Nancy Crampton Brophy: “She thinks a lot about murder because she’s a romantic suspense writer”

From a Washington Post story by Marisa Iati headlined “”How to Murder Your Husband’ jury unlikely to hear writer’s work”:

In her blog post titled “How to Murder Your Husband,” Nancy Crampton Brophy meticulously detailed the pros and cons of various methods: Guns are too loud. Poison may not work. A hit man might rat you out to the police.

The jury tasked with determining whether she killed her husband is unlikely to hear about any of it.

A judge in Portland, Ore., ruled on the first day of Brophy’s murder tria that it would be unfair for the attorneys in the case to talk about her 2011 essay. In it, Brophy said she thinks a lot about murder because she’s a romantic suspense writer.

“I find it is easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them,” she wrote, according to an archived version of the post. “I don’t want to worry about blood and brains splattered on my walls. And really, I’m not good at remembering lies. But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us have it in him/her when pushed far enough.”

The lawyers in Brophy’s trial have painted opposing pictures of the months before Daniel Brophy was found dead at his workplace, the Oregon Culinary Institute, in 2018. Prosecutors said the couple was mired in “financial despair” with no way out — except, Nancy Brophy allegedly surmised, fatally shooting her husband to capitalize on an over $1.4 million life-insurance payout. Her defense attorney countered that the couple’s finances were improving before Daniel Brophy’s death and that Nancy’s Brophy’s gun-supply purchases were for book research and in response to news of mass shootings.

In opening statements, prosecutor Shawn Overstreet said Nancy Brophy began scheming to kill her husband in late 2017. He said she bought supplies to make what is known as a ghost gun, a homemade weapon that’s meant to be untraceable, but didn’t know how to build it. So Brophy allegedly purchased a 9mm Glock pistol while her husband was at work. Overstreet said she replaced the gun’s slide and barrel with one ordered on eBay, making the gun’s shell casings appear not to match the weapon. And, he said, she practiced firing at a shooting range.

On June 2, 2018, Overstreet said surveillance video captured Nancy Brophy driving near the culinary institute at about 6:39 a.m. Roughly 40 minutes later, he said, Daniel Brophy arrived at work. He was filling buckets of ice and water at a commercial sink with his back to the door when his wife allegedly shot him twice, piercing his spine and heart, the prosecutor said.

Told by a detective that her husband had been found dead, Nancy Brophy said she had been home all morning. Asked if she owned weapons, she allegedly didn’t mention the ghost gun kit.

Four days later, Nancy Brophy asked police for a letter stating that she wasn’t a suspect so that she could collect on her husband’s life insurance policy, Overstreet said. The detective declined. Investigators later learned that Brophy allegedly made claims on 10 policies and was also eligible for the equity in their home and a workers’ compensation claim because her husband died at work.

Brophy, then 68, was arrested in September 2018 for allegedly carrying out what “she perhaps believed to be the perfect plan, when she ended the life of beloved chef Daniel Brophy,” according to the prosecution.

But Lisa Maxfield, a defense attorney for Brophy, said there’s no way that Nancy Brophy would have done that. Prosecutors were making a “circumstantial” case that asked jurors to ignore the most important circumstance, Maxfield said: that the couple was in a healthy, vibrant marriage for nearly 25 years.

“Nancy Crampton Brophy has always been thoroughly, madly, crazy in love with Daniel Brophy, and she still is today,” Maxfield told the jury.

Although money was tight in 2017, Maxfield said the Brophys had formulated a plan to transition toward retirement. Daniel Brophy decided to teach weekend classes at the culinary institute the next year, in addition to his normal weekday classes. He got a part-time job cooking at a rehabilitation center. The couple planned to subdivide their home.

As a result, Maxfield said, the Brophys significantly reduced their credit card debt and the payments due on their mortgage. Their financial situation had significantly improved by June 2018, and they had roughly $10,000 between them, she said.

Maxfield defended the Brophys’ multiple life insurance policies as reasonable for a woman who worked as a salesperson for various life insurance companies. Nancy Brophy wanted to demonstrate her confidence in the product, Maxfield said, and earned a commission on the policies that she sold to herself. So, she said, Brophy had a financial incentive to sometimes add policies.

After Daniel Brophy’s death, Maxfield said, his wife scrambled to sell the house before the bank could realize the sole person on the mortgage had died and demand full payment. Her grief also interfered with her job selling Medicare policies, the defense attorney said.

Brophy’s weapons purchases could be explained also, Maxfield said. The ghost gun kit and the replacement slide and barrel were research tools for Brophy’s books — successors to the antique doorknobs, law-enforcement quality handcuffs and other items that Brophy previously had bought for her writing. She got the Glock pistol in response to news of several mass shootings, Maxfield said.

“Nancy was lost after Dan was killed,” Maxfield said. “Her friends will tell you that she sounded very confused. It was as though the earth had fallen away from her feet.”

The trial is expected to last for several weeks, the Oregonian reported.

Before her husband’s death, Nancy Brophy published at least seven books with plots that often centered on “wrong” relationships that “felt so right.” On the covers, chiseled men mugged for the camera and women glanced seductively over their shoulders.

Brophy described herself in an author biography as married to a chef who treats life as a science project. She said she decided to marry him when he told her that he was making hors d’oeuvres before joining her in the bathtub.

“Can you imagine,” she wrote, “spending the rest of your life without a man like that?”

Marisa Iati is a reporter for the General Assignment News Desk at The Washington Post. She previously worked at the Star-Ledger and in New Jersey, where she covered municipal mayhem, community issues, education and crime.

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