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Opening statements expected Tuesday in Bismarck murder conspiracy trial

Authorities have alleged that Nikki Entzel and Earl Howard were in a romantic relationship, and that Nikki Entzel took out a $26,000 renter's insurance policy in the days before Chad Entzel's death and tried to collect on it after he died.

Nikki Entzel.PNG
Nikki Entzel.
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BISMARCK — Lawyers on Tuesday are to make opening statements in the murder, arson and evidence tampering conspiracy trial of a Bismarck woman accused in the 2019 death of her husband in a case authorities allege involves a love triangle and an insurance policy.

Attorneys on Monday, Sept. 26, narrowed a pool of potential jurors. Twelve jurors will decide the fate of Nikki Entzel, 41. Opening statements are to follow jury instructions on Tuesday.

Nikki Entzel and a Canadian man, Earl Howard, 43, were accused in early 2020 of plotting the death of Chad Entzel, 42, and attempting to cover it up.

Emergency workers found Chad Entzel's body when they responded to a call of a house fire in northeast Bismarck on Jan. 2, 2020. He died of gunshot wounds, an autopsy showed.

Authorities have alleged that Nikki Entzel and Howard were in a romantic relationship, and that Nikki Entzel took out a $26,000 renter's insurance policy in the days before Chad Entzel's death and tried to collect on it after he died.

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Howard about a year ago pleaded guilty to four felonies under a deal with prosecutors.

South Central District Judge Douglas Bahr sentenced him to 50 years in prison with 25 years suspended on the most serious charge of murder conspiracy . Howard will have to serve about 21 years before he's eligible for parole. He is on the prosecution’s witness list for Nikki Entzel’s trial.

Nikki Entzel has pleaded not guilty. She faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

Two weeks have been set aside for her trial , which Bahr is overseeing. It’s not known if she will testify in her own defense.

Prosecutors earlier said Nikki Entzel told law officers that Howard shot her husband, but that an evaluation of the gun didn’t conclude who pulled the trigger.

Bahr last May dismissed a murder charge against Howard at the request of Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer.

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