Attorneys for two people accused in the death of a Bismarck man last year have asked a judge to suppress certain evidence they say was gathered illegally, and a lawyer for one of the suspects has filed a motion that the two be tried separately.
Nikkisue Entzel, 40, and Earl Howard, 42, were arrested in January 2020 in connection with the death of Chad Entzel, 42. His body was found Jan. 2, 2020, after emergency workers responded to a call of a house fire in northeast Bismarck. An autopsy showed he died of gunshot wounds.
The two suspects are accused of plotting Chad Entzel’s death in an apparent love triangle and with plans to cash in on a life insurance policy, according to earlier testimony from a Burleigh County deputy sheriff. Nikkisue Entzel, of Bismarck, faces murder conspiracy, arson conspiracy and evidence tampering conspiracy charges. Howard, of Bellwood, Ontario, is charged with murder, arson and three conspiracy counts. Both pleaded not guilty in February 2020. Their trial is scheduled to start May 17.
Howard’s attorney, Philip Becher, and Nikkisue Entzel's attorney, Justin Balzer, argued in court Monday that certain cellphone and video surveillance evidence was gathered without search warrants or with warrants that weren’t properly supported by law enforcement affidavits.
Entzel gave her cellphone to investigators but it should have been returned to her when she requested it, Balzer said. She gave consent to sheriff’s deputies to view an app that gave access to video surveillance of the home, but she did not give permission to search the phone itself, Balzer argued.
Entzel asked for the phone’s return because she needed information from it but told investigators she would give it back to them, Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer said. Entzel didn’t tell deputies to stop their work on the phone, and officials obtained a search warrant for the phone when Entzel became a suspect, according to the prosecutor.
In his motion for a separate trial for Howard, Becher said it's unfair to his client that Entzel could subpoena officers who interviewed her about the death of Chad Entzel and in that way get statements about Howard’s alleged involvement on record. As a co-defendant she could not be forced to testify herself and wouldn’t be subject to cross-examination, he said.
Lawyer said Entzel could not introduce out-of-court statements on her own behalf unless she testifies.
South Central District Judge Douglas Bahr is expected to rule on both motions later this week.
Becher in an earlier motion for a change of venue said extensive news coverage has been damaging to his client, and the inconvenience of moving the trial is outweighed by the prejudice to Howard. The judge on April 9 denied the motion, saying it did not show any prejudice existed that would keep Howard from getting a fair trial in Burleigh County.
Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com