MANDAN, N.D. — A chiropractor accused of killing four people in a Mandan business that manages a mobile home park where he lived wants a judge to throw out evidence he says was obtained illegally.
He also wants his trial moved to a different county, claiming news stories have portrayed him as a “mass murderer” and will prevent him from getting an impartial jury.
Attorneys spent more than an hour on Wednesday, July 1, in Morton County District Court discussing several motions regarding the case against Chad Trolon Isaak. The 46-year-old who lived in a Washburn mobile home park managed by RJR Maintenance & Management in Mandan is accused of killing four people at the business in April 2019, either by shooting or stabbing, according to court documents.
Isaak faces four Class AA felony charges of murder, one each for the deaths of RJR co-owner Robert Fakler and employees Adam Fuehrer, Bill Cobb and his wife, Lois. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
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The motion to suppress evidence centers around items collected in the first search of Isaak’s pickup truck. Court documents detail how a white vehicle left RJR around the time of the killings. The person driving the vehicle was masked, but officers tracked the vehicle to Washburn, where Isaak worked as a chiropractor, prosecutors said. One officer recognized the pickup as belonging to Isaak, court documents said.
The defense, represented by Robert Quick and several other attorneys, argued officers did not have probable cause to search the vehicle. The attorneys claimed officers violated Isaak’s right to privacy by tracking his location using cellphone location information, as well as using Google to find any phones that were near RJR around the time of the killings.
The defense also claimed evidence collected in the initial search led to search warrants for other property owned by Isaak, including his home and business. The defense also argued officers obtained a warrant for the pickup using misleading information. Officers said the suspect was wearing dark clothing when video shows bright clothing, Quick said.
Thus, any evidence collected in subsequent searches should be omitted from court since the initial warrant was not valid, the defense argued.
Prosecutors said investigators did not search Isaak’s phone without a warrant when trying to find his location. Instead, they searched cellphone tower and Google data.
Therefore, officers had probable cause to search the pickup and obtain evidence that led to future warrants for other searches, prosecutors said.
“Nothing was searched without consent or a warrant,” prosecutor Gabrielle Goter said.
Prosecutors also said a motion for a hearing on whether police used false information to obtain a warrant should be denied because the warrant was based on information officers believed to be true at the time.
Judge David Reich took the motion under advisement, meaning he will consider the arguments presented and make a decision at a later date.
The defense also wants a change of venue after claiming media has produced coverage on “one-sided allegations.” Some stories have garnered hundreds of comments and have been shared widely on social media. One video from the Mandan Police Department had more than 36,000 views, according to the defense.
"Moreover, these stories have branded Mr. Isaak as a 'mass murderer,' with all connotations associated with the label, despite the legal presumption of innocence still enjoyed by Mr. Isaak," the defense argued. "Mr. Isaak can hardly enjoy an impartial and fair trial when already convicted by the media as a 'mass murderer' to the Morton County public."
Prosecutors argued the stories were not biased, inflammatory or sensationalized, nor was information in articles illegally obtained.
“They don’t paint Mr. Isaak in a negative light, they are just a matter of fact,” Goter said, adding social media can be accessed from anywhere and that anyone can comment on Facebook posts. The court won’t be able to decide if it can’t have an impartial jury until it starts selecting jurors, she said.
Reich declined to decide on the change of venue motion for now.