Chad Entzel Murder: How Did He Die? Who Killed Him?

Image Credit: Bismarck Tribune

Ever since its premiere back in 1978, ABC’s ’20/20′ has been delving deep into one bewildering true-crime tale after another to really shine a light upon the dark, twisted side of human nature. Thus, of course, its season 46 episode 25, ‘The Last Strike,’ chronicling the needless and atrocious 2019 homicide of Chad Entzel inside his own North Dakota home, is absolutely no different. So now, if you wish to learn more about the same — with a specific focus on what precisely transpired, its ensuing investigations, as well as its overall aftermath — we’ve got the details for you.

How Did Chad Entzel Die?

At the age of 42, Chad had genuinely managed to build a good life for himself in Bismarck alongside his friends, family, second wife Nikki Heinz Entzel, and her two sons from a prior relationship. The truth is the Halliday native had been residing in this wondrous city as an active community member for the past two decades, which is just part of why his demise left it shaken to its core. He was actually a racing hobbyist, a local bowling league associate, along with a little league coach, making it clear that if he wasn’t working, he was dedicating himself to society or his loved ones.

Image Credit: Eastgate Funeral and Cremation Service

It was around 5:30 pm on January 2, 2020, when officials responded to a fire call on the 4900 block of 43rd Avenue NE, only to soon sadly find Chad’s charred remains in the master bedroom. This blaze was reportedly contained to his upper-story room and the downstairs furnace space, but alas, it had quickly done quite a lot of damage on both a personal as well as a financial level. However, his autopsy surprisingly revealed he’d died three days prior, in the early hours of December 31, 2019, upon having been shot twice with a shotgun — the fire had nothing to do with his death.

Nikki Entzel and Earl Howard: Conspirators in Chad Entzel’s Murder

Since there were a few empty alcohol bottles strewn around and the firearm was lying on the bed in clear sight of emergency responders, they initially thought Chad might’ve taken his own life. Yet once they actually began examining the scene upon noticing a gaping wound in the I-State Center Truck Parts employee’s head, they realized there was some distance between him and the gun. Moreover, the fires both upstairs and downstairs were from entirely separate sources, making it too much of a coincidence to be anything but arson in an attempt to destroy potential evidence.

After all, how could Chad possibly pull the trigger on himself to wind up on the ground without the weapon being close to his hand — there’s no way it could’ve slipped a few feet away to the bed. Then the detectives’ theory of intentional homicide was essentially confirmed with the autopsy declaring he’d endured two bullets, one directly to the head and the other to his left tricep. A full-fledged murder investigation thus commenced, including a deeper look into his personal experiences, the questioning of his loved ones, as well as complete forensic analysis of the crime scene.

That’s when it came to light Nikki had moved out of the home she and Chad shared the weekend before the incident, which she claimed was due to her issues with the propane heater in their room. In fact, in a rather calm demeanor during her first interview with authorities, she’d indirectly implied the heater itself was likely the root cause of the fire that resulted in her husband’s tragic demise. Though according to court records, it later came to light that there was clear evidence of accelerants being used to manually ignite the blazes at both locations inside their Bismarck home.

As for where Nikki was residing, she had admittedly taken up a spot at a local motel, just for officials to quickly uncover her room was registered in the name of Ontario, Canada native Earl Howard. Therefore, investigators focused most of their efforts on learning more about these two individuals as well as their connection with Chad, only to unravel the fact he and Nikki were having an affair. It had begun a short while prior but by the time late 2019 rolled around, the couple was ready to start anew in Texas, driving them to hatch a plan to get rid of the latter’s husband for good.

As if that’s not enough, Nikki and Earl were motivated by money as well — she’d recently filed for renter’s insurance worth up to $31,000, plus Chad already had a life insurance policy for $60,000. The former actually went into effect on December 27, 2019, at 12:01 am, a day before which the mother of two had gone as far as to contact the company to verify the details and documents. Yet none of this paperwork even contained her spouse’s name, per official records, leading to her and her beau returning to the place she once called home to slay him a mere three days later.

According to prosecutors, backed up by surveillance footage as well as key card use, Nikki and Earl had made their way to the 4900 block of 43rd Avenue NE house late on December 30 together. They then killed Chad by firing the massive shotgun twice, picked up one of the shell casings, and ensured alcohol bottles were lying around to stage the incident as a suicide before setting a flame. However, the fire didn’t catch on, which is why the couple returned three days later with the same gas welding torch kit Earl had bought prior to their first attempt and followed through with their plan.

While Nikki was arrested for conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit arson, and conspiracy to tamper with evidence on January 8, 2020, Earl was apprehended on January 10. The latter was even indicted on the count of intentional homicide on January 13, yet it was dismissed in May 2021 since it could not be determined who actually pulled the trigger on Chad. Ultimately, the Canadian pleaded guilty to the remaining charges against him on October 22, 2021, whereas his girlfriend was found guilty following a trial on October 4, 2022.

Read More: Where is Nikki Entzel Now?