PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The murder trial for Oregon romance novelist Nancy Crampton Brophy began Monday.
Crampton Brophy was arrested in September 2018 for the murder of her husband, Oregon Culinary Institute Instructor Daniel Brophy. Brophy was found fatally shot inside OCI on the morning of June 2, 2018.
On the first day of the trial, the prosecution and defense each gave their opening statements. They also questioned the first two witnesses.
Here are six takeaways from the first day.
1. Blog post “How to Murder Your Husband” excluded from evidence
In 2011, Nancy Crampton Brophy wrote a blog post titled “How to Murder Your Husband” for a writers workshop. The blog post received a lot of attention around the time of Crampton Brophy’s arrest. However, at the start of the trial Monday, Judge Christopher Ramras announced the blog post would be excluded from the trial’s evidence.
Judge Ramras said the defense moved to exclude the blog post from the evidence and he agreed because “Any minimal probative value of an article written that long ago is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice and confusion of the issues.”
2. The Brophys’ financial challenges
In their opening statements, both the prosecution and defense agreed that the Brophys were facing financial difficulties in late 2017. However, while the prosecution said that Nancy Crampton Brophy was “on a path of financial ruin” at the time of her husband’s murder, the defense said things were starting to look up for the couple at this time.
The defense attorney who gave the statement said the Brophys had come up with a plan to accommodate for the delayed commission Nancy received from her Medicare sales that year and that the loan Daniel took out against his retirement was something he’d done before and paid back, and that he was prepared to do it again.
The prosecution said that by late 2017, there was no end in sight for the Brophys’ financial despair and they were struggling to pay their $1,530 mortgage while also paying more than $1,000 each month in life insurance premiums and while Nancy was spending a large amount of money on firearms.
3. Multiple gun purchases
In late 2017, Nancy Crampton Brophy began researching ghost guns online. The prosecution says this was one of the first steps she took toward plotting her husband’s murder, but the defense said it was part of her research for a new novel she was planning — one about a woman in an abusive relationship who wanted to buy a gun but couldn’t because she’d been previously hospitalized for depression.
Crampton Brophy purchased a ghost gun build kit. When she couldn’t assemble it, the prosecution said she sought out another gun and purchased one at a gun expo in Portland. After realizing the slide and barrel from the first gun wouldn’t fit on the lower frame of the gun, she ordered another slide and barrel from eBay. Investigators found the first two guns Crampton Brophy purchased, but never found the slide and barrel that was purchased on eBay.
The defense said Crampton Brophy has purchased several unusual items in the past for research for her novels, including night-vision goggles and a telescope. They said purchasing a gun wasn’t out of the ordinary for her. They also said Crampton Brophy felt compelled to buy a gun after hearing how many Brophy relatives owned guns, and after reading and hearing about the multiple mass shootings that occurred in 2017 and 2018. She also wanted Daniel Brophy to take a gun with him when he went mushroom picking.
4. Life insurance purchases
The defense attorneys outlined in great detail that Nancy and Daniel Brophy had both invested in life insurance for a long time. They said that since Crampton Brophy was older than her husband, she wanted him to take advantage of the lower-cost premiums available to him before he reached a certain age. The Brophys had purchased various life insurance plans for decades and Crampton Brophy worked for several life insurance companies. At times, the plan purchases coincided with the holidays, to ensure they’d receive an influx of cash before December. Crampton Brophy’s attorneys said life insurance had become a particular concern for her when she learned she needed surgery in 2015 and worried she might die during the procedure.
The prosecution implied that cashing in on her husband’s life insurance policies after his death could have been Crampton Brophy’s plan to escape financial ruin. They said she was the beneficiary of $1.4 million. The prosecution also said she asked the detective for a letter to send to a life insurance company that would exonerate her as a suspect in her husband’s murder, so she could receive $40,000 from one of his life insurance policies.
5. The Brophys were happy
The defense spent a long time Monday emphasizing that the Brophys had a loving, healthy marriage up until Daniel Brophy’s death. The attorney said the younger people the couple mentored wanted a “Brophy marriage,” because the two seemed so content with one another. The defense shared examples of times when Daniel Brophy sent his wife encouraging and supportive text messages.
The prosecutor who spoke also said that to their friends and family, the Brophys appeared to be a couple in love who were entering the next phase of their lives.
6. First witnesses
The state called two witnesses to the stand Monday: Kathleen Dooley and Dorothy Sadie Damon. Dooley was a student at the Oregon Culinary Institute at the time of Daniel Brophy’s death. She was the person who called 911 that day. She said another student had found Daniel Brophy dead on the floor and one student performed CPR while she called for help and found the only other instructor in the building at the time, Dorothy Sadie Damon.
Damon said she was in the restroom when Dooley found her. She said Daniel Brophy usually arrived at the school before her and unlocked the doors. She hadn’t seen him yet that morning, which wasn’t unusual. When she entered the kitchen where his body was lying, she saw some students gathered around him. One student was performing CPR. She said none of them could figure out what was wrong and they didn’t realize he’d been shot. Eventually, she said “it was obvious that Dan was gone.” Soon after realizing this, emergency medical personnel arrived at the school.