Trial opens over gruesome killing of 4 in North Dakota

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FILE – In this April 5, 2019, file photo, Chad Isaak listens while being charged with four counts of class AA felony murder in district court in Mandan, N.D. Isaak, accused of killing four people at a North Dakota property management compan, has waived a preliminary hearing and pleaded not guilty to murder charges. Isaak’s trial is set to begin this week. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — An attorney for a man accused in the gruesome killings of four people at a North Dakota property management firm said Wednesday that the case amounts to a rush to judgment based on bad information that led to the wrong conclusion. A prosecutor, though, said every piece of the puzzle leads to the defendant.

Chad Isaak, 47, of Washburn, is on trial for the April 1, 2019, deaths of RJR Maintenance & Management co-owner Robert Fakler, 52, and co-workers Adam Fuehrer, 42, and spouses Bill and Lois Cobb, 50 and 45. He pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder and three other counts.

It was one of the most heinous crimes in North Dakota history, defense attorney Bruce Quick acknowledged in his opening statement. Three of the victims were shot and stabbed. Combined, the four of them were stabbed about 100 times.

Prosecutor Karlei Neufeld began the trial being livestreamed from Mandan by describing the horrific crime scene and said evidence would include photos, surveillance video, lab reports, bullet fragments, and a knife and other things found during searches of the suspect’s home and vehicle.

“Each piece of evidence you will receive in this case will be like a piece of a puzzle,” Neufeld told the jury. “And … as you start putting them together, you’ll be able to see a clear picture of what took place.”

Quick spent a good chunk of his opening pointing out what evidence was overlooked or not investigated. Law enforcement was under a “tremendous amount pressure to solve this case” and only took four days to decide that Isaak, a Navy veteran and chiropractor, fit the description of the killer, he said.

Among the numerous possible suspects were people who have either been evicted or sued by RJR, as well as a long list of disgruntled RJR employees who were fired, Quick said. The longtime defense attorney from Fargo said police failed to check out the hot-headed ex-husband of a woman who allegedly had an affair with Fakler.

“This case is a rush to judgment based on erroneous information that led to erroneous conclusions,” he said.

Quick accused law enforcement of contaminating the crime scene by in many cases failing to wear protective gear or signing a log book indicating they were there. One of the prosecution’s key witnesses, a woman who allegedly identified Isaak as the man she saw outside of a McDonald’s near the crime scene, estimated the man to be about 5-foot-9 when Isaak is 6-foot-4, Quick said.

Quick ended his opening statement by listing numerous items connected to Isaak that either showed no DNA link to him or relevance to the case.

Earlier, Quick noted that nobody has been able to find a motive for the slayings. RJR managed the mobile home park where Isaak lived, but he has been described as a model tenant who paid his rent early with a credit card.

“This is not a case about what happened, this is a case about who did it,” Quick said, later adding that “there is no why.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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