expressed some semblance of ‘relief’ once Chad was gone. She also stated later that Earl kicked over the propane heater after their second visit to the home. Nikki continued to say that she called in Chad sick to work on Tuesday, and declined to check on Chad when his co-workers became concerned out of fear.
Entzel was shown to have written a confession and statement at the end of the recording, but attempted to destroy it according to law enforcement. The police were able to recover the statement, and this was also displayed to the court. Entzel’s jacket, clothing, cell phone, purse, and wedding ring were seized following the interview. The defense objected to speculation that Entzel’s attempt to destroy the statement was a way of retracting it, which was sustained by the judge. Officer Silbernagel stated that she was not asked if she wanted to call an attorney. Following final questioning, the court was adjourned for the day after the judge addressed a revised witness list.
Hour 7, Day 2
After a brief break, the interview video resumed, where Nikki stated that Earl and Chad talked when the two were at the home and Nikki was looking for her medicine. Nikki acquiesced that Earl may have returned to Chad’s home when she was away, and Nikki stated that Earl grabbed wrapping paper and her son Christopher’s backpack upon returning from Chad’s home. The investigator reported that Chad’s body was believed to have been deceased after Nikki and Earl left the house. Contradictory statements and withheld information led Silbernagel to accuse Nikki of lying to him. Nikki also stated that Chad threatened to ‘hunt her down’ if she left him. Other statements, including accusations of rape, were present in the footage, though were difficult to make out due to the audio quality.
Hour 6, Day 2
As the interview recording continued, Nikki recalled Chad’s experiences shooting, and stated that he got frustrated easily. Officer Silbernagel questioned Nikki about the fact that Chad was murdered, and stated that the police had footage of Nikki and Earl’s stay in the Fairbridge hotel. Nikki denied that she and Earl stayed in the same hotel room, and when questioned about her or Earl having any role in Chad’s death, she denied that as well. Nikki also stated in the recording that she and Earl were out of the hotel at the time due to the murder because she was viewing the Christmas Light displays in Bismarck’s Candy Cane Lane. In the interview, Nikki stated that Chad had no objection to her sharing a hotel room with Earl.
A criminal investigator began to point out contradictions in Nikki’s story (such as returning to the house with Earl for an hour and forty minutes, while Chad was supposedly drinking, to get her medication when she previously claimed it was in her purse), before revealing that there was a gap in her home security camera system stemming from a cancelation on her app.
During the hour and 40 minutes she and Earl were at the house, Nikki said she loaded the dishwasher, moved things into the garbage, and settled the pantry before telling Chad she was going to the hotel with Earl.
Hour 5, Day 2
As lunch concluded at 1:30, the judge requested a transcript of Entzel’s interview due to audio concerns, and the recording continued. In the recording, Nikki stated that three weeks prior to the murder, Chad followed her to Verge Fitness out of concern that she was cheating. Nikki stated in the interview that she had told friends about her abuse and made plans to leave Chad due to his drinking problem, and confided in Chad’s sister about the issue. Nikki also identified her friend as Earl, and claimed he was also a friend of Chad.
Hour 4, Day 2
Court paused for lunch break.
Hour 3, Day 2
After the video, Silbernagel presented a gun sleeve present at the site, and then stated that Earn had been to the home with Nikki before to pick up items. Silbernagel stated he had conducted interviews with friends of Chad’s, and then asked Nikki to conduct another interview in 2020, which she eventually acquiesced to. During the interview, Nikki told the officer she was having issues with her insurance company.
Snippets of the later interview were then provided and played for the court. In the interviews, Nikki stated she worked at Community Options, as well as worked catering out of the home as Nikki’s Savory Sweets. She also went into detail on meeting Chad, and the family’s relationship. Entzel again began to bring up Chad’s drinking problem and mentioned ‘drinking games’ (a code term for abuse) and her physical abuse. It was worth noting that Nikki declined police offers of assistance at the time.
