Trial of North Dakota woman accused of plotting to kill husband delayed for 5th time

Nikki Entzel's 10-day trial was set to start Monday, Feb. 28, in Bismarck. However on Thursday, her attorney, Justin Balzer, filed a motion to withdraw as her counsel.

Nikki Entzel 2/24
Nikki Entzel appears at the Burleigh Morton Detention Center in Bismarck for a pretrial conference on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.
Screenshot via North Dakota Court System

BISMARCK — The trial of a Bismarck woman who allegedly plotted to kill her husband in what investigators say was a scheme to cash in on life insurance funds has been delayed for the fifth time.

Nikki Sue Melissa Entzel, 40, was arrested more than two years ago in connection with the death of her husband Chad Entzel, who was found dead in a Bismarck home on Jan. 2, 2020.

Nikki Entzel is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to tamper with evidence. Authorities say she tried to start two fires in the home with Chad Entzel's body inside to burn any physical evidence linking her to the slaying.

Nikki Entzel's 10-day trial was set to start Monday, Feb. 28, in Bismarck. However on Thursday, her attorney, Justin Balzer, filed a motion to withdraw as her counsel.

During a pretrial conference over Zoom Thursday, Balzer said there's been a "breakdown in the attorney-client relationship ... which I believe leaves me no option but to withdraw."


South Central District Court Judge David Bahr said he was "concerned" with the trial being delayed once again, especially so close to the trial's start date. However, he said he feels he has no option but to delay the trial if Balzer feels he can't adequately represent his client.

The new trial start date is now scheduled for Sept. 26, according to court filings.

Nikki Entzel was arrested two years ago along with Earl Howard, who investigators say was in a romantic relationship with Nikki Entzel. The alleged motive for Chad Entzel's killing, according to investigators, involved a love triangle and plans to receive his life insurance funds, of which Nikki Entzel was a beneficiary. Earlier this month, Howard accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his alleged role in the scheme to kill Chad Entzel.

Prosecutor Julie Lawyer on Thursday said she spoke to Chad Entzel's family about the trial being rescheduled once again.

"They obviously want closure but understand what's going on and understand that if the court were to require Mr. Balzer to go forward that that would maybe not lead to finality of the case, and they have no desire to do the trial twice," Lawyer said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at

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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