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Investigators detail search of Mandan quadruple murder suspect's home, arrest

Investigators on Thursday, Aug. 12, testified that they found evidence in Chad Isaak's mobile home that connects him to the quadruple murders.

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North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Matt Hiatt during testimony on Thursday, Aug. 12, shows jurors a knife found in a clothes washer in the Washburn home of Chad Isaak, who is accused of stabbing and shooting to death four workers at RJR Maintenance & Management in Mandan on April 1, 2019. Tom Stromme / The Bismarck Tribune
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MANDAN, N.D. — When authorities searched Chad Trolon Isaak's residence in Washburn, N.D., they found "everything they were looking for" that would establish him as the suspect in the shooting and stabbing deaths of four people at a Mandan rental business more than two years ago.

Prior to searching Isaak's mobile home, investigators knew the suspect they were searching for in connection with the quadruple homicide was seen wearing a bright orange hooded jacket, a reversible orange and camouflage face mask, a black jacket, dark pants and dark shoes. Because Robert Fakler, Adam Fuehrer, William Cobb and Lois Cobb were found shot and stabbed in Mandan's RJR Maintenance & Management building on April 1, 2019, investigators were also searching for a firearm and a knife.

They found it all within Isaak's Washburn residence, investigators testified on Thursday, Aug. 12.

Multiple investigators testified Thursday during Isaak's trial. Isaak faces four murder charges and has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces the possibility of life in prison without parole.

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Chad Isaak listens to witness testimony on Thursday, Aug. 12, in the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan. Isaak is on trial in the April 1, 2019, slayings of four people at RJR Maintenance & Management. Tom Stromme / The Bismarck Tribune

When officers executed a search warrant of Isaak's mobile home on April 4, 2019, they discovered a knife under some wet clothing within the washing machine — indicating the knife and clothes went through a wash cycle, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation special agent Matt Hiatt said on Wednesday. The knife, which was about 14 inches long, had a bent tip.

"It wasn't the type of knife you'd forget in your pocket," Hiatt said.

Within Isaak's dryer, an investigator discovered a hooded orange zip-up jacket, a reversible orange and camouflage fleece face mask, two black jackets, and black pants and black shoes.

"We were able to find all the things we were looking for within Isaak's residence," said BCI supervisory special agent Arnie Rummel.

On top of the clothing and knife, Rummel said he found pieces of a firearm within a plastic container inside Isaak's freezer. The container, labeled "Chad veg soup," smelled of bleach, he added.

Multiple investigators also testified that much of the mobile home smelled of bleach, especially one of the bathrooms.

"Everything was bathed in bleach," Rummel said.

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Isaak's arrest

Before executing the search warrant, law enforcement used "full force" while arresting Isaak that same day near his home in Washburn during a traffic stop.

Investigators, wanting to ensure the traffic stop was safe, deployed more than 20 officers to arrest Isaak. Officers dressed in tactical gear carrying semi-automatic rifles were on scene, as well as an armored military vehicle. A North Dakota National Guard helicopter surveilled Isaak's traffic stop from the air.

McLean County Sheriff's Office deputy Raymond Copeland, who was on the scene of the traffic stop, said Isaak appeared to be "nonchalant and candid" about his detainment. Isaak never asked why he was being detained, and Copeland said he saw Isaak grin when officers were leading him to a law enforcement vehicle.

During this description in the courtroom, Isaak exasperatedly shook his head in what appeared to be a denial of Copeland's description of his behavior. Defense attorney Bruce Quick during cross examination alluded to the fact that when law enforcement collaborates in "full force," including officers in tactical gear, a person is likely to be scared. Quick also insinuated that many of the officers did not know Isaak personally and therefore would not know how he would react in that situation.

In the days following the homicides in Mandan, law enforcement sent out notifications to other agencies in the Morton County area alerting them to be on the lookout for the white truck and person suspected of being involved in the crimes. Investigators captured a white vehicle parked at a McDonald's near the RJR Maintenance building, as well as a suspect dressed in dark clothing.

The alerts sent to other law enforcement agencies had screen grabs from security camera footage of the white truck, the suspect and a description of the route the truck was last seen traveling, which was on Highway 200 north of Center, N.D.

McLean County Sheriff's Office lieutenant Justin Krohmer saw the alert and believed the truck looked similar to his family chiropractor's white pick up truck because of the distinct rust stains above one of the rear tires and the truck's make and model. Krohmer testified on Thursday that he alerted the Mandan Police Department that his chiropractor's vehicle looked similar to the suspect's.

Krohmer testified and said after viewing footage of the suspect walking away from the RJR building, he believes the suspect and Isaak walked in the same way. Isaak's gait is notable because he walks like a cross country skier, Krohmer said.

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"Mr. Isaak has a very distinct walk," he said.

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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