Convicted North Dakota woman speaks publicly for 1st time about husband’s death
(NEW YORK) — During a thorough investigation into her husband’s murder, police repeatedly heard Nikki Entzel’s ever-changing story about what happened to her husband, often contradicting the evidence they had collected.
“20/20” was granted exclusive access to a one-on-one conversation with the woman recently convicted of conspiring to kill her husband, Chad Entzel, to ask her about details from the case. During the interview, Entzel maintained her innocence.
A new 20/20 episode titled, “The Last Strike,” set to premiere Friday, March 17, at 9 p.m. ET and streaming on Hulu the next day, will explore the case.
“Do I eventually want to figure out what happened? Yes. I wish I had every resource in the world to figure out what really happened? Yes, I do,” Nikki Entzel told ABC News’ John Quiñones. “Do I have every resource in the world to figure out what happened? No. Nobody does.”
On the evening of January 2, 2020, authorities were alerted to a report of a fire at the home of Chad and Nikki Sue Entzel.
When the fire department reached the Entzel household that fateful day, they were met by more than just a smoky home – they found Chad Entzel himself, dead in the bedroom.
Friends and family remembered Chad Entzel as an avid bowler, darts player, and stock car racer, and they said Nikki Entzel enjoyed owning a baking business. They lived with Nikki Entzel’s two sons from previous relationships on the quiet outskirts of Bismarck, North Dakota.
For a time, authorities couldn’t quite put their finger on how Chad Entzel had died. After finding two gunshot wounds and traces of fire accelerant, they concluded foul play was involved.
An in-depth investigation led to the trial and conviction of his wife – and another person, Earl Howard, a married man from Canada with whom she had recently started an affair, police said. Authorities theorized they hoped to abscond with the insurance money and move to Texas together.
Howard ended up pleading guilty to various charges, including conspiracy to commit murder and arson. In making the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop a murder charge. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison in February 2022.
Nikki Entzel, however, faced a trial. She was convicted in October 2022 of conspiracy to commit arson, conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to tamper with physical evidence, and in February 2023, she was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Authorities were unable to determine which of the two defendants shot Chad Entzel.
When asked if Howard pulled the trigger, Nikki Entzel told Quiñones she “wasn’t there” and “can’t say that for one hundred percent.” Howard denied to authorities that he pulled the trigger.
Nikki Entzel claimed to Quiñones that she was out on a walk when the trigger was pulled – in the middle of the night – at a hotel across town, in freezing temperatures. Nikki Entzel said she left for a walk from the hotel room around 1 a.m., and “did not stop continuously stepping until 2:42 AM.”
However, when police questioned Nikki Entzel in the days after Chad Entzel’s murder, she offered an entirely different scenario. Nikki Entzel told police in early 2020 that she was at the house and heard gunshots on the night of the murder.
Nikki Entzel acknowledged in her interview with ABC News that her various alibis over the last two years don’t always align.
“My story changes so many different times,” she said, “that none of them are really consistent.”
Julie Lawyer, the Burleigh County State’s Attorney who prosecuted the Entzel case, described to ABC News Nikki Entzel’s various stories throughout the investigation.
“There was no telling [the investigators] what they wanted to hear,” Lawyer said. “It was telling them what she thought she could get away with.”
Aaron Silbernagel, former Sergeant with the Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department, described his method of breaking down Nikki Entzel’s many stories.
“I didn’t correct her on them always,” Silbernagel told ABC News. “I would just keep pointing out that I know more, and then have her explain it.”
Among her denials was Nikki Entzel’s characterization of her relationship with Howard. Authorities said they had clear evidence that Entzel lied in her interrogations about their relationship. Investigators discovered surveillance video that showed Nikki Entzel and Howard kissing publicly before leaving a local Walmart, days before the murder was committed.
When ABC News asked about this romantic entanglement, Entzel denied it and claimed Howard was “not my type.”
“I didn’t see no kiss given at all,” she initially told ABC News, though she later seemed to concede in the same interview that a kiss could have happened. “I don’t know, he leaned down, I leaned up,” Nikki Entzel said. “Have I kissed many friends on the cheek? Have I kissed my kids on the cheek? Have I kissed exes on the cheek? Yeah.”
“20/20” also acquired never-before-seen footage of Howard speaking with investigators, where he told authorities his version of events.
Howard is seen in the video claiming that he did have a romantic relationship with Nikki Entzel.
“I took a trip to Minnesota,” Howard said, “and she met me in Minneapolis. We went to the Mall of America. And that’s where the affair started.”
Howard claimed to authorities that Nikki Entzel went into the house and shot her husband, but that he later offered to “take care of it” for her by burning evidence.
Nikki Entzel’s attorney, Thomas Glass, has filed the initial paperwork to start the appeals process.
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