Romance novelist’s ‘How to Murder Your Husband’ essay tossed out as evidence in day 1 of murder trial

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Nancy Crampton-Brophy appeared in court on Monday for the first day of her trial. She is accused of shooting and killing her husband, Daniel Brophy, at his place of work, the Oregon Culinary Institute (OCI), in June 2018.

Court began with the judge ruling on a motion brought to him by Brophy’s defense attorneys. He agreed that the blog post Brophy wrote 11 years ago titled, “How to Murder Your Husband” would not be permitted as evidence. He noted that the post was old, it was written for a writing seminar and any value it might have to the case, he said, is outweighed by the prejudice it may cause in the jury.

The state prosecution gave its opening statements first. It painted Nancy Brophy as a woman who lied to police about her whereabouts on the day her husband was killed and who stood to gain a significant amount of money from his death.

The defense said that the state was going to present a circumstantial case while ignoring the largest fact of all: that Dan and Nancy Brophy were in love to the very end.

The prosecution then went on to outline how she visited “ghost gun” websites numerous times. Ghost guns are guns that do not contain a serial number, are unregistered and therefore untraceable. The prosecution claimed she bought a ghost gun kit that police found in a storage unit after Dan Brophy’s death. They went on to say she did not have the skills necessary to build that gun, so she went on to buy a Glock 17 9mm at the Portland Gun Expo and later she bought an aftermarket slide and barrel for it.

Brophy’s attorneys acknowledged that she visited the ghost gun sites and that she had purchased the two firearms. However, it said she was inspired by the crimes of Kevin Neal, a California man who killed five people and injured 10 others in 2017. Neal made a gun because he could not buy one. Brophy’s representation said she wanted to write a story that flipped the script on that idea with a woman who was in an abusive relationship and afraid to leave. According to Brophy’s lawyers, this protagonist would build a gun because she could not purchase one. In order to better relate to her protagonist, Brophy began doing research that led her to a “New York Times” article that had the links to the ghost gun websites she had visited.

Her representation said that Brophy bought the ghost gun kit in late 2017 and viewed it as a jigsaw puzzle. They alleged that she even asked her husband for help but realized she did not have the equipment or skill to put it together, so it sat without being used. Then, her lawyers claim that Dan Brophy knew that Nancy Brophy was going to buy a gun at the gun expo. Not only was she still working on her story, but given the number of mass shootings at the time and the recent Parkland shooting in Florida in February of 2018, they thought it might be good to have.

She purchased a slide and barrel because replacing some of the parts might be easier than building a whole gun, her attorney said. The defense said it would call to the stand at least two other writers who had also bought odd things to support their writing, including a large crossbow and a chastity belt. It also pointed out that Nancy Brophy had purchased other items to support her writing like night vision goggles, a telescope, handcuffs, glass doorknobs and many kinds of locks.

However, police never recovered the slide and barrel they know she purchased from eBay.

Surveillance video

Prosecutors detailed surveillance video that showed a van investigators believe to be Brophy’s seen in the area of the Oregon Culinary Institute before Dan Brophy arrived at work on June 2, 2018. The van is seen again, according to prosecutors, arriving at the culinary school after Dan Brophy had entered as the sole occupant of the building and turned off the alarm around 7:21 a.m.

The van, which investigators believed to be Nancy’s, was seen leaving the area around 7:28 a.m.

RELATED: Romance novelist drove by Oregon Culinary Institute shortly before husband’s body was found, court docs say

“Dan was standing at a commercial sink,” said the prosecutor. “He was filling up the ice and water buckets as he did every day for the students. He would have had his back to the door Nancy likely came through.”

He alleged that Nancy Brophy shot him, “… first through the back, penetrating his spine, piercing his heart. As Dan fell onto his back, possibly paralyzed, Nancy shot him through the chest, also piercing his heart.”

When Nancy Brophy allegedly returned home, neighbors saw her looking distraught, according to the prosecution. She said she was looking for her dogs who had gotten out but the neighbors never saw any dogs. A friend called to tell her about the police presence at the culinary institute. She called this friend back and forth several times before calling Dan Brophy’s mom, who asked why she hadn’t gone to see what was going on at the institute. She replied that there was too much of a police presence.

