Judge sentences Ontario man to 25 years for what prosecutors say was a love triangle that ended in murder, arson

Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 3:08 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Earl Howard, a Belwood, Ontario man, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit murder and arson as part of what authorities say was a love triangle and life insurance scheme, has been sentenced by a district court judge.

Prosecutors say in 2019, 39-year-old Nikki Sue Entzel and 43-year-old Earl Howard lit a Bismarck home on fire after shooting and killing Entzel’s husband Chad Entzel while he was sleeping.

Howard pleaded guilty to the crimes. The family of the victims spoke out at his sentencing hearing Monday.

“You stole something so precious to us and I am physically sick to my stomach most days,” said Lori Kraus, Chad Entzel’s sister.

Attorneys presented a plea deal that factors in Howard’s criminal history, willingness to accept responsibility, and victim impact, among other things.

“It’s a terrible thing for a person to have to admit to being involved in, and he’s done that,” said defense attorney Philip Becher.

Becher added that Howard’s plea strengthens the State’s case against co-defendant Entzel.

“If he doesn’t change his thinking in the course of his life while he is in prison or on probation, there’s still a significant time hanging over his head regarding these offenses,” said Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer.

Judge Douglas Bahr accepted the plea agreement.

“It’s by no means a slap on the wrist,” added Becher.

Judge Bahr sentenced Howard to 50 years in prison with 25 years suspended for conspiring to commit murder. Howard also will see a 10-year suspended sentence for conspiring to commit arson, and five years suspended for conspiring to tamper with evidence.

“I have not been provided any mitigating circumstances like mental health issues,” said Judge Douglas Bahr.

Howard must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence before he can be eligible for parole when he’s about 64-years-old. He gets credit for the 767 days he’s already served.

Howard’s co-defendant, Nikki Sue Entzel, has pleaded not guilty to the crimes. She’s scheduled to face a jury on February 28.

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