Nancy Crampton-Brophy wrote steamy romance novels with muscular, often shirtless, men on their covers and titles like “The Wrong Husband.” Some carried a tagline that said, “wrong never felt so right.”
But for Crampton-Brophy, life with her husband of almost two decades appeared anything but wrong. She and Daniel Brophy lived in a quiet suburb of Portland, Oregon, where he was a chef at a culinary school. Crampton-Brophy said her husband raised turkeys and chickens in their backyard, tended a vegetable garden and liked to whip up lavish meals for her.
The day she realized he was Mr. Right, she wrote on her author’s website, he was making her hors d’oeuvres while she took a bath.
“Can you imagine spending the rest of your life without a man like that?” she asked.
Then came a plot twist that could have been ripped from one of her books.
On the morning of June 2, 2018, someone shot Daniel Brophy in the kitchen of the Oregon Culinary Institute, where he taught cooking. Three months later, Portland police arrested Crampton-Brophy and charged her with her husband’s murder.
And now, the woman who once published an infamous blog post titled, “How to Murder Your Husband,” is on trial in an Oregon courtroom. Crampton-Brophy, 71, is charged with a single count of murder and has pleaded not guilty.
The trial is expected to last six weeks.
Her husband was shot twice at the cooking school where he worked
On the morning Daniel Brophy was killed, students arrived for class and found him bleeding on the kitchen floor.
In court documents, prosecutors said the 63-year-old man had been shot twice – once in the back as he stood at a sink filling ice and water buckets for the students, and then a second time in the chest at close range. The bullets penetrated his spine and pierced his heart. Brophy’s wallet with cash and credit cards was found with him, and there were no signs of robbery or forced entry.
The next day, Crampton-Brophy posted a message on Facebook.
“My husband and best friend, Chef Dan Brophy was killed yesterday morning,” it said. “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.”
The slaying remained a public mystery for months. Then came Crampton-Brophy’s arrest in September 2018 – and suddenly the image of the couple’s happy marriage collapsed.
Prosecutors allege in court documents that the Brophys were facing financial difficulties and had drained their retirement account two years prior to the shooting. Crampton-Brophy, whose books were not financially lucrative, hatched the plan to kill her husband to collect more than $1.5 million from multiple life insurance policies and other assets, prosecutors said.
“Dan Brophy was content in his simplistic lifestyle, but Nancy Brophy wanted something more,” prosecutors said in court documents. “As Nancy Brophy became more financially desperate and her writing career was floundering, she was left with few options ….
“Dan Brophy was worth almost $1.5 million to Nancy Brophy if he was dead and he was worth a life of financial hardship if he stayed alive. 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.”
Prosecutors said a search of the couple’s computers revealed they had a joint iTunes account with a bookmarked article titled, “10 Ways to Cover Up a Murder.”
But Crampton-Brophy’s attorney argued at the trial this week that she loved her husband and had nothing to do with the killing.
“The state will present a circumstantial case that begs you to cast a blind eye to the most important circumstance … love,” defense attorney Lisa Maxfield said Monday in her opening statement. “Nancy Crampton-Brophy has always been thoroughly, madly, crazy in love with Daniel Brophy, and she still is to this day. For Nancy Brophy, he was perfect.”
The couple had taken several romantic getaways in the months before Brophy’s death and were planning a summer trip to Mount Rushmore, the defense attorney said.
The slaying drew new attention to Crampton-Brophy’s writings
News of the slaying stunned the Portland community and made headlines everywhere – partly due to something Crampton-Brophy wrote seven years before her husband’s death.
In 2011, she published a blog post titled, “How to Murder Your Husband.”
“As a romantic suspense writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about murder and, consequently, about police procedure,” the 700-word post began. It was published on a blog called “See Jane Publish” that has since been made private. The essay was split into sections detailing the pros and cons of killing a villainous husband.
“If the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail,” Crampton-Brophy wrote. “And let me say clearly for the record, I don’t like jumpsuits and orange isn’t my color.”
But the trial judge ruled Monday that the essay would not be permitted as evidence because it was written years ago as part of a writing seminar and could unfairly prejudice the jury.
Crampton-Brophy’s novels do not appear to have brought her riches or literary acclaim. But they were consistent in their packaging and subject matter.
Her books were tales of attempted murder, infidelity, crime, lust and general debauchery – all common themes for romantic suspense novels. In “The Wrong Husband,” a woman tries to escape her abusive husband by hiding in Spain during their anniversary trip.
“My stories are about pretty men and strong women, about families that don’t always work and about the joy of finding love and the difficulty of making it stay,” she wrote on her website. “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 is smarter to change the ending.”
Her author bio also offered glimpses of how Crampton-Brophy saw life with her husband.
“Like all marriages, we’ve had our ups and downs, more good times than bad,” she wrote.
Prosecutors say she researched ‘ghost guns’
Brophy’s body was found by his culinary students. At the time of his death, he was alone at the school, prosecutors said.
The school had no security cameras, but nearby traffic cameras showed Crampton-Brophy’s Toyota minivan on city streets near the institute around the time of the shooting, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said they believe Crampton-Brophy followed her husband to work and shot him with a Glock 9mm handgun she’d bought at a Portland gun show. Investigators found two 9mm shell casings at the scene.
She had also bought a “ghost gun” assembly kit that investigators later found at a storage facility. “Ghost guns” are unregistered and untraceable firearms.
Crampton-Brophy’s attorney told jurors Monday she was researching “ghost gun” kits for a book she was working on and bought the handgun with her husband’s knowledge because mass shootings in the US made her feel unsafe.
Prosecutors allege that to cover her tracks, Crampton-Brophy swapped the slide and barrel of the Glock 9mm with an identical mechanism she bought on eBay and used that to shoot her husband. She then allegedly took out the new slide and barrel and replaced it with the original, “thus being able to present a new, fully intact firearm to police that would not be a match to the shell casings,” prosecutors said in court documents..
Detectives have not recovered the slide and barrel purchased on eBay, meaning forensic experts have been unable to match the spent bullets with the gun, prosecutors said.
She was the sole beneficiary in several life insurance policies
Investigators discovered that Crampton-Brophy was the beneficiary of “numerous” life insurance policies taken out on her husband, prosecutors said in court documents.
Despite the couple’s financial woes, Crampton-Brophy was spending over $1,000 a month on life insurance premiums, prosecutors said.
Three days after her husband’s death, she called the lead detective in the case and asked for a letter stating she was not a suspect so she could give it to insurance companies, prosecutors said. Detectives declined to provide the letter.
In explaining why she had taken out the life insurance policies on her husband, the defense argued that Crampton-Brophy was a salesperson for several insurance companies and had bought the policies to show her belief in the product and earn a commission.
Her husband was also younger than her and eligible for some life insurance policies that she did not qualify for, Maxfield said.
Maxfield told jurors that the Brophys were in decent shape financially in June 2018 and that prosecutors’ characterization of them being in desperate financial straits are overblown. Crampton-Brophy did not collect an insurance windfall after the killing, Maxfield said.
“Nancy Brophy and Dan Brophy had an unusually healthy and vibrant and marriage, right up until the very end,” she told jurors. “After you’ve heard all the evidence in this case we are certain that you will understand that Nancy Brophy did not kill her husband.”
Crampton-Brophy is expected to take the stand during the trial.