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North Dakota prison guard broke rules on day of Chad Isaak suicide, report says

A jury convicted Chad Isaak of killing four people at RJR Maintenance and Management in Mandan in 2019. A judge sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Isaak 5 __ Isaak.jpg
Chad Isaak, who was convicted of killing four people at RJR Maintenance and Management in Mandan in 2019, listens to testimony during his trial at the Morton County Courthouse.
Adam Willis / The Forum
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Editor's note: If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call the  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  at 988 to speak with a trained crisis counselor. The number is answered locally.

BISMARCK — Chad Isaak, who was convicted of killing four people at a Mandan business, died by hanging himself, according to the state medical examiner's office.

Also, a report released by the North Dakota Highway Patrol on Wednesday, Aug. 17, said a guard who was tasked with checking on Isaak at the State Penitentiary failed to follow proper procedures, though its unknown whether Isaak's death could have been prevented.

Isaak, 48, hanged himself in the State Penitentiary in Bismarck the evening of July 31 and at 6:24 p.m., he was pronounced dead at a Bismarck hospital emergency room, according to a report from the state medical examiner.

In December, a judge sentenced Isaak to life in prison with no chance of parole.

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That was after a jury convicted Isaak in August 2021 on four counts of murder and other charges in the April 1, 2019, deaths of RJR Maintenance and Management co-owner Robert Fakler, 52; and employees Adam Fuehrer, 42; Bill Cobb, 50; and Lois Cobb, 45. A motive was not presented during Isaak's trial, and he maintained his innocence.

The Highway Patrol report released Wednesday said it is believed Isaak hanged himself with a bedsheet in a prison cell sometime between 4:33 p.m. and 5:02 p.m. on Sunday, July 31.

The report also said Sgt. Andre Adams, a correctional officer, did not do proper cell checks when he walked by Isaak's cell at 4:53 p.m. and 5:28 p.m. that day.

Instead, the report states that Adams can be seen on surveillance video slightly turning his head to glance at the window of Isaak's cell as he passed it that Sunday afternoon and evening.

The report states that at the time, the cell window was partially covered by a piece of cardboard apparently placed in the window by Isaak.

The video shows Adams did not stop while passing Isaak's cell and he later acknowledged to an investigator that he did not do the proper cell checks at 4:53 p.m. and 5:28 p.m.

Isaak was last seen alive by his cellmate, Dondarro Watts, when Watts left the cell at 4:33 p.m. on July 31, according to the Highway Patrol report.

Based on surveillance video, Watts knocked on the cell door and got no response about 5:02 p.m., the report said.

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Later, at 5:33 p.m., Watts opened the cell door, looked inside and then ran to a unit control room where he informed Adams that Isaak had apparently harmed himself, the report said.

Adams has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, the Bismarck Tribune reported. He's worked at the penitentiary for about a year and three months, according to the Highway Patrol report.

Isaak was in the process of appealing his convictions at the time of his death .

Watts told an investigator that Isaak, his cellmate, had not shown any signs of depression but had said the days were blending together.

Watts also said Isaak mentioned he was angry with his attorneys and there were things that could have helped his case that weren't brought up, the Highway Patrol report said.

The report said Isaak never made any comments to Watts about committing the murders or feeling guilty.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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