Nancy Brophy did go to culinary institute and detectives spoke with her in a recorded conversation, the prosecution said. Upon being told it was likely Dan Brophy who had been killed she said, “Yeah, I got that when everyone gave me a sad sack look.”

The prosecution pointed out that 10 minutes into the conversation, Nancy Brophy finally asked what happened to her husband and 47 minutes into the conversation she asked where Dan Brophy was.

The defense said it will call two psychologists to the stand who will explain what happens to someone’s brain and memory when traumatic things happen.

RELATED: Stepson sues romance author accused of killing chef husband

Life insurance policies

Another key piece of the state’s case against Nancy Brophy is that she had many life insurance policies out on her husband. They reported that the Brophys were paying around $1,000 a month for a number of life insurance policies while sometimes not paying their mortgage. It also pointed out that Dan Brophy took out $35,000 as a loan against his retirement to help with paying their mortgage.

Brophy’s defense attorneys pointed to the reason for the numerous policies have to do with her working in life insurance for a number of years and making commissions off of the policies she sold, even the ones she sold to herself. It also pointed to Dan being four years younger than her, making him eligible for better and cheaper policies for longer than she was eligible. It said that Nancy and Dan Brophy had agreed to take out the loan as part of their retirement plan. They were using the money to pay credit card debt, get up to date on the mortgage and do yard work in preparation of selling the lot and home. It also pointed out that if Dan Brophy had died just a few months later than he did, they would have had a large payout from an insurance policy.

“I don’t want to be the stupid question of the day, I think I have to be the question of the day,” Nancy Brophy can be heard saying in a recorded phone call to a detective just four days after the death of her husband. She asks if law enforcement could write a letter exonerating her as a suspect so her insurance will payout a $40,000 life insurance policy.

RELATED: Court docs: Romance novelist accused of killing chef husband sought independent life, stood to gain $1.5M

The defense never addressed this directly, nor did it address what happened when Nancy Brophy was arrested in September 2018.

The state said when police came to arrest Brophy, who was 68 at the time and had never been arrested before, she said, “Oh, you must think I killed my husband.”

The defense did, however, paint a picture of the Brophys as a couple who were madly in love — An exemplary couple who others wanted to be like. Nancy Brophy’s attorney read text messages of the two keeping in contact, cheering one another on and checking in with one another.

The defense closed by addressing the jury and saying that after all the evidence is laid out, “We are certain you will understand Nancy Brophy did not kill her husband.”

Witness called to the stand

Two witnesses were called to the stand. One was Kathleen Dooley, a student at the culinary institute who called 911 when Dan Brophy’s body was found, and the only other employee in the building at the time, Dorothy Damon.

Both Dooley and Damon described the same scene at the student entrance of the building on June 2, 2018. The student entrance was locked, which was an uncommon occurrence. Damon let students in who were waiting around 8 a.m. and many students went into the student lounge, including Dooley, as Damon ran across the street to make photocopies for her class.

“I remember a fellow student yelling, ‘Call 911’,” Dooley recalled. Her 911 call was played for the court. She was on the phone as she ran to look for Damon, who had returned and was using the restroom when she heard commotion.

Dooley and Damon said they returned to the back of the kitchen where Dan Brophy’s body had been found. Another student was administering chest compressions and reported that he was bleeding from his chest. Dooley told the 911 operator that he was not conscious and not breathing.

“I went to Dan and I knelt down beside him and I didn‘t know what to do, so I held his hand,” said Damon. “I wanted to see if he would squeeze it back and he didn’t.”

Damon said she realized Brophy was no longer alive.

“When I realized Dan was gone, I told her [student doing compressions] she could stop. I didn’t want her to keep trying without being able to do anything to save him. She was wearing herself out.”

It wasn’t long after that when paramedics arrived and then police did. Neither witness called to the stand on Monday spoke of Nancy Brophy at all.

Witness testimony is expected to continue on Tuesday. KGW will have continuing coverage on air and online of the trial.

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