BISMARCK, N.D. — Chad Isaak has been convicted of four counts of murder in the brutal shooting and stabbing deaths of four workers at RJR Maintenance and Management in Mandan on April 1, 2019.
Jurors returned the guilty verdicts Friday morning after deliberating about 3 ½ hours over two days. Isaak briefly hung his head and stared straight ahead as South Central District Judge David Reich read the verdicts.
There were audible gasps and sobbing from the section of the spectators' gallery occupied by RJR family members, employees and supporters. Members of Isaak's family in attendance were fairly quiet, with several of them tearful. They declined to comment outside the courtroom.
Some members of the RJR families embraced members of the Isaak family.
Security was stepped up in the courtroom. Isaak's hands and feet were shackled for the first time during the trial.
The jury of six men and six women also found Isaak guilty of three lesser charges -- felony counts of burglary and unlawful entry into a vehicle, and a misdemeanor count of unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Jurors declined to comment on their decisions outside the courtroom.
Isaak could face life in prison without parole on the murder convictions. Sentencing was not immediately scheduled. Reich ordered a presentence investigation.
Prosecutors did not prove a motive in the case, instead relying on a large amount of evidence that they maintained throughout the three-week trial would fit like pieces of a puzzle and point to Isaak as the killer.
Isaak’s defense team maintained that authorities didn’t seriously consider other possible suspects and made a rush to judgment.
Isaak, 47, a chiropractor whose mobile home property in Washburn is managed by RJR, was accused in the slayings of RJR co-owner Robert Fakler, 52; and employees Adam Fuehrer, 42; Bill Cobb, 50; and Lois Cobb, 45. The Cobbs were married.
Thomas Fakler, of Fargo, Robert Fakler's son, said the verdict will help the family heal -- that “one chapter is done.” He also expressed his appreciation for the authorities who responded to the scene 2 ½ years ago and those who helped bring Isaak to justice.
“Paramedics, the EMTs, the firefighters, the cops. I have a newfound respect for law enforcement,” he said. “Everything that they showed up there for the last few weeks, it’s amazing. They did a great job.”
Isaak's trial at the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan began Aug. 2. The prosecution rested its case Tuesday afternoon, on the 12th day of the trial, after calling dozens of witnesses.
Some testified that the workers were shot and stabbed brutally and with precision that might indicate a killer with a medical background. Others detailed evidence including a knife found in Isaak’s clothes washer, gun parts found in his freezer and security camera footage tracking his pickup from Mandan to Washburn.
Experts said gloves found in Isaak's home appeared to match gloves seen on the suspect in security camera footage at the crime scene. They said his shoe matched a print at the scene. They testified that fibers on the clothing of the slain workers were matches for fibers taken from Isaak’s clothing, and that DNA evidence found in Isaak’s pickup truck was linked to Fakler.
Assistant Morton County State’s Attorney Gabrielle Goter during her closing argument to the jury on Thursday said the killer acted alone, wore blaze orange clothing as though he was going hunting and kept the spent shell casings as trophies. She said the DNA, clothing fiber and video evidence all pointed to Isaak, who had no alibi the morning of the slayings.
The defense rested its case on Wednesday after calling six witnesses.
Defense attorney Bruce Quick during his closing argument Thursday maintained that the case was one of “confirmation bias” -- that authorities three days after the slaying concluded Isaak was the killer and focused only on him after that, looking for things that fit their theory.
He said authorities might have overlooked or ignored numerous other potential suspects, including angry tenants, the ex-husband of a woman with whom Robert Fakler had had a longtime affair, and members of a motorcycle gang kicked out of an RJR shop party.
He questioned the gun evidence, the handling of the crime scene, and the collection and editing of video footage. He wondered how one person could have killed four people in the 21 minutes that authorities say the killer was inside RJR. He touted Isaak’s clean military record as a former Navy medic and his lack of any criminal history. He noted that the prosecution also showed no motive for Isaak to kill four people.