PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Nancy Crampton Brophy is accused of fatally shooting her husband, beloved Oregon Culinary Institute instructor Daniel Brophy, in June 2018. After several delays, her trial began Monday.
In their opening remarks, the prosecution and defense painted two very different pictures of Brophy: one as a wife who’d been plotting for months to kill her husband and cash in on his life insurance, the other as a loving partner who planned to live out the rest of her life with her husband by her side.
Crampton Brophy, 71, was arrested and charged with the murder of her husband in September 2018. She’s remained behind bars since then.
State prosecutors, in their opening remarks, pointed out that in the months leading up to Daniel Brophy’s death, Crampton Brophy was on “a path of financial ruin.” They said the financial difficulties began in June 2016 when the couple was struggling to pay their $1,530 mortgage, pay for home renovations, and cover the cost of travel.
During these financial hardships, the Brophys were still continuing to pay more than $1,000 each month for life insurance.
The attorneys said that since Crampton Brophy had previously sold life insurance policies, she knew exactly how much she’d receive if her husband were to die. She was the beneficiary of $1.4 million.
“By late 2017, financial despair evident and no end in sight, as their mortgage just continued to rise due to a mortgage rate increase, Nancy started researching and planning the murder of Dan Brophy,” Deputy District Attorney Shawn Overstreet said.
He went on to say that Brophy initially researched and purchased a Glock 19 9mm ghost gun build kit.
The Oregon State Medical Examiner said Daniel Brophy was shot twice by what was likely a Glock 9mm handgun.
After receiving the ghost gun kit, Overstreet said Brophy had trouble assembling it and looked for other means to acquire a weapon. She went to a Portland gun expo and purchased a fully-built Glock 17 9 mm handgun.
After that, she began shopping online for a Glock 17 slide and barrel and purchased one on eBay. She purchased one that would fit on the lower frame of the gun she’d purchased at the expo.
Law enforcement officers have found the ghost gun build kit and the gun purchased at the gun expo, but were never able to find the slide and barrel she purchased on eBay.
The prosecution believes she used the stock and barrel she purchased on eBay, mounted it on the lower frame of the gun she bought at the expo, and used it to murder her husband after he’d driven to work at the Oregon Culinary Institute.
Surveillance video from around the Oregon Culinary Institute show Crampton Brophy’s minivan in the area at the time her husband was killed.
Prosecutors also point out a conversation Crampton Brophy had with a detective after her husband’s death. They said she asked the detective for a letter to send to a life insurance company essentially exonerating her as a suspect in her husband’s murder, so she could receive $40,000 from his life insurance policy.
The defense attorneys told a much different story. They said Daniel and Nancy Brophy shared a loving marriage filled with plans they decided on together, romantic getaways, and friendly text messages.
They said Crampton Brophy’s sudden spiked interest in life insurance plans came after she learned she needed surgery in 2015. At the time, she wrote a letter to her husband giving him specific instructions on how to go about receiving payouts from her life insurance policies, should she die.
Crampton Brophy firmly believed in life insurance, her attorney Kris Winemiller said.
Winemiller provided a detailed description of how both Crampton Brophy and Daniel Brophy’s life insurance policies changed over the years and emphasized that one of Daniel Brophy’s policies, one that had a high monthly premium, would not allow them to receive the full amount unless Daniel Brophy lived to be 78, an age he’ll now never reach.
The defense attorney said Daniel Brophy was supportive of his wife’s decision to switch to selling Medicare policies and that the two had made plans toward their retirement. Between 2016 and 2018, the couple decided Daniel would work at OCI for 5 more years and the couple would subdivide and sell their Beaverton property to maximize the profit they could receive from selling it.
While Crampton Brophy and her husband had experienced financial hardships, her attorney argues that things were looking up at the time of Daniel Brophy’s death.
As for the guns, Winemiller said that as a novelist, Crampton Brophy had purchased several odd items in the past, like night-vision goggles, a telescope and law enforcement-quality handcuffs. The gun was another thing Crampton Brophy wanted to research.
Also, with several recent mass shootings, including the one in Las Vegas and the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Crampton Brophy and her husband were both considering getting a firearm for their safety. Crampton Brophy told her husband she’d feel more comfortable if he took one mushroom hunting with him, since people can be territorial of their mushroom hunting spots, her attorney said.
Winemiller said Daniel Brophy was aware of the gun purchases and they were not done in secret.
On the day of Daniel Brophy’s murder, Crampton Brophy’s attorney said her client said goodbye to her husband when he went to work, then drove to Starbucks and drove around mulling over the plot of the latest book she was working on.
Lastly, Winemiller stressed that Nancy Crampton Brophy had a solid, loving marriage that was admired by many of their close friends.
Crampton Brophy’s niece, Susan Estrada, reportedly said, “They had a great marriage. They have one of those rare few relationships that made me think ‘Hey, marriage might not be a bad idea.’”
Other friends said Nancy was crazy about Dan and always spoke sweetly about him.
After his death, Winemiller said Crampton Brophy was lost, crying and grief-stricken.
“After you’ve heard all the evidence in this case, we are certain that you will understand that Nancy Brophy did not kill her husband,” Winemiller said, concluding her opening statement.
Winemiller said Crampton Brophy will testify in her trial.
Judge Christopher Ramras stated before the trial began that a 2011 blog post that Crampton Brophy wrote called “How to Murder Your Husband” would be excluded from the evidence in the trial. He said any value that an article that was written that long ago would provide is outweighed by “the danger of unfair prejudice and confusion of the issues.”