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North Dakota Man Sentenced To 25 Years For Conspiracy To Kill Lover's Husband

Prosecutors have alleged that Earl Howard conspired with his love interest, Nikkisue Entzel, to kill her husband and then set a fire to his North Dakota home to try to destroy evidence of the deed.

By Jill Sederstrom
Earl Howard Pd

A man will spend more than two decades behind bars for plotting to kill his married lover’s husband and then set the couple’s North Dakota home on fire.

Earl Howard, 43, was sentenced to 25 years in prison Monday for the 2019 death of Chad Entzel, 42, as part of a plea agreement. Howard will have to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence — about 21 years — in prison before he’s eligible for parole, according to The Bismark Tribune, but will receive credit for the approximately two years he’s already served behind bars.

Based on the facts and circumstances of the case and with the victim’s family’s approval, we agreed to the plea deal,” Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer told Oxygen.com of the sentence handed down in court this week.

Howard, a native of Belwood, Ontario and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit arson, arson and conspiracy to tamper with physical evidence after prosecutors said he conspired with Nikkisue Entzel, 40, to kill her husband, CBC reports.

Investigators believe Chad Entzel was shot in the head while he was sleeping in late December 2019, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

Authorities discovered his body after they were called to the couple’s Bismarck, North Dakota home on Jan. 2, 2020 for a house fire and found Chad Entzel — who had been shot multiple times — dead. Investigators believe that Nikkisue Entzel and Earl Howard set two fires inside the home in an attempt to destroy evidence in the case.

Nikkisue Entzel's jury trial on conspiracy to commit murder, arson conspiracy and evidence tampering is set to begin on Feb. 28. Howard had previously requested separate trials in order to introduce evidence of her prior criminal history, the Tribune reported.

Burleigh County Deputy Sheriff Brian Thompson testified at an earlier hearing that Nikkisue Entzel and Earl Howard had been romantically involved at the time of the shooting, The Bismark Tribune reported, and she had taken out a $26,000 life insurance policy on her husband just days before he died.

Although Nikkisue Entzel told prosecutors that her lover had actually shot her husband, an evaluation of the firearm used in the case was unable to determine who had ultimately been the shooter.

Nikki Entzel Pd

During the hearing on Monday, Earl Howard’s defense attorney, Philip Becher, said his client was “taking responsibility for his role” in the killing.

He added that the decades his client will have to serve behind bars as a result of the plea deal are not a “slap on the wrist.”

Howard did not address the court, but Chad Entzel’s family spoke about how the tragedy had altered their lives forever.

“You have devastated our lives, and my family is past the brink of exhaustion,” the victim's sister Lori Kraus said, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

The victim's mother, Deb Entzel, told Howard he had “taken the joy out of our lives” and caused a “wound so deep it will never, ever heal.”

“How could you do such a cruel thing to another person that you didn’t even know, that did nothing to you?” she asked, according to The Bismark Tribune.

South Central District Judge Douglas Bahr said in court Monday that he agreed to the plea deal because of Howard’s lack of a previous criminal history and because it would require “a significant amount of time” behind bars.