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Surveillance shows van matching Brophy's in downtown Portland much earlier than previously disclosed

Day six of the murder trial of romance novelist Nancy Brophy began on Tuesday. She is accused of shooting and killing her husband in 2018.
Credit: Dave Killen/The Oregonian/Pool

PORTLAND, Ore. — Day six of the trial of romance novelist Nancy Brophy began on Tuesday.

Nancy Brophy is accused of shooting and killing her husband, Dan Brophy, at the Oregon Culinary Institute where he worked as an instructor in June 2018.

The state continued to call witnesses to the stand, as they will for the next couple of weeks. The state continued with their questioning of lead homicide detective on the case Anthony Merrill with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). Questioning revealed that the van believed to be Nancy Brophy’s was seen around the culinary institute on the date of the homicide, June 2, 2018, much earlier than was ever made public before this trial.

Surveillance video

Merrill testified that two detectives took Nancy Brophy home, one driving in her van for her since she was in an emotional state, then he returned to review surveillance footage first from Bellagios, a business down the street from the culinary institute. He said he and the detective viewing the footage were in shock because they believed that a van they saw in the footage looked like Nancy Brophy’s van they had just seen.

Merrill said he called one of the detectives with Nancy Brophy, Rico Beniga, and asked him to take photos of the van.

Using surveillance video, law enforcement was able to piece together that the van was seen at 6:39 a.m. driving eastbound on Jefferson and turns right on 20th. It is seen again going around the roundabout in the area and it goes northbound on 18th at 6:41 a.m. It is seen on KGW surveillance cameras between 7 a.m. And 7:01 a.m. going westbound on Jefferson. It then sits, parallel parked, in front of KGW for approximately seven minutes before it continues down Jefferson.

Originally, in court documents, it was only released that the van was seen in the area at 7:09 a.m., which it was. The minivan is not seen from 7:09 a.m. until 7:28 a.m. when it is seen turning the corner from the direction of the Oregon Culinary Institute, Merrill said.

This is significant to the state because it was previously stated by Nancy Brophy in a recorded death notification and information gathering conversation that Nancy Brophy had said she woke up and was alert and in bed around 6:45 a.m. - 6:50 a.m. that morning. She also said she had seen Dan Brophy, her husband and the victim in the case leave around 7:05 a.m. - 7:10 a.m.

The defense, during its cross-examination, went down the road of homeless people once more. It pointed out a man in surveillance footage that Merrill said police never identified or talked to. This man was seen on surveillance footage loitering in an empty parking lot near Oregon Culinary Institute. He is seen looking over the wall when he sees police go by, he looks in a bag, then walks off.

RELATED: Detective testifies to seeing van similar to accused murderer Nancy Brophy's in the area of the crime scene on surveillance video

It also focused on a man named Oscar Taylor who police did make contact with. Taylor had prior convictions which include robbery, theft and assault against police. Merrill and a colleague had interviewed Taylor after the event. The defense noted that Merrill took notes that said Taylor had said he took “cabernet with a candle,” but there was no context for this statement. It did not make it in the report which was written by Merrill’s colleague. The defense also alleged that in Merrill’s notes he wrote that Taylor had said of the people around OCI, “lots of crazy guys down there carry guns.” However, the “carry guns” portion did not make it into the report. The defense alleges that this shows bias in both Merrill and his colleague who worked the case to have written him off as not a person of interest.

The gun and the van

Both detectives who drove Nancy Brophy home took the stand on Tuesday. Scott Broughton drove Nancy Brophy’s van back to her house. He said she gave clear directions and when they got to her home, she allowed them inside without hesitating and gave him and detective Beniga the gun she had told them about earlier.

Detective Beniga testified that while he was at the Brophys' home, he received a call asking him to take photos of Nancy Brophy’s van, following detectives seeing a similar one on surveillance footage at the crime scene.

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

Beniga said he took photos of the van and returned inside to ask Brophy if it was okay that he took the photos, as part of the documentation of vehicles at the scene. He said she responded, “Why? I wasn’t there this morning. I was at home.”

Both detectives noted, on a photo of the firearm Brophy had turned over to them, that the slide was “out of battery” or seated incorrectly on the base of the gun. Beniga testified that this was a difficult thing to do on accident. To move a slide on a gun, two levers, one on either side of the weapon, must be pressed simultaneously and the slide moved off.

There was a zip tie in the barrel of the gun, both detectives noted. Beniga said Brophy made a point to show him that

Broughton said he spoke with Brophy while he drove her home and she explained she had bought the gun at the gun expo. When he asked how she settled on a Glock, he was under the impression she made the decision while at the gun show. She did not mention she had done research on guns prior, nor that she had bought a ghost gun kit before.

He said he was under the impression that the gun had never been used and that Brophy was happy for police to take it off her hands for safekeeping.

Next, the state called PPB officer Aaron Dauchy to the stand. At the time, Dauchy was assigned to TriMet and he was on light duty. He worked a lot with video and was asked to assist in the case to try and identify a license plate on the van detectives believed to be Brophy’s. Dauchy said he could make out the first four characters as 067 B and the final two could have either been a Q or a D and a K or an X.

He reported this and was told the actual license plate number to Brophy’s van was 067BQX.

Court concluded on Tuesday with the state still questioning Kelsey Guay who works with PPB and dealt with cell phone site data and surveillance video. She was asked by detectives to put together a compilation video from all the surveillance video collected that best showed the path the van traveled from 6:39 a.m. – 7:28 a.m.

Court will resume tomorrow and continue with questioning from the state of Guay. Court was delayed on Monday due to snow and according to KGW’s meteorologists, there may be more snow on the valley floor overnight. No word on any delays at this time.

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