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Trial underway for Oregon romance novelist accused of killing her husband, a culinary teacher

Nancy Crampton-Brophy, former romance novelist, is accused of shooting and killing her husband Daniel Brophy in 2018. Opening statements in her trial began Monday.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The trial for Nancy Crampton-Brophy, a Washington County-based romance novelist accused of murdering her husband, is set to begin Monday morning.

Brophy is accused of shooting and killing her husband, Daniel Brophy, a chef at the Oregon Culinary Institute (OCI) on June 2, 2018. She was not arrested until September 2018. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

KGW will stream the first day of the trial live in the player above and on YouTube and the KGW app. The trial is expected to last four weeks, and KGW will provide continuing coverage throughout.

Brophy was once a prolific romance novelist with titles like "The Wrong Lover" and "The Wrong Husband." In 2011, she penned an essay titled "How to Murder Your Husband" for a blog called See Jane Publish. 

In that essay she wrote, "As a romantic suspense writer, 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."

Brophy wrote further: "It is easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them. But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us have it in him/her when pushed far enough."

Credit: Screenshot
Screenshot of See Jane Publish post

According to court documents that were unsealed in 2019, Nancy and Daniel Brophy shared an iTunes account. On the account, an article titled "10 ways to cover up a murder" was bookmarked.

RELATED: Novelist accused of killing chef husband wrote ‘How to Murder Your Husband’ essay

Daniel Brophy arrived at the Oregon Culinary Institute for work on June 2, 2018, and disabled the alarm for the building at 7:21 a.m. He was the only person known to be in the building at that time, according to released court documents.

Detectives determined that Nancy had been downtown between 6:39 a.m. and 7:28 a.m., court documents say.

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"However, when asked, Nancy Brophy stated that she was at home all morning and that she recalled Dan Brophy leaving the home at 7:05," prosecutors continued.

A coworker of Daniel Brophy’s arrived at the building at 7:30 a.m., but Brophy's body was not discovered until 8 a.m. when students were allowed into the building. He was located in the rear kitchen. He had a gunshot wound in the back, which authorities believe paralyzed him, and he was shot once more in the chest.

RELATED: Romance novelist drove by Oregon Culinary Institute shortly before husband's body was found, court docs say

Brophy shared the news of her husband’s death on Facebook on June 3. She wrote in part: For my Facebook friends and family, I have sad news to relate. My husband and best friend, Chef Dan Brophy was killed yesterday morning. For those of you who are close to me and feel this deserved a phone call, you are right, but I’m struggling to make sense of everything right now. 

Nancy and Daniel Brophy had been married for 26 years at the time of his murder and had known each other for 27 years, according to court documents.

At the time of her indictment in 2018, friends of the couple said they were shocked and didn't believe Nancy Brophy was capable of killing her husband.

Tamara Alva worked for the Brophys and said she had known them for about 18 months when Daniel Brophy was murdered. Alva said she checked on Nancy Brophy after her husband died and she seemed distraught.

"She wasn't some conniving, don't care, don't give a darn type person, this is a woman who truly loved her husband and all she could think about it is, he’s gone, what is she doing to do," Alva said. "I miss Dan. I think he was one hell of a guy and I love Nancy too. I think she's one heck of a gal and I don't think either one of them is deserving what they've gotten."

Days after the shooting, Nancy Brophy asked detectives working on her husband’s murder case to send her a letter stating she was not a suspect so she could give it to her life insurance company to collect what she told police was a policy for Daniel Brophy valued at approximately $40,000. However, authorities learned of several policies Nancy Brophy could collect upon Daniel Brophy’s death that totaled more than $350,000, according to court documents.

More documents were unsealed in 2020. Rod Underhill, the district attorney for Multnomah County at the time, said that the Brophys were living paycheck-to-paycheck and that Nancy Brophy stood to gain $1.5 million from her husband's death.

RELATED: Court docs: Romance novelist accused of killing chef husband sought independent life, stood to gain $1.5M

Shortly after the shooting, Nancy Brophy surrendered a gun to police, which matched the style of gun that was used in the murder. Authorities originally determined the gun had been unused. She said she and Daniel Brophy had purchased the gun as a reaction to the Parkland mass shooting in Florida but had never bought ammunition for it. Later, authorities found that Nancy Brophy purchased a replacement slide and barrel on eBay.

Police believe Nancy Brophy put the new parts on the gun before she allegedly shot her husband and reassembled the gun with the original parts after. In doing so, the rifling on any bullets found at the crime scene would not match the original slide and barrel of the gun surrendered. Police never recovered the parts of the gun they believe were used in the shooting.

"Nancy Brophy planned and carried out what she believed was the perfect murder. A murder that she believed would free her from the grips of financial despair and enter a life of financial security and adventure," Underhill wrote in the 2020 court documents.

Since she was arrested on Sept. 5, 2018, there have been more developments as she waits for trial. In November 2018, her lawyers asked to keep her jail visitor logs a secret. Her representation said it could reveal the defense team’s investigation and tactics.

In 2019, she was sued by her stepson, Nathaniel Stillwater, for $1.7 million in damages for the wrongful death of his father, Daniel Brophy.

In 2020, she asked to be removed from the jail to ride out her wait for trial in an undisclosed guest house with GPS monitoring and round-the-clock curfew. Her representation argued that she was "at risk of imminent death" in jail during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic because she has diabetes and was turning 70 in 2020. She attempted to have protein shakes delivered to her cell in order to avoid coming into contact with other inmates, but according to her lawyers, the jail staff refused.

Her motion for bail was denied. "Judge Christopher A. Ramras found the presumption strong that the defendant is guilty and therefore denied her release from custody," the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said.

Watch the trial's first session from Monday morning here:

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