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Romance Novelist Nancy Brophy Wrote 'How To Murder Your Husband' Essay Before Shooting Her Own Husband

Learn more about the conviction of romance novelist Nancy Brophy, who is accused of murdering her husband Daniel Brophy.

Wives Who Brutally Killed

In the summer of 2018, romance novelist Nancy Brophy's life was turned upside down when her husband was mysteriously shot at work.

On the morning of June 2, 2018, around 8 a.m., students at the Oregon Culinary Institute walked into a rear kitchen, where Daniel Brophy was found laying on the floor, having been shot twice — once in the back and once in the chest. A medical examiner determined that both gunshots could've killed him as they "both pierced his heart," according to a probable cause affidavit. 

Having heard of an incident at the Institute, Nancy drove to the school. First responder Nicole Barlow testified in court, according to CBS Portland affiliate KOIN, "When she came on scene, I heard her crying and screaming loudly."

"While I appreciate all of your loving responses, I am overwhelmed. Please save phone calls for a few days until I can function," Nancy wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post, as previously reported by Oxygen.com. 

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Prior to his death, it seemed Daniel and Nancy lived an idyllic life. 

"I live in the beautiful, green, and very wet, Northwest, married to a Chef whose mantra is: life is a science project," she wrote on her website. "As a result there are chickens and turkeys in my backyard, a fabulous vegetable garden which also grows tobacco for an insecticide and a hot meal on the table every night."

She continued, "For those of you who have longed for this, let me caution you. The old adage is true. Be careful what you wish for, when the gods are truly angry, they grant us our wishes."

As Nancy put it, Daniel's cooking was the reason she had gained weight over the years, and they'd had their bad times, but for "Mr. Right," it was worth it.

When detectives spoke to Nancy, she expressed surprise at her husband's death, according to the affidavit: "Nancy claimed that Daniel did not have any enemies and could not think of anyone who would want to hurt him."

But Daniel didn't have any defense wounds on his body, and nothing had been stolen, according to the affidavit. Moreover, there was no sign of a struggle at the crime scene. 

Nancy Crampton Brophy is seen in court

As detectives looked for a potential motive, they zeroed in on Nancy, who initially told them that she was home, writing in bed at the time of the shooting — though surveillance footage placed her gray Toyota Sienna near the Institute between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m.

Even more suspicious was the fact that Nancy had stated that she and Daniel bought a 9mm handgun prior to the killing. She said that they were motivated to purchase it after hearing of a shooting in Florida — but Daniel's son, Nathaniel Stillwater, later told detectives that he was surprised to hear his father had purchased a gun without telling him.

"Nathaniel Stillwater told us he did not consider Nancy Lee Crampton-Brophy or his father to be the type of people to own a gun," the affidavit stated, adding that Stillwater himself was an avid hunter. "Nathaniel Stillwater told us his father knew this about him, and he thought his father would have likely talked to him about such a purchase."

Stillwater went on to share that Nancy had previously worked in insurance sales, in addition to writing. 

Curiously enough, four days after Daniel's death, Nancy reached out to detectives requesting a letter that stated she was not a suspect in the case. Homicide Det. Darren Posey said that he'd learned through at least three insurance companies that Nancy was the beneficiary of policies worth more than $350,000.

The case against Nancy continued to grow as the detectives began combing through Daniel's phone, which had a website titled "10 Ways to Cover Up a Murder" bookmarked — investigators would later learn that Daniel and Nancy shared an iTunes account, meaning their search history and bookmarks could be viewed from any device logged into the account.

Eventually, investigators arrested Nancy on one count of murder with a firearm constituting domestic violence on Sept. 5, 2018. Authorities said that she told them at the time, "You must think I murdered my husband.”

The following day, investigators were informed by a reporter that Nancy had written the essay "How To Murder Your Husband," in which she outlined multiple options for killing a spouse. In the essay, she shared, "I spend a lot of time thinking about murder and, consequently, about police procedure."

But more than three years would go by before Nancy would see her day in court, the trial having been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and legal maneuvers, as Oxygen.com previously reported.

Once the trial began in 2022, prosecutors outlined their findings, sharing that the Brophys had amassed debt from a home renovation and had dipped into Daniel's 401K — they took out almost half the account's value — to keep from falling behind on payments. 

Additionally, prosecutors revealed that Nancy had bought a "ghost gun" kit, which she claimed was the inspiration for a new novel. As she testified on the stand, she intended to write a book about a woman buying a gun as a safety device.

Prosecutors stated that ballistics found that neither the "ghost" gun, nor the 9mm they previously found were the weapon, but suggested that financial records show Nancy had bought a spare slide and barrel, which she could've disposed of after the murder, Oxygen.com reported.

On the stand, Nancy continued to defend her and Daniel's financial situation, arguing that she'd be better off with her husband alive. In her eyes, their situation was improving and they planned to sell the home that caused them duress. 

Moreover, he was the love of her life, she said, and any perceived lies to investigators were the result of her being in shock over the loss.

"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. "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."

When it came time to make their decision, the jury found Nancy guilty of second-degree murder in her husband's death on May 25, 2022.

"We’ve all been waiting three and a half, almost four years now to start grieving this loss,” Nathaniel Stillwater told reporters outside the courtroom. “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."

Nancy was later sentenced to life in prison. She'll be eligible for parole after serving 25 years in prison.

At the sentencing, Nathaniel Stillwater shared a victim impact statement, saying, "You are a monster and I'm ashamed that I have to admit to my children that people like you walk among us undetected."

The crime has since inspired the Lifetime movie "How To Murder Your Husband: The Nancy Brophy Story," starring Cybill Shepherd.

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