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North Dakota prison guard fired after not properly checking on convicted murderer who killed himself

An internal investigation determined the guard didn’t properly check on Chad Isaak the day of his death. Isaak was found guilty in a quadruple Mandan murder.

Chad Isaak of Washburn sits with his defense team during the third day of his murder trial at the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan.
Mike McCleary / The Bismarck Tribune
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Editor's note: If you or a loved one is in crisis, you can call or text the  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  at 988 to reach crisis support or to use an online chat feature, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

BISMARCK — A North Dakota prison guard has been fired after his employer determined he did not properly check on a convicted murderer who killed himself.

The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation fired Sgt. Andre Adams, a correctional officer, on Thursday, Sept. 22, spokeswoman Kayli Richards confirmed Friday. An internal investigation found he did not conduct proper cell checks when he walked by Chad Isaak's cell at 4:53 p.m. and 5:28 p.m. July 31 at the State Penitentiary in Bismarck.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol believes Isaak hanged himself while alone in his prison cell between 4:33 p.m. and 5:02 p.m. that day. The former chiropractor died around 6:30 p.m. July 31 at a hospital.

Isaak was serving a life sentence after a jury found him guilty in August 2021 of killing RJR Maintenance and Management co-owner Robert Fakler, 52; and employees Adam Fuehrer, 42; Bill Cobb, 50; and Lois Cobb, 45. Prosecutors successfully argued that he broke into the Mandan business on April 1, 2019, and stabbed and shot the four people.


A motive wasn’t disclosed publicly, but Isaak lived in a Washburn mobile home park managed by the company.

He maintained his innocence, even at his December sentencing hearing. Isaak was in the process of appealing his conviction.

The last person to see Isaak alive was his cellmate, Dondarro Watts, according to the internal report. Watts left the cell at 4:33 p.m. on July 31, the report said.

At some point, Isaak covered his cell window with a piece of cardboard, according to authorities. Adams was seen on surveillance video slightly turning his head to glance at the window without stopping as he passed Isaak’s cell twice, the report said.

When Watts returned to the cell around 5:02 p.m. and knocked on the door, Isaak didn’t answer, the report said.

Watts returned again at 5:33 p.m., opened the cell door, looked inside and found Isaak, the report said. He reported to Adams that Isaak tried to kill himself, according to authorities.

Adams tried to help Isaak when Watts told the officer what happened, according to the report.

Isaak didn’t show signs of depression before his death but said days were blending together, Watts told investigators.


Adams was placed on administrative leave after Isaak’s death. He was hired by the corrections department in mid-2021.

A letter informing Adams of his termination said he put the safety of prison personnel or inmates in danger and failed or delayed carrying out orders.

The violations in Isaak's death were not the first time Adams faced scrutiny. The corrections department determined he violated policy when he left an inmate in a recreation area while counting other penitentiary residents in August 2021, according to the termination letter. He did not report that the inmate was missing, the letter said.

He also did not report potential contraband that was passed between two inmates in May, the letter said.

Adams may appeal the termination.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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