PORTLAND, Ore. — Romance novelist Nancy Crampton Brophy took the stand again on Tuesday, undergoing cross-examination by the prosecution in the ongoing trial in which she is accused of shooting and killing her husband.
Crampton Brophy is accused of the murder of her husband, chef Daniel Brophy, at the Oregon Culinary Institute in June, 2018. The prosecution rested its case on April 21 and defense began presenting their case on May 3.
The prosecution claims that Crampton Brophy was motivated by greed and a $1.4 million insurance policy. The Brophys' financial situation, the potential murder weapon and Brophy's whereabouts the morning of the murder were focal points in the prosecution's case.
The defense has called witnesses to testify that the Brophys were a loving couple who cared for each other. They also called witnesses to testify about Brophy's research on firearms for her writing. Other witnesses testified about the Brophys' financial situation.
First taking the stand on Monday to testify in her own defense, Crampton Brophy returned on Tuesday to face pointed questioning from the prosecution — much of which focused on her purchase and research of gun parts in the lead-up to her husband's death.
Crampton Brophy questioned
The prosecution began by poking at a possible inconsistency in Crampton Brophy's story. She testified that on the day of her husband's murder, she went downtown to his workplace at the Oregon Culinary Institute where there was an active crime scene, but had not yet been told that Dan Brophy was dead. She affirmed to the prosecution that though she hadn't been informed of his death, she told Dan's mother Karen that he was dead. Brophy told the prosecution that she'd figured out he was dead from context clues at the scene.
"I had not been told, but I had not heard from him," Crampton Brophy said. "All of his friends avoided looking at me, and the police officers knew who I was before I got there, and one police officer hugged me — this is not good news that I'm going to hear."
Much of the subsequent questioning concerned Crampton Brophy's purchase of a gun and gun parts — a full Glock 17 handgun that she and Dan Brophy purchased together, a "ghost gun" Glock 19 kit that was never fully assembled, and a matching slide and barrel for the Glock 17 that she later bought on eBay.
Of those gun parts, a Glock 17 slide and barrel remains unaccounted for. The slide and barrel on the Glock that Crampton Brophy surrendered to police had not been fired.
Crampton Brophy testified that she and her husband, while previously being ideologically opposed to guns, bought the first handgun for protection. The other parts she said she bought later as research for a novel she planned to write.
The prosecution pounced on Crampton Brophy's admission Tuesday that she'd disassembled and reassembled the Glock she and and Dan Brophy had purchased together by removing the slide. Crampton Brophy had told detectives during the investigation that she and Dan Brophy quickly had second thoughts about their purchase of the gun and stowed it away after taking it home, but her testimony on Tuesday established that she'd spent time manipulating the gun after the purchase.
Crampton Brophy said several times under Tuesday's cross-examination that she "broke two nails" while taking the gun apart and putting it back together, thought "this isn't any fun," and then determined to put the gun away.
During redirect, when the defense got a chance to question her again, Crampton Brophy said that she bought the extra Glock 17 slide and barrel so that she could completely disassemble it and get more familiar with guns — again, as research for her writing. She claims that this slide disappeared well before Dan Brophy's death after it was stowed somewhere in a closet.
The prosecution then tried to demonstrate that Crampton Brophy, over the course of two days, drove out west to a gun range along Highway 26 to practice with the Glock. Her internet search history showed that she searched online how to load a Glock 9mm the morning of March 26, 2018, before driving out west. Her vague location in this area was established by cell phone location data, and she returned the next day for a longer period of time.
Crampton Brophy said that she was probably out looking at property in the area, mentioning the town of Vernonia, and had Googled loading the Glock for her writing research. She has maintained that she never took the gun to a range, though she testified that she had no specific memory of the days in question.
The prosecution's questions returned to the day of Dan Brophy's murder, and Crampton Brophy admitted that she was downtown near the Oregon Culinary Institute that morning — though she has "no memory" of it and despite having initially told investigators that she was home all morning — after security cameras placed her downtown within the hour of his death.
Crampton Brophy said that she was probably downtown to drive around and write, stopping in parking lots or at a Starbucks. There were no bank records to indicate that she paid with a card at Starbucks, so Crampton Brophy said that she must have paid with cash. She said that she did not have her phone or her credit card because she had not worn a bra — or would not have, based on her usual morning routine.
"I was driving around for a full hour before Dan got murdered, I was down there before Dan ever got to school," Crampton Brophy said. "I was driving around writing for a full hour, I was only in that vicinity for six minutes."
Despite testifying that she could not specifically recall what she had been doing downtown that morning, Crampton Brophy was adamant that she did not go inside the Oregon Culinary Institute that morning for any reason.
On redirect, the defense called attention to Crampton Brophy's "memory hole" — her difficulty in remembering the events of the day that Dan Brophy was murdered and the time period surrounding it — suggesting that it might explain some of the inconsistencies in her statements.
"I'm reconstructing this. But I'm reconstructing this based on what I know in my heart," said Crampton Brophy. "The reason why I have no memory is because I was stunned by the fact Dan was dead ... and I would not have been stunned if I was in the building and shot him."
The prosecution then tried to establish that Crampton Brophy lacked empathy based on her reactions during the course of the trial, including her response to testimony from one of Dan Brophy's students who tried to save his life with CPR, Clarinda Perez. In a recorded call, Crampton Brophy referred to Perez as the "Spanish girl who ... cries on cue" after she took the stand. Crampton Brophy told the prosecution that Perez had not cried when the two of them spoke in the immediate wake of Dan Brophy's death, so she concluded that Perez was turning it on for the court.
The defense calls more witnesses
After Crampton Brophy was dismissed from the stand following redirect, the defense re-called a previous witness, Scott Perez. He went over surveillance video and corresponding exhibits over a period in downtown Portland the morning of Dan Brophy's murder.
As with some previous witnesses, the defense focused on a man named Oscar Taylor — a man with prior criminal convictions who was questioned once by police after Dan Brophy's death. The defense team has tried to lay the groundwork for Taylor or homeless people camping in the area as potential suspects that police did not seriously pursue.
Using the surveillance footage from that morning, Perez tracked Taylor's movements along surface streets downtown as he pulled a blue recycle bin along. Taylor eventually disappears from the view of cameras, and he is not seen crossing Jefferson Street toward the Oregon Culinary Institute.
The defense also called Karen Lawless of Forensic Edge, a firm that consults on criminal cases involving DNA. Lawless was there to further emphasize the defense's line of questioning to previous law enforcement witnesses — interrogating why they tested the bullet casings found at the crime scene for fingerprints and not DNA.
Lawless testified that DNA testing of casings like those found at the scene could have been done at the time. Investigators testified earlier that they prioritized latent fingerprint testing and were not aware that they could have been processed for DNA before being treated for fingerprints. Lawless' testimony established that DNA testing of fired bullet casings was relatively new, but said it had been studied and used at the Oregon State Crime Lab prior to Dan Brophy's murder in 2018.