Victim’s ex-wife testifies during third day of murder-arson conspiracy trial

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 5:43 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The state continued to build their case against Nikki Sue Entzel on the third day of trial in Burleigh County. Nikki stands accused of conspiring with Earl Howard to murder her husband and burn the body and the evidence almost three years ago, but since she was arrested, she’s maintained her innocence.

Nikki has yet to say a word in court, but in a 6-hour police interview after the crime she, with no attorney present, claimed her husband Chad, the victim, had been abusive to her before Earl Howard killed him. She said she had no role in the crime.

Multiple character witnesses took the stand on the third day of trial to speak to the victim’s demeanor.

“Did you ever see him get violent when he drank?” asked state’s attorney Julie Lawyer. “No,” said Susan Entzel, the victim’s ex-wife. “Did you ever see him get violent at all?” asked Lawyer. “No,” said Susan Entzel.

Defense attorney Thomas Glass pushed back.

“Think people can change in five years?” asked defense attorney Thomas Glass. “I don’t believe to that extent,” said Susan Entzel. “No further questions, your Honor,” said Glass.

The state continued to build out their case. Investigators testified to how they processed the crime scene.

“We determined that there were two separate fires, in two separate locations. Both of which fell into the incendiary category,” said Levi Roline, ND deputy state fire marshal at the time of the crime.

The state worked to connect Nikki and Earl Howard to the scene and to each other. They said a black substance was found on a shoe located in a hotel room shared by Earl Howard and Nikki the night of the crime.

“Does that document what you were talking about?” asked Lawyer as a picture of the shoes were shown to the jury. “Yes,” said BCI special agent Mike Mees.

Prosecutors said the pair had planned to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance and move to Texas. Investigators testified about phones found in their searches.

“The phone numbers were not North Dakota area codes. They were area codes typically assigned to North Texas,” said Brianna Leingang, BCI special agent.

The victim’s family watched as the state called 13 people to testify. Nikki’s side to the story remains under wraps. Her attorney has reserved his statement for later in the trial.

If convicted, Nikki could face life in prison. Her trial is scheduled to last through next week.