PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Prosecutors in Nancy Brophy’s murder trial rested their case Thursday morning, following nearly three weeks of testimony.
An award-winning romance novelist, Nancy Crampton Brophy is accused of killing her chef husband Daniel Brophy at the Oregon Culinary Institute on June 2, 2018. Nancy was arrested for Daniel’s murder in September 2018, and her trial began on April 4.
The prosecution has argued the Brophys’ money struggles and the subsequent impending threat of financial ruin could have been a motivating factor in Daniel’s murder.
Day 12 of the trial kicked off with continued cross-examination of Robert Azorr, a Portland Police Bureau investigative accountant who was asked to examine the Brophys’ finances from June 2016 to September 2018.
Azorr, who began his testimony Wednesday, told the court he believed the couple was in financial distress based on the bank accounts and financial statements he was asked to review.
During his cross-examination, defense attorney Kristen Winemiller asked Azorr to discern the difference between what he calls discretionary expenses — or costs the couple could have lived without — and non-discretionary ones which they needed to survive.
Winemiller’s request for clarification comes after Azorr told the court Wednesday he believed the Brophys could have avoided their financial situation by cutting back on expenditures.
During his analysis of the financial documents, Azorr found the Brophys continued to dine out at restaurants, purchase daily Starbucks drinks, and take expensive vacations even after the couple took a $35,000 loan out of Daniel Brophy’s 401k retirement account to pay off four months of unpaid mortgage, which he claimed could have been covered with a smaller loan of $10,000.
The defense asked Azorr if some of the financial categories he had previously outlined such as travel, insurance, and retirement expenses could reasonably be considered to have overlap as essential and nonessential expenses.
Citing previous testimony of a work trip Mr. Brophy allegedly took to instruct a class in Tillamook, Winemiller posed the question, “Would you agree though, that travel is an example of a category that could sometimes be necessary via business-related expense and other times could be discretionary, could be a vacation?”
While Azorr agreed travel, insurance, and retirement plan expenses could hypothetically contain gray areas between what is discretionary and non-discretionary, he noted that he was not privy to the trip the defense was referring to and that those exceptions would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Based on the records available to him, Azorr reiterated that in his analysis of the couple’s bank statements and financial records show the couple remained in financial distress even after they took out the loan in October of 2017.
“The signs changed,” Azorr stated. “There were different signs before and new indicators after that, with the starting indicator being that you’re taking money from a retirement account. That’s distress.”
He continued, “before the indicator was the late Wells Fargo mortgage payments, the borrowing money from Foresters, and the overdrafts all kind of combined at the same time. He went on to state that in his professional opinion the couple continued to spend more resources than their income allowed.
Despite this analysis, Azorr confirmed he did not find any NSF checks or other similar indicators on any of the Brophy’s accounts in 2018.
When the defense pointed out that the couple still had access to about $24,000 of funds, including nearly $13,000 in credit, at the time of the murder, and suggested those figures did not show the couple was in “acute distress on June 2 of 2018,” Azorr disagreed, saying the couple’s financial records revealed they had spent all but $5,000 of the $35,000 loan and were running out of extra funds.
“They borrowed half of their 401K, that’s worse than before,” the financial analyst said. “The retirement funds that they used to maybe keep current on their mortgage was now down to $5,000. So, they’re spending more than their normal household income. I wouldn’t call that a great situation.”
As the prosecution began to question Azorr, he said the records showed Nancy and Daniel continued to spend the same amount if not more in 2018 in the months leading up to Daniel’s murder.
The accountant said financial records indicated the Brophys’ monthly mortgage payment was around $1,550 and noted that payment would have been considered especially low since it included real estate tax and their insurance.
Despite telling the prosecution, “you could not find rent for close to that,” for a one-bedroom apartment in Portland today, when regarding how the Brophy’s paid monthly for their multiple-bedroom home, Azorr said signs of late payments began to pop back up in the couple’s financial records as early as May of 2018.
Azorr told the prosecution that he felt the Brophys’ financial distress could have ultimately been avoided.
“When I look at this, I think it’s a shame because I really don’t see a reason that they ever had to be behind on their Wells Fargo payment, and then never would have had to borrow from the retirement fund,” Azorr stated. “They kind of created this chain reaction. It just built and got bigger…”
Despite the temporary fix with the retirement loan, the prosecution argued the Brophys continued to pay high insurance premiums and deplete their savings in the months leading up to June 2018. Azorr said if the couple didn’t drastically change their spending habits, they would have faced further financial distress including possible overdrafts and late payments.
“I believe they were under financial distress, and it continued from the savings spent down and from borrowing from the retirement fund,” the financial analyst said. “That left them in a distressed situation, whether it be in the bank account or whether it be from the retirement account.”
He added, “They did fix some things with the money … they did things right with that but that’s at a cost. It wasn’t free.”
The murder trial is expected to resume after a brief break Wednesday morning on April 27, when the defense will begin its case.