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A romance novelist who once penned an essay titled “How To Murder Your Husband” has been convicted of doing exactly that.
A Portland jury found Nancy Crampton Brophy, 71, guilty of second-degree murder Wednesday in the fatal shooting of her husband Daniel Brophy, KGW reports.
“(I’m) just very, very thankful that everything has turned out the way it has,” Daniel’s mother, Karen Brophy, said outside the courtroom. “It has been a long three and a half years.”
Nathaniel Stillwater, Daniel’s son from a previous marriage, echoed a similar sentiment.
“We’ve all been waiting three and a half, almost four years now to start grieving this loss,” he said. “To finally have some closure has been very important and meaningful to our family, and feel that we can start to move on and remember my father always, but begin that process of starting to grieve."
Karen Brophy said that it was initially difficult to believe that her daughter-in-law had been the one to pull the trigger, killing Daniel on the morning of June 2, 2018 as he prepared to teach a class at the Oregon Culinary Institute.
“She was our daughter-in-law for a long time,” Karen said, according to KATU. “When she was arrested, it was a surprise to us — until we found out she hadn’t been truthful with us either.”
She said, although the trial was difficult, she was comforted by the number of people who testified about the kind of person Daniel had been in life.
“I feel like through the trial Portland has learned that our son was a great guy, and we really miss him," Karen Brophy explained. "And it’s been a heartwarming experience in that way to know how much people thought of him, and what a great guy he really was.”
The verdict, which was delivered during the second day of deliberations, ended a seven-week trial during which prosecutors had laid out the case against Crampton Brophy, arguing that the 71-year-old had killed her husband in an effort to solve the couple’s growing financial problems.
Prosecutors said she stood to gain money from Daniel Brophy’s life insurance policy and pointed to evidence that, the fall before the murder, the couple had removed $35,000 from Daniel Brophy's small 401K account to try to catch up on money they owed on their mortgage and pay off credit card debt, according to KOIN. The amount of the withdrawal had accounted for about half of the account’s total value.
Prosecutors also focused on the romance novelist’s shifting alibi. She initially told police that, at the time of her husband’s death, she had been at home writing in her bed,. But after her minivan was captured on surveillance footage near the Oregon Culinary Institute at the time of the murder, she revised her story.
After taking the stand in her own defense, Crampton Brophy testified during cross-examination — after being challenged with the video footage — that she must have driven to the Goose Hollow Neighborhood that morning to write at a park or in her van, but had a “memory hole” about her exact movements.
She also said she had last seen her husband earlier that morning as he was fixing a leaky sink at their home.
But in his closing statements before the case went to the jury, lead prosecutor Shawn Overstreet challenged that claim, according to KPTV.
“The reality is the last time Nancy saw Dan was when she stood over him and then looked him in his eyes, as he’s breathing in his last bit of life, paralyzed, and injured,” Overstreet said. “He wasn’t dead yet. So, she looked into his eyes and pulled that trigger one last time. That’s the last time she saw him.”
The trial also included testimony about the gun used in the shooting.
Investigators recovered a “ghost gun” kit that Nancy had researched and purchased online, although authorities don’t believe it was used in the murder. Prosecutors said she later purchased a Glock 17 handgun at the Portland Gun Expo.
She also later purchased a second slide and barrel, although police were only able to recover one slide and barrel. It had not been used in the crime. Authorities believe the second slide and barrel had been disposed of to get rid of evidence in the case by making a ballistics match impossible.
Crampton Brophy testified that she didn’t kill her husband, who had been a chef and instructor at the culinary institute, and described the pair as having a loving relationship.
"It's like you've lost an arm. Like you're just not as good as you were when you're with him," she said on the stand, according to KGW. "You were the best you could be when you were together with him. Now it's like, yeah, I function, but there's something missing."
While she admitted to having financial problems between 2014 and 2017, she said the couple was planning to sell their home to buy a smaller property to address the issues. She also testified that they had purchased the life insurance policies as part of their retirement planning.
Crampton Brophy also testified that although she had researched ghost guns online, she said that it had been for research on a future novel she planned to write.
Her 2011 essay “How to Murder Your Husband” was not brought up in court, after Judge Christopher Ramras decided it could not be admitted as evidence.
Crampton Brophy’s niece Sarah Gitchell took the stand in her defense to talk about how distraught her aunt had been after the murder.
“I personally observed her grieving, crying, sobbing, breaking down many times,” she said.
Her defense team attacked the circumstantial nature of the case and argued that she never could have killed her husband because the couple had been deeply in love.
They also called a financial expert who testified that removing the money from the 401K had been a solid financial plan to help the couple get back on their feet.
Defense attorney Lisa Maxfield told KPTV that they were disappointed by the verdict and plan to appeal.
Nancy is expected to be sentenced on June 13.
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