A suspect has been arrested in connection with a quadruple homicide at a property management company in Mandan, N.D., authorities announced on Thursday. But many key details about the killings, which have confounded residents of the small city just across the Missouri River from the state’s capital, remain a mystery.
On Monday, local law enforcement announced they had found the bodies of three men and one woman at the offices of RJR Maintenance and Management. The four victims were identified on Tuesday as Robert Fakler, 52, who owned RJR; and Adam Fuehrer, 42, William Cobb, 50, and Lois Cobb, 45, who worked for the firm. Police called it a quadruple homicide, but would say little else.
At a news conference on Thursday night, Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler said that Chad Isaak, 44, of Washburn, N.D., had been taken into custody and charged with four counts of felony murder. Isaak lived in a trailer park managed by RJR, he confirmed, but police don’t know exactly how he was connected to the victims. A motive for the crime remains unknown, he said, and the deaths are still under investigation.
“This is far from over,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler said that authorities had identified a suspect’s vehicle after reviewing surveillance footage from the warehouse, and the McLean County Sheriff’s Office had subsequently located that vehicle in Washburn, which is located about 40 miles north of Mandan. On Thursday at around 7:45 p.m., deputies performed a traffic stop and detained Isaak while they searched his car. Evidence discovered on Isaak’s person and in the vehicle provided authorities with probable cause to place him under arrest for the murders, Ziegler said. He declined to say if they had recovered a weapon, or if Isaak had made any statements to police.
Citing the active investigation, Ziegler also declined to release any additional information about the suspect. According to the Bismarck Tribune, Isaak had worked as a chiropractor and opened his own practice, Isaak Chiropractic of Washburn, in 2015. He previously had run a chiropractic clinic in the nearby city of Hazen, which he opened in 2006. North Dakota court records do not indicate that he had any previous criminal history.
Police have yet to specify when the four victims were killed. At Thursday’s news conference, Ziegler said that the victims had “suffered stab wounds and/or gunshot wounds," but would not go into further detail, saying that he had yet to receive a coroner’s report that would confirm the cause of death. Authorities have also refused to release audio recordings of the 911 call to the Tribune and other local media outlets.
The lack of information from authorities has led to an unusual situation over the past week. Reporters have been calling from around the country with many of the same questions as the city’s 22,000 residents. Everyone wants to know what happened at the RJR Maintenance and Management warehouse.
In a Tuesday news briefing, Ziegler wouldn’t discuss a possible motive and said investigators had not recovered a weapon at the scene. But he said he didn’t think the public had any reason to worry about their own safety.
“This was very specific to the victims that were involved,” Ziegler said. “There was nothing that was at the crime scene that would lead us to believe that anybody outside the victims involved were in any danger.”
Ziegler declined to say whether they were searching for a lone killer or multiple perpetrators. There were security cameras in the building, but he did not say whether they had captured the killing. He apparently ruled out the possibility of a murder-suicide, though, telling the Bismarck Tribune that “these four people didn’t do it themselves.”
Ziegler and his deputy, Lori Flaten, have said they’re just trying to be cautious in discussing what remains an ongoing investigation. They don’t want to inadvertently release information that harms their police work, Flaten said.
“We’re not trying to hide anything; we just don’t want to jeopardize our investigation,” she said in a Wednesday interview with The Washington Post. “Hopefully the public can understand that.”
But for some of the victims’ family members, the lack of information has been agonizing.
The Cobbs were Briann Miller’s stepfather and mother, and she told the Associated Press on Tuesday that police hadn’t given her any details about how they died.
“I just know that it was an attack,” Miller said. “I don’t know how it happened, what it happened with. I’m left in the dark still. None of this makes any sense. All I know is my parents are gone.”
In a Facebook post that was shared more than 5,000 times, Miller memorialized them, writing, “My whole world came crashing down today all bc of a careless person who is still out there. this is something you only see in movies or hear of happening on the news.”
Before authorities had confirmed his death, Fuehrer’s sister, Natascha Towne, also told the AP that she didn’t know his status and said she was frustrated with the lack of communication.
By Flaten’s account, the crime is unprecedented in recent Mandan history. She said she has worked at the department for 42 years and that the city hasn’t seen another quadruple homicide in that time.
Monday’s body count alone exceeded the total number of homicides in Mandan from 2013 to 2017, the most recent year of crime data available. In those five years, city police reported just three murders.
North Dakota also has one of the lowest homicide rates in the country, according to the FBI. In 2017, there were 1.3 murders per 100,000 residents. Only New Hampshire had fewer homicides per capita.
“Homicides involving four victims at one time is very unusual for our entire state, much less Mandan,” Flaten told The Post on Wednesday. “We understand this is something affecting the city.”