After her alleged lover pleaded guilty, a North Dakota woman stands trial alone for planning her husband’s murder. Nikki Sue Melissa Entzel, 39, faces charges including conspiracy to commit murder. Her co-defendant Earl Howard, 43, was originally charged as the gunman, but prosecutors dropped the murder charge against him after investigators could not determine who actually fired the gun and killed Nikki’s husband Chad Entzel, 42.
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Cops and emergency responders arrived at the home northeast Bismarck, North Dakota on Jan. 2, 2020. The residence was on fire. Firefighters put out the blaze but discovered Chad Entzel dead inside. Investigators determined he had been shot multiple times, and killed several days before authorities found his body.
Authorities said that after killing him, Nikki and Howard started the fire in order to destroy evidence. Investigators said that Howard and Nikki Entzel had been having affair and decided to get rid of Chad. Defendant Entzel allegedly took out a $26,000 insurance policy just days before the murder. The couple raised two sons together, said Chad’s obituary.
Nikki and Howard were set to stand trial together until Howard accepted a plea deal for charges including conspiracy to commit murder. Sentenced to 25 years in prison, he must serve at least 85 percent (just over 21 years) behind bars before he is eligible for parole.
South Central District Court Judge David Bahr said the family accepted Howard’s plea deal, according to The Bismarck Tribune in February.
“They do support the plea agreement, and it would put at least half of this case behind them where they have some answers, and they don’t have the risk of the matter not being resolved with some measure of justice,” Bahr reportedly said.
“How could you do such a cruel thing to another person that you didn’t even know, that did nothing to you?” Chad’s mother Deb Entzel said. She added that Chad’s murder created “a wound so deep it would never heal.”
Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.
[Images via Burleigh County Sheriff’s Office]
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