Skip to main content

Love Triangle Murder Defendant Told Missing Husband’s Worried Co-Workers She Was Too Busy to Check on Him: Prosecutor

Nikki Sue Entzel

Nikki Sue Entzel

When her husband’s worried co-workers told her he was missing, murder defendant Nikki Sue Melissa Entzel, 39, said she was busy with work and would check on him later, a prosecutor told jurors in opening statements on Tuesday.

Authorities in Burleigh County, North Dakota, said that Entzel actually knew the victim’s whereabouts on that Jan. 2, 2020: Chad Entzel, 42, was shot to death in their bedroom with two shotgun rounds. Nikki and her boyfriend Earl Howard, 43, had killed him the early morning of Dec. 31, 2019, and they planned to make it look like a suicide, prosecutor Julie Ann Lawyer said.

Going by the prosecution’s allegations, the suspects’ plan hit a number of snags, undermining a façade and putting them both on law enforcement’s radar.

Howard pleaded guilty in February to charges including conspiracy to commit murder. Prosecutors initially charged him as the gunman but dropped the murder charge after determining they could not prove whether he or Nikki pulled the trigger.

The defense is saving their opening statement until the beginning of their case.

According to Lawyer, Nikki Entzel and Earl Howard were having an affair. They were moving to Texas and Nikki had a job interview scheduled there, the prosecutor said. She allegedly took out a renter’s insurance policy at about $26,000, put into effect on Dec. 27, 2019, just several days before the murder. Chad Entzel had also named his wife as the sole beneficiary on a $600,000 life insurance policy he took out in 2018. The two had married back in 2016.

At the time of the killing, Nikki Entzel’s two sons from a previous relationship were spending Christmas break with their grandparents in Aberdeen, South Dakota, prosecutors said.

As seen on surveillance footage, defendant Entzel and an unknown man — later identified as Earl Howard — arrived at her home on Dec. 30, 2019 at approximately 7 p.m. and left at 8:30 p.m., Lawyer said. Nikki allegedly set the surveillance camera to privacy mode. In the meantime, Chad participating in a bowling league. He was last seen alive leaving the league at approximately 10:30 p.m. Lawyer said it was a short time later that he was shot twice with a shotgun at home between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Dec. 31.

The suspects’ alleged plan was to make the death look like a suicide, so they took one of the spent shells, leaving the other behind.

“You can’t commit suicide shooting yourself twice with a shotgun,” Lawyer said.

The suspects also left two whiskey bottles in the bedroom to make it look like Chad was drinking, Lawyer said (Nikki Entzel allegedly told investigators later that her husband was a prolific drinker and physically abusive).

Entzel and Howard also pointed a propane heater by the victim’s bed in an attempt to start a fire, Lawyer said. But a fire would have been big news in the area, so when they did not hear anything about it later, they returned and repositioned the heater, the prosecution continued. Nikki allegedly called Chad out sick to work, buying the suspects’ more time since businesses were closed on Jan. 1. Then she allegedly lit a fire on the furnace in the basement.

Chad Entzel’s co-workers realized something was wrong on Jan. 2, when he did not arrive. They found his pickup truck in the driveway of his home, which was outside the city limits of Bismarck. When they got in contact with Nikki, she allegedly said she was busy with work and would check on her husband later. Local law enforcement performed a welfare check but nothing came of it because it was not possible to look into the upstairs of the house, Lawyer said.

Authorities discovered the killing later when Nikki Entzel called 911 about a possible fire at the residence.

Firefighters discovered Chad naked and dead on the bedroom floor; the shotgun was on the bed and a propane heater was at the foot of the bed, Lawyer said. They found a smoldering fire on top of the furnace in the basement, and they easily put it out.

But things did not add up. The shotgun was a little too far from the body, Lawyer said. And it was too much of a coincidence for there to be unrelated fires in both the bedroom and the basement, the prosecutor said. And the coroner determined that there seemed to be two wounds on Chad’s body, contrary to the lone shell in the gun.

Nikki allegedly appeared fairly calm and did not seemed to be crying when talking to investigators. Lawyer acknowledged that grief affects everyone differently, but she pointed to other evidence. Nikki allegedly said she had been out of the home for several days, even going to a hotel because the furnace was not working. With her medical conditions, it was too cold at the residence. Lawyer said that the furnace issue was essentially the first thing Nikki told authorities.

From there, defendant Entzel allegedly let investigators take her phone from a box in her vehicle. There, investigators found a mailing label on the box in Howard’s name, which they had not heard to that point.

They discovered that Nikki Entzel’s hotel room was in Howard’s name, Lawyer said.

Earl Howard

Earl Howard

Investigators determined that Nikki and Earl agreed to kill Chad, agreed to set the home on fire, agreed to collect insurance benefits, agreed to cover up the murder, agreed to tamper with evidence by destroying or disposing of that second shotgun shell, and agreed to set a fire to cover up the evidence, Lawyer said.

[Screenshot via Law&Crime Network]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime: