From writing “How to murder your husband” to being on trial for that exact act, the story of Nancy Crampton-Brophy is a head-scratching tale of betrayal and murder.
On June 2, 2018, first responders were called to a shooting at the Oregon Culinary Institute, where they found Daniel Brophy, 63, mortally wounded, having been shot twice – once in the back and once in the chest. According to the medical examiner, both shots pierced the heart. Life-saving measures were taken, but he died on the scene.
There were no signs of forced entry or a struggle. All his personal belongings, wallet, keys, etc., were still on his body. According to the alarm, Daniel was the only person in the building at the time of his murder. Detectives figured a 9mm had been used in the murder but had nothing to go on. Daniel Brophy was well-liked by everyone.
He had taught at the culinary school since 2006 and was known for his off-beat humor and quirky and creative teaching methods. He was known as an expert on mushrooms and did outreach with the local homeless community. There didn’t seem to be anyone who wanted him dead, nor did this seem to be a robbery gone wrong.
Nancy Campton-Brophy arrives on scene
Enter Nancy Crampton-Brophy. Not long after the detective arrived at the scene, so did the wife of Daniel. She claimed that she had heard about an incident at the school and wanted to find out what was happening. Nancy is a novelist who writes and self-published several romantic mystery novels.
She and Daniel had been married for 25+ years and, according to everyone, had a good relationship with normal ups and downs. On Facebook, Nancy Crampton-Brophy shared the news of her husband’s death, claiming she had lost her best friend and asked people to hold off on calling her as she grappled with her loss. However, the truth of this happy marriage was quickly questioned when detectives started to question and investigate Nancy following her husband’s murder.
Nancy claimed she had been home all morning and had only left the house to find out what had happened. She said she and Daniel had a 9mm, although neither of them had ever used it. Nancy turned the weapon over to the police, but ballistics were not able to connect the weapon.
The Investigation Starts
3-4 days after her husband’s murder, Nancy Crampton-Brophy called the lead detective on the case, asking him to write her a letter confirming that she was not a suspect in Daniel’s murder. Why? As she explained to the detective, she wanted to collect life insurance, totaling $40,000, but she couldn’t if she might have been a suspect. She was told they could not rule her or anyone out just yet, so no letter for her.
Over the next three months, the detectives continued investigating the murder, and all roads led to one suspect: Nancy. She failed to mention to the detective that she had about ten life insurance policies on her husband. She also filed workers comp since her husband was killed at his place of employment. She stood to gain $1.5 Million from her husband’s death if she could confirm that she was not a suspect.
When they searched Daniel’s phone, they found a joint iTunes account with bookmarks saved by himself and Nancy. One of Nancy’s saved articles was “10 Ways to Cover Up a Murder.”
Financials showed that Nancy bought a 9mm ghost gun kit off the internet in December 2017. Daniel signed for the package containing the gun and supposedly supported Nancy’s purchase of the ghost gun as she claimed she was doing research for a future novel. In February of 2018, Nancy bought a fully assembled 9mm from a gun show and started going to a gun range to learn how to use the gun.
The final straw against Nancy Crampton-Brophy
However, the evidence that sealed the deal was surveillance footage from the front of the culinary school’s building. Although Nancy claimed she was at home all morning, at 7:08 am the morning of June 2nd, her mini-van is seen passing eastbound in front of the school. At 7:28 am, it is seen going westbound, back the way it came.
Daniel had entered the building at 7:21 am, which is when he disarmed the alarm. A coworker arrived at 7:30 am; however, Daniel was not discovered until 8:00 am, when the coworker let students into the building.
These details provided means, motive, and opportunity for detectives, so Nancy Crampton-Brophy was arrested for murdering her husband on September 5, 2018. According to the affidavit, when arrested, Nancy asked, “You’re arresting me?” then stated, “You must think I murdered my husband.”
After her arrest, more and more details were uncovered, which painted a less than stellar picture of the romance novelist.
Not long after the arrest, a neighbor shared that Nancy was eager to move, as she felt the memory of her husband lingering and upsetting her in the home they shared. The full extent of how much she would gain from life insurance was revealed as insurance companies kept contacting the detectives to find out what was happening.
