Retrograde amnesia versus “convenient” amnesia. A clear financial motive or circumstantial case that overlooked another possible killer. A ruthless manipulator or a loving wife.
The lead prosecutor and defense attorneys crossed swords several times on Monday as they tried to persuade a jury to see their side in the final days of romance writer Nancy Crampton Brophy’s murder trial in the murder of her husband, Oregon Culinary Institute instructor Daniel Brophy.
Multnomah County Senior Assistant District Attorney Shawn Overstreet said Crampton Brophy snuck into the school and shot her husband twice in the heart minutes after he arrived at work in the Southwest of Portland on June 2, 2018, to avoid financial ruin and collect his life insurance.
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Kristen Winemiller, one of three defense attorneys for Crampton Brophy, suggested that a homeless man seen nearby that morning may have killed Brophy during a failed robbery.
The state based its case on theories that could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, Winemiller said.
“The love Nancy and Dan Brophy had for each other wasn’t just a possibility,” she said. “That was the best evidence actually in this trial.”
Overstreet acknowledged that the state’s case rested on circumstantial evidence – as no witness statements or camera footage captured Daniel Brophy’s final moments.
But, he reminded the jury, Crampton Brophy had admitted on the witness stand that he was in culinary school at the time of the murder and investigators had determined that the killer had used the same brand and the same model of Glock pistol that Crampton Brophy had purchased earlier that year. .
“Exactly the same time and exactly the same weapon?” There are too many coincidences,” Overstreet said.
He replayed CCTV footage showing Crampton Brophy’s van entering the Goose Hollow neighborhood as early as 6:39 a.m., then making three passes around the school until 7:19 a.m.
The chief had deactivated the school alarm around 7:22 a.m., and his wife was seen walking away from the area six minutes later, according to state exhibits presented in court.
Overstreet said the students discovered Brophy’s lifeless body at 7:29 a.m., while Winemiller disagreed, saying another instructor didn’t unlock the students’ entrance until 7:35 a.m.
Regardless, Crampton Brophy never mentioned the trip to detectives later that day, explaining when she testified in her own defense that she suffered from retrograde amnesia and had no recollection of the trip.
The trauma of her husband’s death had erased that timeline from her memory, she and an expert witness for the defense said. Instead, 71-year-old Crampton Brophy said it wouldn’t have been unusual for her to be around as she enjoyed driving around the neighborhood taking notes for her self-published writings.
The prosecutor told jurors the explanation simply defies logic.
“Nancy doesn’t have retrograde amnesia,” Overstreet said. “Nancy suffers from convenient amnesia.”
The two sides also argued over the alleged motive for the murder, with Overstreet admitting the prosecution miscalculated the widely reported $1.4 million life insurance figure on Brophy.
The actual figure was around $815,000, but he argued that Crampton Brophy could earn up to $1.68 million when her husband died, after factoring in retirement savings, selling the couple’s home in Beaverton and workers’ compensation in the event of a death on the job.
“Nobody would want to hurt Dan, even Nancy herself told detectives,” Overstreet said. “So nobody else had a motive, but Nancy did.”
Winemiller cited the testimony of a previous expert witness who calculated that Brophy, 63, was on track to bring $1.3 million to the household over the next 10 years, using standard demographic formulas for income and services.
“At the end of the day, Nancy Brophy was much better off with Dan Brophy in her life, even if you only look at it in purely economic terms, even if you ignore the love,” she said.
In another part of his argument, the defense attorney presented homeless resident Oscar C. Taylor as a potential suspect in the murder, saying he had been largely ignored by police.
Taylor, now 64, was seen picking up cans near the school on the day of the murder and told investigators he had gotten a bottle of cabernet and a candle somewhere earlier, according to a detective’s handwritten notes presented during the trial.
Taylor has not been called to testify by either side and his current location is unknown. He has more than a dozen felony convictions, according to court records.
Winemiller suggested that Taylor may have grabbed a bottle of wine and a candle from the restaurant inside the culinary institute and then shot Brophy after being discovered.
“He has a history, even by the state’s own admission, of reacting badly when confronted with the fact that he’s taking someone else’s property,” she said.
Overstreet called the speculation racist, saying Taylor’s theft offenses never involved weapons and were akin to pushing a clerk after being caught shoplifting.
“They’re asking you to consider the black man in the neighborhood as the killer, without any proof,” the prosecutor said. “You should be offended.”
The defense and the prosecution again clashed over the weapon allegedly used in the murder. Overstreet speculated that Crampton Brophy swapped the barrel of his Glock, used the hybrid gun to shoot his 25-year-old partner, then threw the barrel away so detectives couldn’t match it to shell casings found at the scene. .
Crampton Brophy spent a total of $1,550 to buy the Glock pistol, matching gun barrel and an unregistered “ghost gun” kit she never assembled, exhibits showed.
“Why are you buying the exact same gun parts you already own?” said Overstreet. “It makes no sense that at 67 she decided to go crazy for guns.”
In response, Winemiller said it was absurd for the state to portray his client as a meticulous planner who then did not consider the possibility of exterior surveillance cameras and did not expect prosecutors to examine the joint bank account used to purchase gun parts.
“Nancy ‘Management’ Brophy planned this murder for months and then forgot to go to the scene incognito,” Winemiller said sarcastically, referring to Brophy’s nickname for his wife.
Overstreet countered that Crampton Brophy was a cold-hearted Svengali who couldn’t help but make up lies.
“She sat there with the intention of manipulating all of you,” he told the jury.
Closing statements ended on Monday, followed by the state’s rebuttal on Tuesday. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations later on Tuesday.
Crampton Brophy did not speak during Monday’s proceedings, but held several whispered conversations with his sister during trial breaks. If convicted of second degree murder, she faces life in prison with a minimum of 25 years behind bars.