Day five of Entzel trial: texts, emails, YouTube videos admitted as evidence

Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 6:44 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Week two of the Nikki Sue Entzel trial kicked off with forensic analysis of cell phones and testimony from investigators saying the suspects intended to cause an explosion. Prosecutors continued to work to link Nikki and Earl Howard to each other and to the planning of the murder and arson.

Evidence piled up on the witness stand as the state continued to build out their case. The focus on day five of the trial? Data extracted from a number of electronic devices.

Investigators say they found a google search for a funeral home on one of Nikki’s devices.

“It stood out to us because the search took place at 10:45 a.m. on January 2, 2020, which would have been a number of hours prior to Nikki Entzel knowing Chad Entzel had passed away,” said Brian Thompson, Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department.

In an initial interview with police Nikki stated Earl Howard had committed the crime. She said she played no role but had heard of the crime after the fact.

Nikki’s attorney Thomas Glass worked to cast doubt on the state’s case.

“Somebody could grab somebody’s phone and use it without their knowledge, correct?” asked defense attorney Thomas Glass.

Investigators say they found that Earl emailed Nikki a YouTube video featuring a Christmas-time explosion. They also say Earl and Nikki shared a banking account and a credit card linked to Earl was used to purchase an oxygen acetylene torch the day before the crime. A kit matching the one purchased was photographed at the crime scene.

“With the information that we had gathered with the oxyacetylene torch set never actually being used for its intended purpose and both of the tanks to be empty, I believe there was an attempt to actually cause the house to explode or to further the burning down of it,” said Thompson.

Investigators laid out a timeline. They say Nikki flew to Minnesota, traveled with Earl back to North Dakota two days before the crime and stayed with him at a hotel while the crime took place, before, on the day the body was discovered, Earl headed back to Canada.

Defense attorney Thomas Glass called the timeline into question.

“Specifically at the hotel, you’re indicating it’s sporadic, the video. You were unable to retrieve some of the video, correct?” asked Glass. “We were unable to retrieve some of the video, correct,” state Thompson.

Earl Howard is on the state’s witness list and could be called to testify.

State’s attorney Julie Lawyer says she expects to call one more witness Tuesday before she rests her case. Defense attorney Thomas Glass will then have the opportunity to call witnesses of his own.