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Trial Begins For Woman Accused Of Killing Husband For Money, Staging Death As Suicide

Investigators say Nikki Sue Entzel and her paramour, Earl Howard, shot her husband, Chad Entzel, twice and tried to burn down his home in order to collect insurance money and run away together. 

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The prosecution began their opening statements in the trial of a woman accused of murdering her husband with the help of her paramour.

Nikki Sue Entzel, 41, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, arson and tampering with evidence for the 2019 shooting death of her husband, Chad Entzel, 42, of Bismarck, North Dakota. Chad was found dead on his bedroom floor on Jan. 2, 2019 after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds, according to Law & Crime.

During Tuesday’s opening remarks, Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Ann Lawyer said that Nikki and her lover, Earl Howard, conspired to kill Chad and then staged the murder to look like a suicide.

Howard — of Ontario, Canada — pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to commit murder and other charges and was sentenced in February to 50 years behind bars with 25 years suspended.

Burleigh County prosecutors initially filed murder charges against Howard but later dropped them when experts couldn’t determine who pulled the trigger.

Earl Howard Pd

Howard is on the prosecution’s witness list to testify in Nikki’s trial, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

The prosecution argued on Tuesday that Nikki and Howard were involved in an extramarital affair when they allegedly hatched a plan to move to Texas together. Prosecutors said that Nikki was motivated by greed at least as much by the affair.

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Just four days before the murder — on Dec. 27, 2019 — Nikki allegedly took out a renter’s insurance policy to the tune of $26,000 and was named as the sole beneficiary of Chad’s $600,000 life insurance policy, Law & Crime reported.

Chad was seen leaving a local bowling alley around 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2019. Police believe his murder took place between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. on Dec. 31.

The prosecutor said Chad was shot twice with a shotgun and that Nikki and her lover allegedly took one of the shell casings and planned to make his death look like a suicide.

Chad’s coworkers reportedly grew concerned when he failed to show up at work after the holiday, Law & Crime reported. They called Nikki, who allegedly said she was too busy to help look for her husband.

Nikki Entzel Pd

Shortly after Chad’s murder, Nikki and Howard allegedly positioned a heater near Chad’s bed in the hopes that it would catch fire. When it hadn’t, the pair allegedly returned sometime later to reposition the heater and try again, according to the prosecution.

On Jan. 2, 2019, prosecutors say Nikki called 911 to report a possible fire at her Bismarck residence.

Chad was found naked on the floor of his bedroom, according to Law & Crime, and a small fire discovered atop a basement furnace was burning. Prosecutors said the furnace fire was Nikki and Howard’s final, ultimately unsuccessful attempt to set the home ablaze.

Whiskey bottles were also found at the crime scene, though, per the prosecution's opening statements, these were allegedly strategically placed by Nikki, who'd previously accused her husband of being an abusive alcoholic.

Investigators found there were other red flags at the crime scene, including the position of the gun... and the fact that Chad sustained two gunshot wounds.

“You can’t commit suicide shooting yourself twice with a shotgun,” the prosecutor said in her opening statements, according to Law & Crime.

She also claimed Nikki was not too busy to inquire about the payouts with an insurance company within days of her husband’s murder, according to the Tribune.

Nikki initially told investigators that Howard was behind the shooting, though ballistics couldn’t prove who actually murdered Chad, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

Before Howard pleaded guilty to the charges, he'd requested he and Nikki be tried separately, according to the Associated Press. Howard’s attorney, Philip Becher, said Nikki’s alleged criminal history would present “the opportunity for unfairly impugning him in the eyes of [the] jury."

Nikki’s attorney, Thomas Glass, is reserving his opening statements for later in the trial, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

If convicted, Nikki Entzel faces life in prison.   

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