Text messages, emails, YouTube videos admitted as evidence
BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) — The second week of Nikki Sue Entzel’s trial began with a forensic analysis of cellphones and testimony from investigators claiming the suspects intended to cause an explosion. Prosecutors continued to work to connect Nikki and Earl Howard to each other and to the planning of the murder and arson.
The evidence piled up on the witness stand as the state continued to build its case. The focus on the fifth day 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 stuck with us because the search took place at 10:45 a.m. on January 2, 2020, which would have been several hours before Nikki Entzel knew that Chad Entzel had died,” said Brian Thompson of the Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department. . .
During an initial interview with the police, Nikki said that Earl Howard had committed the crime. She said she played no part but heard about the crime after the fact.
Nikki’s attorney, Thomas Glass, worked hard to cast doubt on the state’s case.
“Someone could grab someone’s phone and use it without their knowledge, right? asked defense attorney Thomas Glass.
Investigators say they discovered Earl sent Nikki a YouTube video featuring an explosion over Christmas. They also say that Earl and Nikki shared a bank account and that a credit card linked to Earl was used to buy an oxygen and acetylene torch the day before the crime. A kit matching the one purchased was photographed at the crime scene.
“With the information we had gathered with the oxyacetylene torch set never having been used for its intended purpose and both tanks being empty, I believe there was an attempt to blow up the house or further the fire from that,” Thompson said.
Investigators have established a schedule. They say Nikki flew to Minnesota, traveled with Earl to North Dakota two days before the crime, and stayed with him at a hotel during the crime, before, the day the body was discovered, Earl returned to Canada.
Defense attorney Thomas Glass questioned the timeline.
“Specifically at the hotel, you indicate that it is sporadic, the video. Couldn’t get part of the video back, could you? Glass asked. “We weren’t able to recover any part of the video, that’s correct,” Thompson said.
Earl Howard is on the state’s witness list and may be called to testify.
State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer said she expects to call another witness on Tuesday before closing her case. Defense attorney Thomas Glass will then have the opportunity to call his own witnesses.
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