The death of a Bismarck man in early January brought murder and conspiracy charges against two people -- one of them the deceased man’s wife -- in a case that investigators say was part of the pair’s plan to cash in on an insurance policy.
It’s one of three homicides investigated by Bismarck-Mandan law enforcement in 2020. Those three cases and the investigation into the death of a man in south Bismarck remain open at the end of the year.
Authorities on Jan. 2 found Chad Entzel, 42, in the bedroom of a home on 43rd Avenue Northeast, outside Bismarck city limits. An autopsy showed he died of gunshot wounds.
Entzel’s wife, Nikki Entzel, 38, was arrested and charged with three felony conspiracy charges in connection with his death and attempts to cover it up. A warrant was issued for Earl Howard, 41, of Belwood, Ontario. He was arrested Jan. 9 after turning himself in at the U.S.-Canada border in Michigan. He is charged with murder, arson, and three counts of conspiracy.
Video surveillance showed the two returning to the home several times in attempts to start a fire, investigators said. The digital footprint left behind by Howard and Nikki Entzel became “a huge asset in this case,” said Burleigh County Sheriff’s Major Jim Hulm.
“But honestly, that’s all cases these days,” Hulm said.
Howard is in custody pending $1 million bail. Nikki Entzel’s bail is $500,000. The two are scheduled for trial on May 17, 2021.
Chad Entzel’s death and the alleged cover-up stand in sharp contrast to an October shooting in which a man was charged with murder after turning himself in to authorities.
Diego Ashton, 28, told police he was tired of Robert Becker’s teasing and used a handgun to shoot him while the two were in the parking lot of the closed Misty Waters Gas Station in late October. Ashton later turned himself in at the Bismarck Police Department. It’s a turn of events law enforcement doesn’t see very often, Hulm said.
“Most people attempt to conceal it, hide or run,” he said. “We’re still going to do a very thorough investigation to support that confession.”
Ashton’s preliminary hearing is Jan. 12.
No arrest has been made in connection with the death of Florian Kiefer, 68, who died July 29 at his home on Falconer Drive. Kiefer was found dead under “suspicious circumstances,” the sheriff’s department said at the time. Authorities said they were investigating a person of interest but did not name that person.
“We have a lot of evidence out at multiple labs,” Hulm said. “We can’t release anything until we solidify it through evidence that is outstanding.”
The sheriff's department historically conducts one homicide investigation per year but might go two or three years without one, Hulm said.
The apparent stabbing death of Keven Stockert, 53, of Mandan on June 1 led to a murder charge against Arthur Funk, 47, of Moffit. Stockert was found dead on the sidewalk in front of his home at a Mandan mobile home park. Funk initially pleaded not guilty but on Monday agreed to enter a guilty plea to manslaughter. A judge in the case wants to see the report of a presentence investigation before deciding whether to accept the plea.
A number of cases statewide -- including a quadruple homicide from 2019 -- were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chad Isaak, 46, of Washburn was charged with murder in April 2019 in the deaths of RJR Maintenance and Management co-owner Robert Fakler, 52; and employees Adam Fuehrer, 42; and William Cobb, 50, and Lois Cobb, 45, who were married. Isaak’s trial was set for November. Three weeks have now been set aside for the trial, which is rescheduled to start June 7.
Other court news of note:
- The case of Andrew Glasser was reopened after it came to light that he forged letters of support before being sentenced in February for raping an infant. A judge had ordered him to spend four years in prison, a sentence that drew harsh criticism from the public. South Central District Judge David Reich in July changed Glasser’s sentence to 16 years. Reich said he had “to look at everything that was submitted on behalf of Mr. Glasser differently” after learning about the fake documents.
- Four men who authorities said were members or aspiring members of the Sons of Silence motorcycle club were charged with attempted murder conspiracy after a July 3 stabbing in Mandan. Prosecutors later moved to dismiss charges against Nicholas Kinsella-Greff, 28, of Mandan; Edward Nuckols, 32, of Mandan; Nash Wollan, 48, of Williston; and Girard Glaser, 49, of Mandan. Probable cause existed to charge the men but there was not enough evidence to convict them, authorities said.
- Mason Schuh, 24, and Albert Crews, 18, were charged with attempted murder stemming from an April incident in which shots were fired at a vehicle on Burnt Boat Road. Crews in November pleaded guilty to facilitation of murder and was sentenced to 1 ½ years in prison. Schuh is scheduled for trial in February on three counts of attempted murder.
- Mandan police in March arrested Ikenna Anugwom, 19, of Bismarck, Bray Willey, 36, of Mandan, and Maria Felix, 42, of Mandan, on murder and burglary conspiracy charges. They were accused in connection with a stabbing in which Bomichael Lund, 36, suffered multiple stab wounds. Anugwom in early December pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of aggravated assault. Willey and Felix are scheduled for trial in February.
- Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Director Leann Bertsch resigned, leaving her job at the end of July. Bertsch accepted a job as senior vice president-corrections for Utah-based Management & Training Corp., which manages private prisons and U.S. Job Corps centers.
- The executive secretary of the North Dakota Board of Medicine was elected to serve as the newest judge in the South Central Judicial District. Bonnie Storbakken earned 61% of the votes in the Nov. 3 election to defeat Scott Miller, an assistant Burleigh County State’s Attorney. The two sought a seat vacated by the retirement of Judge Thomas Schneider.
- North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in July suspended the gambling license of Powerhouse Gaming, the company that makes about one-fifth of the electronic pull tab machines in the state, saying the company pirated software used in its machines. The license was reinstated in October after the company admitted it violated gambling regulations and paid a $25,000 fine. The suspension cost Powerhouse $60,000 per week, the company said.
- Two Minnesota men were charged with felonies after a Sept. 27 shooting in Bismarck. Javaar Watkins, 30, was charged with attempted murder and Tee Anthony Watkins, 28, was charged as an accomplice in connection with an incident in which a man suffered gunshot wounds to his mouth, hand and lower back, police said. The men’s cases were later transferred into federal court.
- Two people were charged in December with sexual servitude and forced labor human trafficking stemming from a raid at a Bismarck spa. Lance Jacobson, 65, and Jiang Jennings, 56, both of Hanover Park, Illinois, were initially charged with facilitating prostitution. More evidence was uncovered as the investigation continued, and police said the “human trafficking charges fit better.”
Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com