PORTLAND, Ore. — In the second day of the murder trial of Nancy Brophy, the romance novelist accused of killing her chef husband in 2018, witnesses called to the stand included former Oregon Culinary Institute students.
Daniel Brophy was an instructor at the institute, and was found dead there on June 2, 2018. Each of the students that testified Tuesday were there that day.
Miranda Bernhard was the first former student of Dan Brophy’s to testify.
“He was a really great instructor,” Bernhard said. “He was all about nature and foraging and we would talk about gardening a lot.”
Bernhard recalled that when she arrived at school around 7:30 a.m., there was one other student in the parking lot who told her the student entrance was locked. She said it wasn’t entirely uncommon for Dan Brophy to forget to unlock the door.
Shortly after being let into the building by another instructor, Bernhard recalled another student, Clarinda Perez, calling for someone to dial 911. Bernhard went to where Perez was and saw Chef Brophy on the ground.
“I told her she needed to start compressions," Bernhard said. "One of my classmates was coming through the building and I sort of pushed him out and asked him not to go in there.”
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When the defense cross-examined Bernhard, they questioned the timing she arrived at the school, as she initially gave detectives a different time. Bernhard said she checked her Uber receipts before the trial, something she doesn't think she checked when she spoke to investigators on the day of the incident.
Perez also took the stand and offered a tear-filled testimony. She was the first person to find Brophy’s body. She was a student of Brophy’s and had kind words about the type of instructor he was.
“He was a no bulls****er,” she said, then apologized for cussing. “He pushed us to our potential and he was very caring in everything that he showed us and taught us.”
Perez said it was uncommon for the student entrance to be locked, and she had joined some students in waiting before going to get a drink at Starbucks. She also noticed that the garage door to the storeroom was open, a point that has been hit by the prosecution and state numerous times because it potentially offers an alternate way to get into the building.
She said students would never enter through there because it's an area only accessible with permission from instructors.
She went inside and found that the coffee maker usually set up was not filled. Perez went into one of the kitchens to get water to start the large pot of coffee.
“I saw Chef Brophy on the floor. He was lying on the floor, by the sink,” she said through tears. She noted that one of the bench tables was askew, something that both the prosecution and defense have asked multiple witnesses about.
Perez was a medical assistant in 2018. She said she checked to see if Brophy had any sort of response, unsure if he had just fallen or was in some sort of medical distress. She did not get a response and called for someone to dial 911 before turning back to him and beginning chest compressions.
“His chest was really squishy and I thought I had broken a rib because as I continued to do compressions, my hands started getting full of blood,” Perez said. Kathleen Dooley, another student who testified on Monday, called 911. Perez continued compressions until the paramedics came in.
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She said after paramedics came in, she knelt by the ovens and covered her ears. She doesn’t remember who grabbed her, she said it all became a blur.
During cross-examination, the defense asked Perez about homeless people under the bleachers of neighboring Lincoln High School. She said she remembered seeing a few people there sometimes but said she never felt threatened by them.
The state also called Craig Gault to the stand. Gault works for Portland Fire & Rescue and responded to the scene on June 2, 2018. At the time he was a lieutenant paramedic, meaning he was in charge of the other three people on the team and he was the lead in patient care. He said that fire crews received the call for an unconscious and unresponsive patient at 8:24 a.m. and arrived at culinary institute at 8:27 a.m.
Paramedics noted that Brophy was still warm and had no signs of rigor mortis or lividity — when blood pools in a body because the heart has stopped pumping for a long time — so they began resuscitation efforts.
While removing Brophy’s shirt, a paramedic noted a scratch on his chest. Gault explained that with gunshot wounds, sometimes the bullet will enter the body and the entry wound will close a little.
While manipulating Brophy’s body, paramedics found two shell casings. This told them a couple of things: that they needed to call the police, and that Brophy’s cardiac arrest was not a medical event.
One of the paramedics had set a shell casing on one of the bench tables with some of Brophy’s belongings, not understanding what it was at the time.
The last witness called was Tina Willard, who is a retired 28-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau. At the time of the incident, she had been a criminalist with the bureau for 14 years. She did not immediately respond to the scene but became involved in the hours after Brophy's body was found.
She was asked to process the two casings found at the scene. The prosecution and defense went back and forth on this more than they have with any other witness so far. They focused on the process used to try and get fingerprints off the casing.
Willard testified that she used the best method available to her at the time to try and get fingerprints off of the bullet casings. She put both casings into a chamber that also houses a small amount of super glue. The super glue is heated and the fumes leave a white residue on amino acids, proteins and other things left behind by pores in fingers. If there were fingerprints on the casings, this process would have helped them become visible to the naked eye.
The defense asked why Willard did not process the casings for "touch DNA," a process where they swab a surface and send it to the state lab to be tested for DNA. Willard responded that in 2018, PPB was only processing guns collected at scenes for touch DNA, not gun casings.
Willard explained it would have been against protocol at the time and that processing for touch DNA could have potentially destroyed fingerprint evidence. Furthermore, she said the DNA from two casings may not have been enough to test.
The state concluded by asking Willard whether she would have gotten in trouble for breaking protocol and swabbing the casings for touch DNA, to which she said potentially, because it may have damaged the evidence for fingerprints. When asked if she would have processed the casings in a better way if she had known one, she said yes.
Court concluded early on Tuesday. The Medical Examiner who responded to the Brophy scene was supposed to testify but called the state’s team and said they were sick. The trial continues tomorrow with Dan Brophy’s mother expected to testify. You will be able to watch the trial on KGW.com and on KGW’s app.