An Oregon woman who wrote steamy romance novels is accused of murdering her husband. The trial began this week for Nancy Crampton Brophy – who once penned an essay about the pros and cons of murdering a spouse.
Opening statements in the trial of Brophy began in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Monday – nearly four years after she was arrested in connection with the shooting death of her husband.
Around 7:30 a.m. on June 2, 2018, chef Daniel Brophy was gunned down in the kitchen of the Oregon Culinary Institute, where he had taught cooking since 2006. The cooking school had no security cameras, but prosecutors determined that Brophy was the only person inside the culinary institute at the time of the shooting. Around 8 a.m., Brophy's body was discovered by his culinary students.
"I saw Chef Brophy on the floor. He was lying on the floor, by the sink," Clarinda Perez said tearfully during the trial on Monday, according to KGW.
Fellow student Miranda Bernhard then arrived at the crime scene and told Perez that "she needed to start compressions."
"His chest was really squishy and I thought I had broken a rib because as I continued to do compressions, my hands started getting full of blood," said Perez – who was a medical assistant at the time.
KGW reported, "Paramedics noted that Brophy was still warm and had no signs of rigor mortis or lividity — when blood pools in a body because the heart has stopped pumping for a long time — so they began resuscitation efforts."
At 8:35 a.m., paramedics pronounced Brophy dead at the age of 63.
KOIN reported, "Daniel was shot twice, once in the back and once in the chest. Both bullets — likely from a Glock 9mm handgun — pierced his heart and either could have been the fatal shot, the medical examiner said."
Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Shawn Overstreet said detectives found no signs of robbery – Brophy's wallet, keys, and phone were not stolen.
The day after Daniel's murder, Crampton Brophy posted a message on Facebook.
"My husband and best friend, Chef Dan Brophy was killed yesterday morning," she wrote. "For those of you who are close to me and feel this deserved a phone call, you are right, but I'm struggling to make sense of everything right now."
Nancy Crampton Brophy was arrested on Sept. 5, 2018, in connection with the murder of her husband of 21 years. Crampton Brophy, 71, is charged with a single count of murder and has pleaded not guilty.
Traffic cameras show Crampton Brophy’s Toyota minivan approaching and departing from city streets near the institute close to the time of the shooting, prosecutors said.
A search of the couple's computers revealed a bookmarked article titled "10 Ways to Cover Up a Murder" on a joint iTunes account, according to prosecutors.
Investigators found two 9mm shell casings at the crime scene. Prosecutors claimed that Crampton Brophy purchased a Glock 9mm handgun at a Portland gun show.
She also reportedly purchased a "ghost gun" assembly kit that investigators later found at a storage facility.
CNN reported, "Prosecutors allege that to cover her tracks, Crampton-Brophy swapped the slide and barrel of the Glock 9mm with an identical mechanism she bought on eBay and used that to shoot her husband. She then allegedly took out the new slide and barrel and replaced it with the original, 'thus being able to present a new, fully intact firearm to police that would not be a match to the shell casings,' prosecutors said in court documents."
Investigators have yet to recover the slide and barrel, which means that forensic experts are unable to match the bullets with the gun.
Lead defense attorney Lisa Maxfield claimed her client purchased the gun because mass shootings made her feel unsafe. Maxfield asserted that Crampton Brophy purchased the ghost gun kit and replacement gun barrel as research for a novel.
Prosecutors claimed that Crampton Brophy was the beneficiary of "numerous" life insurance policies taken out on her husband.
"Dan Brophy was worth almost $1.5 million to Nancy Brophy if he was dead and he was worth a life of financial hardship if he stayed alive. Nancy Brophy planned and carried out what she believed was the perfect murder. A murder that she believed would free her from the grips of financial despair," prosecutors said in court documents.
Prosecutors claimed that the couple was dealing with financial issues prior to Daniel's murder and drained their retirement account two years before the shooting. Despite the money troubles, the couple was spending over $1,000 a month on life insurance premiums, according to court documents.
Maxfield argued that Daniel had more life insurance because he was younger and qualified for policies that Nancy could not. Maxfield said the couple's financial woes are overblown.
"Dan Brophy was content in his simplistic lifestyle, but Nancy Brophy wanted something more," prosecutors alleged. "As Nancy Brophy became more financially desperate and her writing career was floundering, she was left with few options."
Crampton Brophy had a career as a romance novelist and wrote books with muscular, shirtless men on the covers and titles such as "The Wrong Husband." Several books had the tag line: "Wrong never felt so right."
"My stories are about pretty men and strong women, about families that don't always work and about the joy of finding love and the difficulty of making it stay," she said of her literary work. "In writing fiction, you dig deep and unearth portions of your own life that you've long forgotten or had purposely buried deep. Granted, sometimes it is smarter to change the ending."
Overstreet said that none of the books "led to much financial success."
In 2011, she published a blog post titled: "How to Murder Your Husband."
"As a romantic suspense writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about murder and, consequently, about police procedure," Crampton Brophy wrote in the 700-word blog post that has since been made "private." The essay examined the pros and cons of killing a husband.
"If the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don't want to spend any time in jail," Crampton Brophy wrote. "And let me say clearly for the record, I don't like jumpsuits and orange isn't my color."
On Monday, the judge ruled that the blog post would not be permitted as evidence because it was written years ago as part of a writing seminar and could potentially give the jury prejudice.
Maxfield said that Crampton Brophy would take the stand in her own defense.
Daniel Brophy's students had nothing but compliments for the slain culinary instructor.
Perez said of Brophy, "He was a no bulls****er. He pushed us to our potential and he was very caring in everything that he showed us and taught us."
Bernhard added, "He was a really great instructor. He was all about nature and foraging and we would talk about gardening a lot."