PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Day eight of the Nancy Crampton Brophy murder trial picked up with continued testimony of insurance expert Steven Santos, who answered questions relating to the multiple life insurance policies taken out by her and her now-deceased husband.
The Portland-based romance novelist Crampton Brophy is charged with murder in the killing of her husband, Daniel Brophy, at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland on June 2, 2018. Her trial began on April 4.
After the court heard a phone call yesterday between Crampton Brophy and Detective Darren Posey, during which she asked for a letter stating she was not a suspect in her husband’s death — that she claimed her insurance company requested in order for them to pay out “a little $40,000” — Santos testified that the couple had taken out numerous life insurance policies for Mr. Brophy alone, to the amount of more $700,000.
According to Santos’ analysis of the insurance records recovered through police warrants, the Brophys had been paying more than $800 a month for their policies, which was 20% of their gross income at the time.
Santos said the amount of money the couple was spending on Mr. Brophy’s life insurance alone was “inappropriate” during the trial on Wednesday, he reiterated on Thursday that if they were his clients, he would suggest they pay only 10-20% of their income on insurance. The defense attempted to poke holes in his math by pointing out that the Brophys — who were on the high end at 20% — were within his recommended margin.
Santos defended his position that the couple’s insurance policies were fiscally responsible by drawing attention to the fact that the figures he was working off did not include Crampton Brophy’s income, outstanding loans, or any additional property, casualty or medical insurance policies.
The Brophys’ financial records showed the couple had struggled to make mortgage and insurance policy payments within the years leading up to Daniel’s death.
Santos said these factors, combined with the high insurance premiums the couple was paying (some of which were found to be voluntary) were “not a sustainable plan for the future.”
As the morning continued, the court called two of Crampton Brophy’s friends from the Rose City Romance Writers Group to testify.
The jury first heard from award-winning romantic suspense author Terri Reed, who explained that she and her fellow writer friends (including Crampton Brophy) often worked to get hands-on training with firearms to gain perspective as part of the writing process.
In addition to reading law enforcement reference books, Reed claimed she went to a shooting range with her husband and an FBI SWAT trainer, and even attended a Washington County Sheriff’s Office Citizens Academy training alongside Crampton Brophy as research for their writing.
Having known Crampton Brophy for 14 years, Reed said she knew her friend had previously sold life insurance but was unaware of the details of the Brophys’ financial struggles.
During cross-examination, Reed told defense attorney Lisa Maxfield that she and Crampton Brophy had never discussed shooting outside the Citizens Academy course they attended. According to Reed’s testimony, she and Crampton Brophy never talked about owning a gun and she had not detected a change in the Brophys’ relationship dynamic.
After Reed was dismissed, fellow Rose City Romance Writers Group member and longtime friend of Crampton Brophy Jessica Marie Smith took the stand.
As someone who knew Brophy for 10 years and lived relatively close to the couple, Smith described their marriage warmly, and recalled that Crampton Brophy often invited her husband to join the two for dinner because “she enjoyed his company.”
While Smith said Crampton Brophy never spoke with her about the couple’s financial situation or her whereabouts on the morning of Mr. Brophy’s death, she testified Crampton Brophy did reveal she was a suspect in the investigation at her birthday gathering just a few weeks later.
Although Smith told the prosecution Crampton Brophy had never discussed purchasing a firearm with her, during cross-examination she confirmed that the two had a conversation about a gun assembly kit.
The defense team asked both Reed and Smith if they would return to testify at a later date, and both agreed.
Neighbor Takes the Stand
Heidi Hutchinson, the next-door neighbor to the Brophys, was the next witness called to the stand.
Hutchinson, who claimed to be home and in her front yard on the morning of the crime, said Crampton Brophy spoke to her from inside her car that morning and asked if she had seen the couple’s dogs, named PB and J.
The neighbor characterized the interaction as “unusual,” because Hutchinson and her family had helped the couple look for the dogs on several occasions, but always did so on foot.
“To look for the dogs, it’s always been walking with the leashes, and we’d help her go down the backyard without gates…,” Hutchinson recalled. “So that early in the morning to drive looking for them was different.”
While Hutchinson said her interaction with Brophy on the morning of June 2, 2018, took place around 7:30 a.m., the original police report showed that the conversation reportedly took place around 9 a.m. However, Hutchinson said the discrepancy could be the result of a simple confusion caused by the fact that the police interviewed her and her husband both together and separately.
According to Hutchinson, Crampton Brophy mentioned she was looking to sell her home and move into a condo downtown following Mr. Brophy’s death. Hutchinson said Mr. Brophy had never previously mentioned selling the home.
Up Next, Brophy’s’ Son Speaks
The court is expected to hear testimony from Nathaniel Stillwater, the son of Daniel Brophy and stepson to Crampton Brophy, on Thursday afternoon. In audio recordings previously played during the trial, Crampton Brophy can be heard saying she considers Stillwater to be her son also.
Stillwater sued Crampton Brophy for the wrongful death of his father in civil court in 2019. That case has not been resolved.