PORTLAND, Ore. — On Day 13 of the murder trial of romance novelist Nancy Crampton Brophy, the defense and prosecution sparred over a potential rebuttal witness for the state, an inmate who claims Crampton Brophy told her she was in close proximity to her husband when he was shot.
Crampton Brophy's husband, Daniel Brophy, was shot and killed on June 2, 2018 as he prepped for work at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Southwest Portland. He was 63 years old. Crampton Brophy was arrested in September 2018 for the murder of Daniel Brophy.
The potential witness is an inmate named Andrea Jacobs. During an in-person interview last week with detectives for the prosecution, Jacobs said that Brophy, who was reportedly housed with Jacobs in jail in Oregon, told her that she was within feet of Daniel Brophy when the shooting happened.
"In that interview, among many things that Ms. Jacobs said, was she did talk about how Ms. Brophy disclosed to her — to be fair, seemingly accidentally, maybe — disclosed to Ms. Jacobs that she held her arms apart, Ms. Brophy held her arms apart like a wingspan, and said, 'I was this far away when the shooting happened.' She then corrected herself, Ms. Brophy did with Ms. Jacobs, and said, 'well, I mean, it happened this far away,' something like that. Ms. Jacobs reported that it became very awkward between the two, so awkward in fact that Ms. Jacobs decided to change the subject," said Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Shawn Overstreet.
According to Overstreet, Jacobs told detectives she previously told her former attorneys what Crampton Brophy told her and that the prosecution has requested notes from Jacobs' former attorneys.
The defense said the allowance of this rebuttal witness presents multiple problems. Lead defense attorney Lisa Maxfield said preparing for the witness would require significant time and investment of resources and said she doesn't think the trial would be able to conclude by May 20, as originally planned.
"To respond to this would require significant investigation, significant record gathering and frankly, would require, probably, two separate fairly substantial hearings," Maxfield said.
Maxfield also said she wanted to know if any state or government agent sought information from inmates about Crampton Brophy. She also said the defense believes that Jacobs is under investigation for Medicaid fraud in Multnomah County, though she said she couldn't offer substantiation of that claim at this time.
Overstreet said at this point, Jacobs is just a witness, not a cooperating witness, which means there has been no discussion about what the state would offer to Jacobs in exchange for her testimony. They said Jacobs took a plea deal for her charges and is serving a sentence at a prison in Texas, which ends next year.
Overstreet said his office isn't involved in any Medicaid fraud investigation concerning Jacobs. He also said his office didn't go to any prisons or jails with the purpose of seeking testimony from inmates who were housed with Crampton Brophy; what sparked the prosecution into looking into Jacobs was the inclusion of her name in a letter written to Crampton Brophy.
The defense told Judge Christopher Ramras that they need more information about Jacobs before they decide whether to ask him to exclude her. Ramras said it was too early for him to rule on the witness and he instructed the state to turn over anything in its control to the defense.
Defense calls first witnesses
After a handful of motions were discussed at the start of Tuesday's morning session, the defense called its first witness, James Denny, a landscaper who worked on the Brophy's yard in 2018, clearing blackberry bushes in preparation for the couple to sell their home, according to Denny. Most of the testimony revolved around the dates when Denny worked on the home and the timing of payments made by Crampton Brophy to Denny, including how much was paid to Denny after Daniel Brophy's death.
Mayfield also asked Denny if he noticed how Nancy Crampton Brophy and Daniel Brophy interacted with each other. He said that Crampton Brophy wanted to make sure that Denny didn't remove anything from the yard that was important to Daniel Brophy. Denny said he thought the way the two interacted was "good" and that "Nancy wanted me to make Dan happy."
The defense's second witness was Nicole Barlow, a volunteer for the nonprofit Trauma Intervention Program (TIP). She and a fellow TIP volunteer responded to the Oregon Culinary Institute on the morning of Dan Brophy's murder to provide resources for Crampton Brophy including help with funeral arrangements.
Barlow said she heard Crampton Brophy "crying and screaming loudly" at the scene, and that she appeared to be in shock. She said she assumed Crampton Brophy had been notified of Dan Brophy's death based on her behavior. In cross examination, the district attorney argued that Crampton Brophy had not been informed of her husband's death at the time Barlow heard her cries.
The third witness to take the stand was Tamara Alva, the niece of James Denny. She said she spent months helping her uncle with landscaping at the Brophys' property and developed a close friendship with Nancy during that time.
Alva spoke fondly of the couple and said that she believed they were "very tight and very close with their commun
ications with each other." She also described them as an affectionate couple who were "always together when they could be."
When the district attorney asked about Alva's work on the property before Dan's death, she said she was there about three to five days a week for four months. The DA pointed out that she was billed for just 48 hours of work and asked how that could be. Alva responded that she must've just worked "a few hours a day," and the defense pointed out that rain may have halted work for days at a time. She struggled to deliver a concrete timeline but did say that she continued to work at the property following Dan's death.
Alva also described learning of Dan's death by watching the news and calling Nancy to tell her to go to the scene. Alva claimed Nancy had said she was listening to the news with Dan's mother, but she could not say if they were together or speaking over the phone.
Alva said she believed she was likely the first person to tell Nancy her husband was dead, and that Nancy seemed shocked.
The defense's fourth and final witness of the day was forensic accountant Tiffany Couch, who specializes in investigating white collar crimes such as fraud and money laundering.
The prosecution has repeatedly claimed that Brophy stood to gain a significant amount of life insurance money from her husband's death. A financial investigator with Portland Police previously testified that he believed the couple was in "financial distress" based on their bank information.
But Couch described the financial investigator's testimony as "very narrow," as it only showed one of the couple's bank accounts and their Wells Fargo mortgage history, despite the fact that they had eight bank accounts, she said.
"The biggest problem is that one account gives you one piece of the picture. Eight accounts gives you a different understanding of what's really going on. Getting an understanding of all of the debt, for example, is important to understand. Limiting it to one account did not provide for what was actually happening in their true financial life," she testified.
She said she analyzed about two years of the couple's bank and mortgage statements.
Notably, in May 2016, the Brophys had less than $400 between all eight bank accounts, Couch said. She said the day before Dan Brophy's death, on June 1, 2018, the Brophys had more than $11,700 between the accounts.
Around the same timeframe, Couch testified that the Brophys' debt had also dropped significantly from more than $22,000 to about $6,100.
Couch testified that the Brophys appeared to have a plan to continue reducing their debt, and that they were not financially strapped or making unnecessary purchases.
Previous coverage of the Brophy trial: