Two people charged in the January death of a Bismarck man started planning his demise a month before it happened, a sheriff’s deputy testified Friday in describing an apparent love triangle and plans to cash in on a life insurance policy.

Earl Howard, 41, and Nikki Entzel, 38, pleaded not guilty to charges filed against them in the death of Chad Entzel, 42. His body was found Jan. 2 after authorities responded to a call of a fire at a northeast Bismarck home. Chad Entzel’s body was in the early stages of decomposition. An autopsy showed he died of gunshot wounds.

Howard is charged with murder, arson, and three counts of conspiracy. The Belwood, Ontario, man has dual U.S. and Canada citizenship. He turned himself in and was arrested Jan. 9 on the Blue Water Bridge connecting Port Huron, Mich., with Ontario, Canada.

Nikki Entzel is charged with three counts of conspiracy. Each faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.

South Central District Judge Douglas Bahr found there was probable cause to move the case forward. He scheduled a 10-day trial to start Aug. 10.

The two suspects appeared as co-defendants at Friday’s preliminary hearing, though Sand indicated he may move to split the case.

Howard is being held on $1 million bail. Nikki Entzel is in jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

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