The writings of Nancy Crampton-Brophy
On her author’s website, she wrote, “Writers are liars… I don’t remember who said it, but it’s not true. In writing fiction, you dig deep and unearth portions of your own life that you’ve long forgotten or had purposely buried deep. Granted, sometimes it’s smarter to change the ending,” leading to speculation about what Nancy had buried deep that would lead to her murdering her husband.
Most shocking was a 2011 writing exercise that Nancy titled “How to Murder Your Husband” that surfaced as this case gained more media coverage. In the post, she writes, “…I spend a lot of time thinking about murder and, consequently, about police procedure. After all, if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail. And let me say clearly for the record, I don’t like jumpsuits, and orange isn’t my color.”
In the piece, Nancy lays out several motives for killing a husband, starting with financials: “Divorce is expensive, and do you really want to split your possessions? …The drawback is the police aren’t stupid. They are looking at you first. So you have to be organized, ruthless, and very clever.”
As for weapon choice, Nancy had this to say about using a gun: “loud, messy, require some skill. If it takes 10 shots for the sucker to die, either you have terrible aim or he’s on drugs.”
As she wraps up her post, she adds that “I find it easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them. I don’t want to worry about blood and brains splattered on my walls. And really, I’m not good at remembering lies. But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us has it in him/her when pushed far enough.”
Her Trial Begins
Nancy’s trial began on April 4, 2022, and lasted about eight weeks. During the trial, it was confirmed that the detectives believed that Nancy drove to the culinary school that morning to shoot her husband using the 9mm Glock she had purchased just months before.
When Nancy gave them the gun, they noticed that the slide and barrel were not set correctly. The conclusion was drawn that Nancy must have removed the original slide and barrel and replaced it with parts from the ghost kit, used the gun to kill Daniel, and then put the original parts back in place after disposing of the ghost kit parts. This would explain why ballistics did not match up. They never found the missing pieces from the ghost kit, but it was confirmed that she had purchased them.
It was revealed that the couple was paying $1000 a month to maintain the life insurance policies they had taken out. Nancy’s defense team claimed that this was not putting them under financial strain and that the number of policies and the high monthly premiums was because Nancy worked in insurance for years and took out policies to show loyalty to the product she was selling.
Nancy took the stand in her defense, which may have been her undoing in this case. Her defense team often reminded her to stick to the questions and not ramble so much on the stand. Moreover, she did nothing to help her case when questioned about the surveillance footage. When asked if the van, the person in the car, and the clothes the person was wearing looked familiar, Nancy stated that they looked familiar and had to be her. What is her explanation for being there that morning? She’s not sure. She has a “memory-hole” from the morning and doesn’t remember much. She might have gone to Starbucks to write.
As for the controversial blog post that Nancy had written, it was excluded from the case by the judge. They claimed that it was too old to be relevant and would be prejudicial to the jury.
Nancy did plenty to make herself look bad, however. She often kept adding new details, changing the story as she went. She admitted that she spent a lot of money on her writing, buying items for research, or going on trips to get ideas for setting, but Daniel supported her. She and her defense team claimed that while they had previously struggled financially, the couple was starting to get back on track. So why was Daniel killed? A botched robbery was the theory that the defense proposed.
Nancy Brophy’s Mistakes Start to Appear
Towards the end of the trial, it made the news that a former cellmate of Nancy had information that could be an accidental confession. The cellmate claimed that Nancy was talking about her husband’s murder one day and held her arms out and declared, “I was this far away when the shooting happened.” Nancy realized her mistake and quickly corrected herself to say that the shooting was close range. The cellmate said Nancy looked embarrassed, and things were awkward from then on between the two.
There was also a recording of Nancy on the phone during the trial mocking the students who came to testify during the trial, possibly using racial slurs against them.
After nearly eight weeks, both sides closed, and the jury was sent off to deliberate. After two days, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty, and on June 13, Nancy, now 71, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years.
Sources were various national and local news reports and the probable cause affidavit from September 2018.
Researched by Alley from The Squonk & The Hag