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'There wasn't a lot of quit in him': Son of victim takes the stand in Nancy Brophy case

Nathaniel Stillwater, son of victim Dan Brophy, and stepson of suspect Nancy Brophy took the stand.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Day eight of the Nancy Brophy murder trial saw testimony from her stepson who had previously sued her in civil court for the wrongful death of his father.

Romance novelist Nancy Brophy is accused of shooting and killing her husband, chef Daniel Brophy, at the Oregon Culinary Institute in June 2018.

Father and son

Nathaniel Stillwater, Dan Brophy’s son from a previous marriage, took the stand and talked about how a strained relationship blossomed into a close father-son relationship and friendship. Stillwater said he began working for Nancy Brophy’s catering company after reconnecting with his father.

“We had a strong friendship as well as a father-son relationship,” Stillwater said. He said he looked up to him. They took trips together, went mushroom foraging together and he would come to help Dan Brophy with projects at the house.

During that time, he also said he got to know Nancy Brophy: “I got to know her, so I thought, pretty well.”

Stillwater depicted his father as a man always on the move. “There wasn’t a lot of quit in him,” he said. He knew Dan Brophy to get up early, tend to his chickens, go to work, come home to work in the yard, cook dinner, read a book and go to bed.

Nancy and Dan Brophy, as well as Stillwater’s grandparents, sometimes provided child care for his eldest daughter. He said Nancy Brophy doted on her and enjoyed being a grandmother. Dan Brophy enjoyed his role as a grandfather as well.

“I think he was very proud. He took it very seriously. While he is known for his dry sense of humor. He was very affectionate and fun with my daughter,” said Stillwater.

Stillwater also testified that if Dan and Nancy Brophy fought before his death, it was never in front of him.

“There was never much cause for concern, I could probably count on one hand the evenings we came over and noticed tension,” he said.

He did say he had noticed a change in his dad. He said that he had noticed Dan Brophy was more interested in watching sports than he previously had been and worked in his yard less. This had come up during testimony with Dan Brophy’s mother, Karen Brophy who had testified that Nancy Brophy had told her the same thing.

It was Karen Brophy who alerted Stillwater to his father’s death. He and his pregnant wife were on vacation at the coast when they learned. Stillwater said he believed he had just spoken to his father the day before he was shot and killed.

“Her words were, ‘It was your sweet daddy,’ which stands out in my mind because he had never been referred to as that before, he was always ‘my father.’ Those words will be seared in my mind,” Stillwater said.

RELATED: 'Dan was not a gun person': Mother and father of victim testify in romance novelist murder case

Talk of retirement and financial issues

Stillwater said about a year before his father’s murder, Nancy and Dan Brophy had started talking about selling their home.

“I think my grandparents and I were all a little surprised by that. I think everyone did some quizzing independently. The answer I got from him was that they needed to have a more ranch-style home,” Stillwater said. He said his father had said Nancy Brophy was dealing with either a hip or knee issue that was going to make the stairs in their home a challenge. Dan Brophy also wanted somewhere with a little property so he could engage in the gardening he did.

However, Nancy Brophy talked about living an ex-pat life of traveling through Europe. He said their ideas of what happened after selling the house never came to a common ground before his father’s death.

Stillwater said he was not under the impression that Dan Brophy actually wanted to sell the house but that it was necessary for Nancy Brophy’s health, so he was on board. He also said that it did not seem that much work was done to try and prepare the home for selling. He said no concrete retirement plans were ever relayed to him by either Dan or Nancy Brophy.

While Stillwater said he was not privy to their financial issues, he had noted that Nancy Brophy had some anxiety about finances after Dan Brophy died. However, he said he remembered that shortly after something changed and she had indicated to him that the “coffers had refilled.”

RELATED: Tearful testimony from woman who performed CPR on Dan Brophy in second day of murder trial

Guns

Stillwater said he had been a gun owner since he was 18 years old. In 2018, he estimated he had 6-7 guns in his possession of various types including handguns and long guns. He used them to hunt and also shoot at ranges as a hobby. He said both Nancy and Dan Brophy were aware he owned guns.

The state said it was stated in opening arguments that Stillwater had built a gun kit. However, he had not. He told the court that he had put together an AT-15 style rifle by buying the serialized gun parts, because it was more economical than buying a put-together gun. Like buying the other guns he owned, purchasing parts of guns required him to go through a background check.



He didn’t talk about guns often with Dan or Nancy Brophy and neither of them had expressed wanting to own a firearm.

“Never. He [Dan Brophy] never expressed interest in owning a firearm,” said Stillwater.

He remembered a time when Nancy Brophy had talked with him briefly about guns in 2015 or 2016. Stillwater said she asked him about what sort of gun a military person would carry for a book she was working on.

He did not know that Nancy Brophy had bought a gun until after his father was killed. He also did not learn of the ghost gun kit until then either.

Dealing with the death

Following his dad’s death, Stillwater said he took two weeks off and was in very close proximity of Nancy Brophy. He said he wanted to make himself available in case she needed anything.

“I spent the first two weeks, following pretty close to her I remember asking her if she was receiving any counseling, but I don’t know if that question was ever posed to me,” Stillwater said.

Stillwater said he did not know he was a beneficiary on the life insurance policies covering his father. He learned that Nancy Brophy was not on the mortgage of the home but she had recently been added to the deed before Dan Brophy’s death only while dealing with the estate.

He also later learned that Nancy and Dan Brophy had not actually been married for many years and had filed paperwork to get that legal recently.

The state closed with asking Stillwater about contacting Nancy Brophy. He had testified that if he couldn’t get ahold of his father or needed to tell them both something, he could get ahold of Nancy Brophy because she always had a phone or computer in her hand.

“Did you ever have a problem getting ahold of Nancy?” The state prosecutor asked.

“Only on the day of the murder,” Stillwater said before court adjourned for the day.

The trial of Nancy Brophy will continue Monday morning at 9 a.m.

    

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