ND Supreme Court hears arguments in Nikki Sue Entzel case

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 5:26 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Nikki Sue Entzel’s murder case was back in court Tuesday, this time in the State Supreme Court. Last year, a Burleigh County jury found Nikki guilty of three conspiracy charges, murder, arson and tampering with evidence in the death of her husband Chad Entzel.

In February, Nikki was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for conspiring to murder her husband Chad, then setting their home on fire and tampering with evidence.

Nikki’s lawyer says just the conspiracy to commit murder charge should be thrown out. He says there is insufficient evidence to prove a murder was planned, but rather that Nikki and co-conspirator Earl Howard were planning to burn the house for insurance money and run away.

“All that tends to show is, ‘We’re going to burn down this house,’ not, ‘We’re going to murder Chad. If we’re going to murder Chad, let’s get life insurance,’” said defense attorney Samuel Gereszek.

The state says there was evidence proving Nikki and Earl always planned to commit murder.

Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer says Nikki turned off video cameras outside the house and took out a renter’s insurance policy. She said that, among other evidence, showed the couple’s plan to commit murder and use the fire to cover up the crime.

“What we had and what we presented at trial were actually Miss Entzel’s statements to police herself which implicated her. I don’t think there would be anything higher than that,” said Lawyer.

Entzel’s lawyer says the state also erred in proving Nikki conspired to kill Chad by not calling Earl to the stand, as he was an eyewitness to the crime.

“So in this case, Earl Howard not testifying is presumed to be bad for the state,” said Gereszek.

The state says the reason they never called Earl to testify is because the murder count for Chad’s death had not been charged to Earl or anyone else and they could not force him to testify.

“Even though he had pled guilty to those other counts, there was still the un-charged count of murder. And I could not force him to testify — but would feel the need to mention something regarding the fact that he had the right to remain silent regarding that charge,” said Lawyer.

As it stands, Nikki must serve at least 36 years of her sentence before she is eligible for release.

Earl was sentenced to 25 years in prison for three conspiracy charges, murder, arson and tampering with evidence.

Previous Coverage: Nikki Entzel sentenced to life for conspiring to kill husband, burn home