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Testimony focuses on 'inappropriately' high insurance premiums and gun in Nancy Brophy murder trial

The state continues to call witnesses. On Wednesday, the court heard from a lead detective and a life insurance expert.
Credit: KGW

PORTLAND, Ore. — Day seven of the Nancy Brophy murder trial saw testimony from a key detective who worked on the case.

Nancy Brophy is a Washington County-based romance novelist who is accused of shooting and killing her husband at his place of work, Oregon Culinary Institute (OCI), in June 2018.

The prosecution continued to call witnesses to the stand on Wednesday. Darren Posey, a detective with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), was called to the stand. In 2018, Posey was a homicide detective who took the lead on the Brophy case until it was transferred to Detective Anthony Merrill, who has already taken the stand.

The defense had questioned Anthony Merrill about whether PPB had identified certain people seen on surveillance footage. Some they had, others they had not.

The state asked Posey on Wednesday why they attempt to locate and talk with people when working a scene.

“We’re attempting to talk to the folks because they’re potential witnesses. Just because they’re on video doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a suspect,” said Posey.

The defense, during cross-examination, pointed out that PPB had not interviewed anyone at the condos near OCI, or at a nearby drug rehabilitation center.

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

The gun


Posey, like detectives who had testified previously, noted that the gun surrendered by Nancy Brophy to the police on the day of the homicide had the slide “out of battery.” The slide of the gun was slightly forward, which can only be achieved by pressing down the slide levers on either side of the gun and pushing it forward.

Posey demonstrated on the gun that even with a zip tie in it, as the gun was presented to police, he could move the slide into a position where the slide levers locked as they were supposed to. The zip tie in the barrel caused the slide to sit even farther back than it was meant to, instead of forward as was noted on the Brophy gun.

Posey testified that the slide and barrel on the gun were not used at the crime. Nancy Brophy did purchase on eBay a separate slide and barrel designed to fit the Glock 17 she owned. Police were never able to recover that additional slide and barrel to compare it to the bullets fired at the crime scene.

Posey said he went to J&B, the company that had sold Nancy Brophy the Glock 17 at the Portland gun show, and asked them to record a video of how to change a slide and barrel on a gun. He said they exchanged the slide and barrel with a zip tie in it for one without a zip tie, which is how police have alleged the crime took place.

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

Insurance

The jury also listened to a phone call from Posey to Nancy Brophy on June 6, 2018, where Brophy said her insurance company had said that if police could, she should try and obtain a letter stating she was not a person of interest in the case in order for the insurance to pay out what she said was $40,000. She also asked Posey if they had enough information to solve the case.

Posey said he filed paperwork for multiple search warrants and found numerous life insurance policies for Dan Brophy.

An insurance expert was called to the stand, Steven Santos, who testified that the Brophys were paying more than $800 a month, which was 20% of their gross income at the time, on policies amounting to more than $700,000 for Dan Brophy’s life insurance alone. Santos said this was not fiscally responsible and had the Brophy’s been clients of his, they would have addressed the high premium they were paying for what he considered to be a reasonable amount of death benefit.

He said the amount they were spending for just one person and just life insurance was "inappropriate" and that he would recommend 10-20% of someone's gross income be allotted for all kinds of insurances across both people in a couple. 

DNA


The defense cross-examined Posey and asked once again about processing the shells found at the scene for DNA. The shells were not processed for touch DNA, instead, they were processed for latent fingerprints.

Posey testified that at the time in 2018, he was made aware that DNA would not survive in that environment. With that knowledge, he had them processed by a criminalist for fingerprints. High heat, like that caused by the explosion that occurs when a gun is fired, damages both fingerprints and DNA.

“If you thought any testing process was available to identify a subject in a homicide, would you not have used that?” The state asked during redirect.

“I would have used that,” Posey responded.

Testimony will continue Thursday with Steve Santos finishing up. Nathaniel Stillwater, son of Dan Brophy and stepson to Nancy Brophy is expected to take the stand. Nancy Brophy has been heard on recordings played to the court saying she considers Stillwater to be her son too. He sued her in civil court for the wrongful death of his father in 2019.

KGW will stream the hearing on its website, app and YouTube page.



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