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Judge Denies Bail for Romance Novelist Who Allegedly Murdered Chef Husband for Insurance Money


A romance novelist was denied bail Wednesday in the 2018 death of her husband. Nancy L. Crampton-Brophy, 69, must stay in jail ahead of trial for the alleged murder of spouse Daniel Brophy, 63. Circuit Judge Christopher Ramras determined that the prosecution presented enough evidence to show she committed the act, according to The Oregonian.

The defendant wanted out of lockup, citing fears of contracting the COVID-19 disease. Instead, she’d be on house arrest until trial. Her defense said that her age and bad health left her vulnerable, noting that she had diabetes.

“Ms. Crampton Brophy’s age and poor health — combined with the lack of medically necessary sanitation and separation at the jail — expose her to an unreasonable, unacceptably high risk of fatal infection if the jail becomes an incubator for the coronavirus, as health experts predict it will be,” they wrote.

As a matter of course, the cramped nature of jails and prisons lend themselves to the easy spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Nonetheless, prosecutors wanted to keep her locked away behind bars, and publicly revealed more of the evidence against her. Not to be tacky about this, but the allegation really is something out of a novel. The purported motive: money, money, money. Nancy Crampton-Brophy was entitled to $1.15 million in life insurance policies and work comp after the death of her husband, wrote Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill.

“In fact, Ms. Brophy was the agent who sold herself all of the life insurance policies on Dan Brophy,” said the prosecutor. “She was also the sole beneficiary.” On top of that, husband and wife had $312,931.00 in equity on their home, authorities said.

The couple had been having financial problems for years before this. They are described as apparently living on a month-to-month budget, Underhill wrote. Nonetheless, Crampton-Brophy allegedly made sure she paid off the life insurance premiums before the murder. For example, she paid over $16,000 in premiums in 2017, even though the couple fell behind $6,000 on mortgage payments that year.

According to Underhill, people who knew the couple said that the defendant wanted to sell the house and travel the world. One friend purportedly said, however, that Nancy said it wouldn’t be easy to convince her husband Dan.

Authorities said the victim, a chef and mushroom expert at the Oregon Culinary Institute, was shot twice in one of his school’s kitchens. The victim appeared to be having a “very routine morning” when he was filling water and ice buckets, prosecutors said. It was then that the first bullet struck him in the back, hitting his spine and his heart. The gunwoman walked over to him, and shot him in the check, investigators said. There was no sign of struggle: the victim even had a pocketknife clipped to his pants, but he didn’t appear to have tried to use this to protect himself. Investigators ruled out a homicide because he still had items including over $70 in cash, and his wallet including debit and credit cards.

There was no surveillance footage inside or outside of the school, but authorities said they were able to put Nancy Crampton Brophy at the school because neighboring businesses filmed her minivan.

Investigators say they sort of have the murder weapon. According to the official account, the defendant said she and her husband purchased a gun because of the 2018 mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida. Authorities checked it out, and determined that the slide and barrel part wasn’t used in the homicide, but they claim that Nancy Brophy had been searching for “ghost guns” and made purchases for slide and barrels. The prosecution is suggesting that she switched out parts of the gun for the murder, then reassembled the original parts before handing the firearm over the authorities. But they never found the parts alleged used in the murder.

“Detectives have never recovered the slide and barrel purchased on ebay,” wrote Underhill. “Nancy Brophy deleted her ebay account just days before the murder.”

Crampton-Brophy pleaded not guilty to a charge each of murder and unlawful use of a weapon. Defense lawyer Lisa Maxfield had argued that the state couldn’t show that the defendant bought the bullets used in the murder. She said statements from friends and family showed that the couple didn’t tend to be at odds, and she said that texts also showed the couple maintained a physical relationship.

“The state basically has no murder weapon,” she said, according to the Oregonian. “What they have is a van that matches the description of Ms. Brophy’s van.”

[Mugshot via Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office]

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