A year in review: North Dakota Crime and Courts in 2022

A review of major cases in 2022
A review of major cases in 2022(KFYR)
Published: Dec. 31, 2022 at 2:26 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Many North Dakotans learned that it’s against the law to take a raccoon into a bar after one woman’s actions led to a year of unsupervised probation. The incident spurred state health officials to issue rabies warnings and brought viral memes to the web. But that’s not the only case that’s kept the North Dakota courts busy in 2022.

The year started with convicted killer Chad Isaak filing for appeal in January. Before the appeal was complete, he completed suicide at the State Penitentiary. The prison guard on duty lost his job. Isaak’s appeal — left in limbo — posed a problem for the Supreme Court.

“Couldn’t there potentially be a victim that wants confirmation from the North Dakota Supreme Court that this conviction is valid?” asked Chief Justice Jon Jensen at the oral arguments in November.

Justices haven’t decided if the appeal should continue on the merits or if the original conviction should stand.

They’re weighing other issues too. The Red River Women’s Clinic sued North Dakota after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, leaving the legality of abortions in state hands. Justices are still trying to decide whether a North Dakota law that effectively bans abortion should be allowed to take effect before the lawsuit is complete.

“The abortion law hasn’t been thrown out by the courts. It has just been blocked from implementation,” said ND Attorney General Drew Wrigley at the oral arguments in November.

In a Burleigh County Courtroom, the family of Chad Entzel heard the news they hoped for: a jury found Nikki Entzel guilty of conspiring to kill her husband Chad and light their home on fire. The family said they can now honor the man Chad was.

“He was so kind, didn’t have a bad word to say about anybody,” said Chad Entzel’s sister Lori Kraus after the verdict was read in October.

The Bismarck-Mandan community suffered other tragic losses. 39-year-old Wade Bison was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for driving into and killing 77-year-old Erwin Geigle, a Navy veteran and mechanic who was enjoying retirement with his family.

“This never should have happened,” said State’s Attorney Gabrielle Goter at the sentencing hearing in July.

Bison had 54 prior convictions at the time of the crime.

Nichole Rice was arrested and charged with murder in a previously cold case... the 2007 murder of Anita Knutson in Minot.

A pair in Bismarck got probation as part of a deal. Prosecutors hope they’ll testify against 40-year-old Rolanda Doyle. She’s charged with murder after a five-year-old in her care died from battered child syndrome. Prosecutors say a “disturbing” cell phone video of the child is a key piece of evidence in the case.

“He doesn’t attempt to catch himself like normal human instinct,” said Jacob Bratsch, detective with the Bismarck Police Department during a hearing in April as he described the video.

Doyle’s set to stand trial in February 2023.

Homicides were a concern for police over the year. North Dakota detectives investigated six in Bismarck alone.

Fentanyl, and fentanyl-laced meth, streamed into the state as law enforcement worked to slow the flow. Officers even made arrests after finding fentanyl during a stop to aid motorists in the November blizzard.

“Our goal, in the end, is to protect human life more than anything and every time we can take 1,000 or 5,000 or however many these pills off the streets. We’ve definitely saved some lives,” said a BCI agent discussing the fentanyl crisis in October.

And rape kits piled up in North Dakota labs. The backlog of kits was up nearly 150 from 2021 as the state crime lab faced staff shortages.

But the news isn’t all bad.

Community members were trained to save lives with Narcan, North Dakota judges trained to more effectively deal with individuals with mental and behavioral health needs, and programs in correctional facilities were built in hopes of reducing recidivism.