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Defense rests case in Mandan quadruple murder trial; closing arguments begin Thursday

Closing statements will begin on Thursday morning, wrapping up the three-week-long trial of Chad Isaak, who allegedly shot and stabbed Robert Fakler, Adam Fuehrer, William Cobb and Lois Cobb in Mandan's RJR Maintenance & Management on April 1, 2019.

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Defense attorneys Jesse Walstad, left, Luke Heck, center, and defendant Chad Isaak are shown during Wednesday morning's proceedings in the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan. Isaak is on trial in the April 1, 2019, slayings of four people at RJR Maintenance and Management in Mandan. Tom Stromme / The Bismarck Tribune.

MANDAN, N.D. — Defense attorneys for Chad Isaak, who's accused of killing four people in Mandan in 2019, questioned six witnesses in under two hours on Wednesday, Aug. 18, and subsequently rested their case.

The defense called witnesses in an effort to provide details about Isaak's character and insights about his whereabouts on the day of the slayings in Mandan more than two years ago. The defense's brief questioning was in stark contrast to the prosecution, which called more than 60 witnesses to the stand in over a week and a half of testimony.

Two of Isaak's former patients testified on Wednesday, saying he was a polite provider who made small talk during their treatments at Isaak's Washburn, N.D. clinic, about 30 miles north of Bismarck.

One of Isaak's patients, Dora Sorenson, said she had received adjustments from him for about a decade. During the appointments, Isaak would make small talk, similar to that of a doctor-patient relationship, she said. However, during cross examination, prosecutor Karlei Neufeld pointed out that her appointments with Isaak were normally brief, and Sorenson did not see Isaak outside of the clinic. When asked if Sorenson knew Isaak well, she replied that she did not.

Sorenson had an appointment at noon on April 1, 2019 — the day of the RJR Maintenance & Management slayings — but Isaak called her the weekend before the appointments to reschedule, saying he had a dentist appointment. Sorenson testified that Isaak sometimes canceled or rescheduled appointments, but it didn't happen often. Neufeld during cross examination said Sorenson previously told law enforcement that Isaak rarely canceled appointments.

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After the defense's six witnesses were questioned, the prosecution called two rebuttal witnesses to testify, particularly about whether Isaak had a dentist appointment on the morning of April 1, which is the explanation he gave Sorenson when he rescheduled her treatment.

A manager with Beluah Dental, a dental clinic where Isaak was a patient, testified on Wednesday that Isaak never had an appointment on April 1, 2019. During cross examination, defense attorney Luke Heck pointed out that it was possible that Isaak could have gone to a different dental clinic.

On Wednesday, RJR Maintenance employee Ben Pace testified about meeting Isaak at the mobile home park in Washburn. RJR Maintenance took over as manager of Isaak's mobile home park in 2018. Pace testified that Isaak always paid his rent on time and had no complaints against him from other tenants.

However, during cross examination, prosecutor Gabrielle Goter alluded to a verbal confrontation Isaak had with another resident, as well as qualms Isaak allegedly had about the company's pet-ownership policy.

Closing arguments will begin on Thursday morning, wrapping up the three-week-long trial. Isaak allegedly shot and stabbed Robert Fakler, Adam Fuehrer, William Cobb and Lois Cobb in Mandan's RJR Maintenance April 1, 2019, and if convicted of killing them, he faces the possibility of life in prison without parole.

The jury is expected to have the case for deliberation by mid-day on Thursday shortly after closing arguments.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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