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Crime News Dateline

Wife's Shocking Blog Post Surfaces After Chef Killed in the Culinary School Where He Taught

Novelist Nancy Crampton Brophy played the part of a grieving widow when her husband Dan Brophy was gunned down, but surveillance video, her online search history and financial motives implied otherwise.

 

By Jill Sederstrom

Oregon novelist Nancy Crampton Brophy, who once wrote a blog post titled “How to Murder Your Husband,” believed she crafted the perfect plot to get rid of her husband of more than two decades. But prosecutors had some edits to her story when she appeared to follow it in real life, years later.

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They argued that on the morning of June 2, 2018, Nancy snuck into the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland, where her husband Dan Brophy was a beloved instructor, and shot the talented chef to death as he was getting ready for the day’s students, according to the "Murder in Kitchen One" episode of Dateline: Secrets Uncovered

Nancy then drove home and pretended to play the role of grieving widow.

“Here’s the terrible thing: Even if you find who shot him, it’s not gonna bring him back. And I want him back,” she tearfully told detectives after they informed her that Dan was dead. “That’s the part I want. I don’t care about who shot him, I just want him back.”

But three months after the brutal murder, damaging surveillance footage, a disturbing online search history and a big financial motive would lead detectives to conclude that Nancy had been the one to pull the trigger, cutting short the life of a man with endless hobbies and passions.

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Nancy Crampton Brophy is seen in court

Who was Dan Brophy? 

More than four decades after Dan got his start in a kitchen washing dishes in Kansas City, he had become an accomplished culinary wizard. The chef — who also had a degree in marine biology — was a beekeeper, master gardener, an expert at foraging and cooking edible mushrooms, and was always on the search for the latest cooking trend.

“I”m always looking to learn new ingredients, new techniques, new cuisines,” he said in a video for the Oregon Culinary Institute, a school and restaurant. 

He loved teaching others, often taking his students on field trips to learn more about where food came from. Although he could sometimes come off as gruff, Dan had a dry sense of humor that endeared him to many, including his wife Nancy. The two met decades earlier when she was a student in one of his classes.

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Who was Nancy Crampton Brophy?

After completing a culinary course taught by Dan Brophy, who later became her husband, Nancy started her own catering business and worked in insurance at one point, but her true passion was writing. 

She had a series of self-published romance and mystery novels including the Wrong Never Felt So Right series, which included titles like “The Wrong Husband” and “The Wrong Cop.” 

“One of the great things about their relationship was that he had the freedom to pursue his hobbies and interests,” Nathaniel Stillwater, Dan’s son from a previous marriage, told Dateline correspondent Josh Mankiewicz. “You know, she was very much involved with her writing and I think that coalesced nicely, you know, into him being able to make it out to the forest and hunt mushrooms or work on whatever project he had.”

When they weren’t each developing their own passions, they enjoyed being grandparents.

Nancy Crampton Brophy sits in court

What happened to Dan Brophy? 

Dan’s life came to a sudden halt on the morning of June 2, 2018, when the 63-year-old arrived at Portland’s Oregon Culinary Institute just like he had on so many days before. 

Dan entered the institute and turned off the alarm at 7:22 a.m. He set about getting the ice water and coffee ready for his incoming students when he was shot in the back as he stood at the sink. A second shot was fired directly into his chest, leaving him with no chance of survival.

“Somebody just wanted to execute this person,” Portland Police Bureau Detective Darren Posey said.

Investigators found two 9 mm shell casings at the scene. 

Dan’s wallet, which had numerous credit cards and $70 in cash in it, had been left behind at the scene and nothing appeared to have been taken from the institute, seemingly ruling out the possibility of a robbery gone wrong.

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The investigation begins to focus on Nancy Crampton Brophy

Investigators considered whether Dan had been the victim of a disgruntled student, but their focus soon turned to his wife Nancy.

Nancy told police she'd been home the morning of the shooting and only spoke to Dan briefly before he left for work. Yet, investigators discovered surveillance footage from nearby businesses that showed her gray minivan driving in the area of the Oregon Culinary Institute that morning around 6:39 a.m. 

She was spotted again at 7:08 a.m., just minutes before Dan arrived in his white pick up truck. Minutes after police believe Dan was killed, Nancy’s van was spotted heading back to her home.

Investigators also learned that six months before the murder, Nancy purchased a kit for a ghost gun online. When it proved to be too difficult to assemble, she began researching Glock guns online and purchased a 9mm Glock at a gun show in February of 2018.

Online records showed she also went on eBay and bought an extra slide and barrel for the weapon, which investigators explained would have disguised the gun and changed the distinctive marks typically left on the bullets when it discharged.

A police handout of Nancy Crampton-Brophy

Nancy Crampton Brophy's bizarre blog post comes to light 

There was also that ominous blog post by Nancy, titled “How to Murder Your Husband," which had been written in 2011 and came to investigators' attention after Dan's murder. 

“As a romantic suspense writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about murder,” Nancy wrote before adding how critical it would be to get away with the crime.

“After all, if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail,” Nancy stated in the blog post. “And let me say clearly for the record, I don’t like jumpsuits and orange isn’t my color.” 

After listing possible motives for murder, she went on to conclude that anyone was capable of carrying out the dark deed. 

“I find it easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them” she wrote. “But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us have it in him/her when pushed far enough.”

Prosecutors were stunned by what they found.

“We were all shocked and then especially after reading it and kind of going, ‘Oh my gosh, she kind of followed her own plan,’” Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Shawn Overstreet told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.

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The case against Nancy was strengthened further after authorities learned she stood to collect more than $800,000 in life insurance benefits from her husband's death.

At the time of Dan’s death, the couple had been struggling with financial problems and planned to sell their house to pay off some debts. 

“Nancy wanted more,” Overstreet said. “Nancy wanted a lifestyle that Dan couldn’t give her, and so I think that she thought, 'If I could do this, I’ll get enough money that will allow me to change that lifestyle, and because Dan doesn’t want to go on that ride with me, he doesn’t need to be there.'” 

"I Don't Care About Who Shot Him:" Dan Brophy's Wife Speaks to Police

Nancy Crampton Brophy arrested for husband Dan Brophy's murder 

Nancy was arrested three months after her husband's murder and went on trial in April of 2022, after the case was delayed for years by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prosecutors were unable to use the blog post at trial, but laid out the other key evidence against her.

After they wrapped up the state’s case, Nancy took the stand and insisted she would never kill her husband.

“I did not shoot my husband and I don’t know how to even defend myself,” she testified. 

Nancy claimed that she purchased the ghost gun kit and extra slide and barrel — which were never recovered —because she was doing research for one of her novels. 

She claimed to have no memory of the morning Dan was killed and that she couldn’t remember why she was driving around near the institute that day. She said she believed she may have gone to Starbucks and then got lost in her thoughts as she drove around thinking about her next book. 

Who killed Dan Brophy?

But a jury didn't buy Nancy's story and, just eight hours into their deliberations, convicted her of second-degree murder in her husband's death. She was sentenced to life in prison and won’t be eligible for parole until she’s 91 years old, according to Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.

“It has definitely brought some modicum of closure,” Stillwater said of the verdict. “There was certainly a time where we were concerned if she was acquitted that there would be a very real threat to the safety of our family. That relief is priceless.”

Stillwater had planned to scatter his father’s ashes near a bed of chanterelle mushrooms, sending him back into nature, which he loved so much.