PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Brophys’ financial situation might not have been as bleak as the prosecution’s witness made it out to be, according to a financial expert who testified for the defense in Nancy Crampton Brophy’s murder trial Tuesday.
Nancy is accused of murdering her husband, Daniel Brophy, at the Oregon Culinary Institute on June 2, 2018. The prosecution argued that part of her motive in the murder was to claim the funds she’d receive from her husband’s life insurance and escape the financial ruin and potential foreclosure that loomed in her future.
However, the witness who spoke Tuesday said at the time of Daniel’s death, the Brophys’ financial picture was improving.
The defense opened its case Tuesday and called the following witnesses:
- James Denny – Worked as a landscaper for the Brophys from December 2017 – August 2018
- Nicole Barlow – Volunteers for the Trauma Intervention Program
- Tamara Alva – Helped her uncle, James Denny, with the Brophys’ landscaping
- Tiffany Couch – Certified public accountant and owner of Acuity Forensics
Here are six takeaways from the 13th day of the trial:
A potential rebuttal witness that could impact the case
When the court was called to order Tuesday, the prosecution and defense discussed several topics with Judge Christopher Ramras, one was the defense’s concern over a rebuttal witness the prosecution might call. The prosecution is allowed to call witnesses in a rebuttal after the defense rests its case.
Prosecutors say they only learned of this witness last week. Andrea Jacobs was reportedly in jail at the same time as Nancy Brophy. Portland Police Bureau detectives flew to a Texas prison last week to interview her.
Jacobs told detectives that while they were in jail, Nancy told her she was “this far away when the shooting happened” and held up her arms to indicate a distance. According to what detectives told prosecutors, Jacobs said she told her attorney at the time what Nancy had said.
Prosecutors have requested the attorney’s notes.
It’s not confirmed yet if Jacobs will be called to testify, but if she is, the defense told the judge they will take issue with it. They said they would need weeks to do research and prepare. The defense also said Jacobs is being investigated in a Medicaid fraud case in Oregon and might be trying to sway her outcome in that investigation by testifying.
The Brophys paid more than $20,000 for landscaping work
The first witness defense attorneys called was James Denny, a man who had performed landscaping services for the Brophys before and after Daniel’s murder.
Denny said he primarily interacted with Nancy and that she always emphasized she wanted the work to make Daniel happy and that Denny should check with Daniel before he did anything.
The Brophys hired Denny to clean up their backyard. Denny said he could tell the space was once a beautiful garden, but had been overgrown with blackberries. It was the worst case of blackberries he’s ever encountered in his career. He said his goal was to clean up the yard so Nancy could sell the house.
After working from December 2017 – August 2018, the bill for Denny’s work totalled more than $20,000.
Nancy was in shock
Nicole Barlow said she heard Nancy before she saw Nancy at the crime scene where Daniel was killed.
“When she came on scene, I heard her crying and screaming loudly,” Barlow said.
Barlow volunteers for the Trauma Intervention Program, known as TIP. It’s a non-profit agency Portland first responders call when there’s a sudden death. TIP volunteers provide practical care and emotional first aid to people at the scene.
The day of Daniel’s death, Barlow said she gave Nancy a resource guide to help her through the next steps after his death.
Notes Barlow took the day Daniel was killed say that she could tell Nancy was in shock from the news she’d just heard from detectives.
Landscape worker put a lien on the Brophys’ house
Tamara Alva helped her uncle, James Denny, with the landscaping at the Brophy’s house from late 2017 and into 2018. In the months she worked at the home, Alva said she and Nancy developed a close friendship.
After Daniel died, Alva continued working for and assisting Nancy with other projects like cleaning out the basement and garage. Alva didn’t remember either Nancy or Daniel talking specifically about selling their house, but said downsizing seemed like a logical thing they would do at their age.
Despite the friendship Alva developed with Nancy, and the fact that Nancy had paid her on time, she still put a $7,000 lien on the Brophys’ house when Nancy went to jail.
“When she went to jail, it was hard to know which way things were gonna go,” Alva said.
The Brophys had eight bank accounts
The defense called Tiffany Couch, a certified public accountant and owner of Acuity Forensics, to the stand. Couch is certified in financial forensics and is a certified fraud examiner.
The defense asked Couch to look at the Brophys’ finances and compare what she found to what police investigative accountant Robert Azorr found. Azorr previously testified as a witness for the prosecution.
Couch felt Azorr had too narrow of a scope when he looked at the Brophys’ finances. She said he focused primarily on only two accounts they had, but in total, they had eight different bank accounts at the time of Daniel’s death.
When looking at all of these accounts, Couch said the Brophys were not in financial distress, as Azorr had said they were. Instead, she said they had paid their debt down by 72% between 2016 and when Daniel died in 2018.
“I saw a very much improving financial picture”
Not only were the Brophys chipping away at their debt, Couch said their annual income was also increasing. From May 2016-December 2016, the Brophys had an income of $48,710. For the year of 2017, their total income was $105,923 and in the first five months of 2018, it was $49,959.
If an average monthly income is determined for each of these years, Couch said that average had been increasing each year.
She said the Brophys did not appear to be financially strapped. They were paying down their credit cards, paying the mortgage – in fact, accelerating payments on their second mortgage – paying back the loan they’d taken from Daniel’s 401k, and contributing to the 401k and a higher rate than they had before taking out the loan in 2017.
Couch said nothing about the Brophys’ spending habits surprised her, including their monthly life insurance payments and the $475 they were spending each month on average to dine at restaurants.