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

Court got to a late start due to inclement weather. The state called three witnesses to the stand.
Credit: KGW

PORTLAND, Ore. — Day five of the murder trial of Nancy Brophy, romance novelist accused of shooting and killing her husband at the Oregon Culinary Institute in 2018, got to a late start due to inclement weather.

With a late start, the state called just three witnesses on Monday. The first was a former student of victim Dan Brophy, the husband of the accused, Nancy Brophy, and an instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute. Adam Johnson had kind things to say about Dan Brophy as an instructor.

“He was one of my favorite instructors of all time, just because of how hands-on he was,” said Johnson.

Next, the state called a former coworker of Dan Brophy, Kenneth Narcavage. He worked with Dan Brophy for a number of years after being a student of Dan Brophy’s in the 90s. He said they spoke very little of their personal lives but that Dan Brophy was very knowledgeable about food and foraging.

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

The witness the state spent the most time speaking to was Portland Police Bureau (PPB) homicide detective Anthony Merrill. Merrill has taken the stand before and will take the stand again in the future.

Merrill was the lead investigator on Dan Brophy’s case. He spoke about canvassing the area around the Oregon Culinary Institute in the days after the murder. Law enforcement collected surveillance video from several nearby businesses as part of the investigation process.

Merrill detailed PPB’s process of contacting all the students who had arrived at the culinary school and reaching out to those who were turned away by police and those who did not show up at all. He said none of the students rose to the level of a suspicious person.

In conducting interviews, a couple of homeless people in the area were mentioned by various interviewees. Police were able to make contact with them and they were excluded as people of interest after that.

The jury listened to a 45-minute long recording of detectives, including Merrill, interviewing Nancy Brophy. This included them telling her it was Dan Brophy who had been shot and killed.

RELATED: Romance novelist's 'How to Murder Your Husband' essay tossed out as evidence in day 1 of murder trial

Immediately following this interview, Merrill said he viewed surveillance video that had been collected from a nearby business, Bellagios Pizza. In that video, he said he saw a van that looked like Nancy Brophy’s. It appears first at around 7:08 a.m. and again at 7:28 a.m. This was originally revealed in court documents that were released in 2019.

This was interesting to detectives because it was inconsistent with what Nancy Brophy had told detectives she was doing that morning. She had said that she woke up to Dan Brophy coming to shower between 6:45 a.m. and 6:50 a.m. She said that Dan Brophy had left for work around 7 a.m. and 7:05 a.m. and it would take him roughly ten minutes to get to the school.

Detectives know Dan Brophy disabled the alarm at the culinary institute at 7:21 a.m. or 7:22 a.m.

Merrill said he had to double-check the footage because he had been surprised to see a van that looked just like Nancy Brophy’s on the surveillance footage after they had just interviewed her and she hadn’t mentioned being in the area earlier that morning.

The state closed by asking Merrill about how Nancy Brophy seemed during her interview. He said she seemed scatter-brained, as someone who had just learned their loved one was killed might be, but she was lucid about timings and her movements from that morning.

He said she seemed to have a good sense of a lot of details, even more than some might given the news she had received. 

Court will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday with Merrill coming back to the stand.

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