The interview was stopped at 12:00 p.m. when the court was briefly adjourned for a lunch break.
Hour 2, Day 2
Photos of Entzel’s vehicle were displayed, and it was reported that she had misidentified her vehicle’s model. Pictures of the Amazon package (containing the two cell phones) were also provided, with focus given to the fact that the name on the label was ‘Earl Howard’ (who was unknown to the police at the time). Photographs of the crime scene were shown, along with officer comments, where Silbernagel noted a lack of soot underneath the gun. The officer also reported a bloody handprint to the right of the body, with a photograph being shown. Silbernagel also prepared to present an audio recording of his last interaction with Entzel, and a break was called as the footage was prepared.
The audio was then shared with the court, where sudden shifts in Entzel’s tone were noted. In the recording, Entzel again referenced a ‘friend of the family’ who was not named.
Hour 1, Day 2
The morning began with a testimony from Aaron Silbernagel, formerly a member of the Burleigh County Sherrif’s Office who was present for a large overview of the scene. Silbernagel noticed a large amount of soot in the home, and upon meeting with Nikki, noted that she was strangely calm considering the event. According to Silbernagel, Nikki mentioned during the conversation with Silbernagel that she had multiple conditions that would have made it difficult for her to remain in the house when the furnace failed to relight, including cancers and scleroma, as well as that multiple people came to the house to try and fix the furnace but were unable to. A video was played showing the furnace apparently failing to relight. Nikki was reported to have consented to a forensic scan and download of her phone, before asking for a phone from her vehicle.
Silbernagel also reported Nikki had stated that Chad was drinking cases of Crown Royal (consisting of 12 750-milliliter bottles) and Irish Whiskey a month, in addition to beer. One bottle of Irish Whiskey was reported to be in the home when officers investigated it. It was noted that Nikki would turn emotional in conversation regarding her relationship and her husband’s apparent drinking problem. He also said that Nikki once told a story about her son Christopher saying that ‘there wasn’t enough beer in the cooler for dad (referring to Chad), and he might be mad’ at a family birthday party. Silbernagel stated she also mentioned the drinking and abuse topics to a ‘close friend’, who was not identified. Nikki also stated to Silbernagel that Chad struggled with infidelity and had at some point made suicidal comments. Entzel reportedly showed Silbernagel photos of physical abuse from Chad, which the officer claims she found very quickly. The picture showed to the officer was of a bruised arm, but there was no indication of the time, date, or to whom the arm belonged.
The officer also reported that Nikki said the family stayed in the car during a night when the furnace failed to relight, despite several electric heating and propane heating devices in the home and the ability to spend the night in the hotel. When asked if the family had used the propane heater in the bedroom to keep warm during that night, the officer described her answer as rather abrupt, stating that she was not able to due to her acrylic nails and believed they were not to be used in the house.
Nikki also indicated that she went to the home while Chad was away on the Monday leading up to the murder, in order to pick up a few things. Nikki stated that Chad had sent a message asking for both members of the family to be called in sick the day after, claiming that he and Nikki were going to be playing ‘drinking games’, but these messages could not be provided. Nikki was reported to have stayed at a hotel multiple days after the incident, claiming she was ‘very tired’ and slept most days.
Upon meeting again with Entzel, she stated that the home security system discovered during the investigation was faulty, with the cameras and door sensors not working at times. Nikki was reported to have the ability to access the security footage from her phone, which worked when Nikki showed it to Officer Silbernagel.
Silbernagel also stated that Nikki received several messages and calls from Chad’s boss Cole, asking about him and stopping by the home to see if Chad was alright. When Silbernagel questioned Entzel about the phones in her car, she stated that she had just purchased the phones and had not yet activated them.
9:00 a.m.: The trial is 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 Tuesday, the prosecution gave its opening statement while the defense chose to defer giving opening remarks at the time. The prosecution began calling witnesses on Tuesday and will continue with its presentation today.
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 will be live-streamed through the KX website.
Previous trial coverage