Retrograde amnesia versus “convenient” amnesia. A clear financial motive or a circumstantial case that ignored another possible killer. A ruthless manipulator or a loving wife.
The lead prosecutor and defense attorneys crossed swords several times 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 killing of her husband, Oregon Culinary Institute instructor Daniel Brophy.
Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Shawn Overstreet said Crampton Brophy snuck into the school and shot her husband twice in the heart minutes after he arrived for work in Southwest Portland on June 2, 2018, to stave off financial ruin and collect on his life insurance.
Read: Who is Nancy Crampton Brophy?
Kristen Winemiller, one of Crampton Brophy’s three defense attorneys, suggested a homeless man seen nearby that morning might have killed Brophy during a botched robbery.
The state based its case on theories that could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, Winemiller said.
“The love that Nancy and Dan Brophy had for each other was no mere possibility,” she said. “It was the best proof in fact in this trial.”
Overstreet acknowledged that the state’s case hinged on circumstantial evidence — as no witness statement or camera footage captured Daniel Brophy’s final moments.
But, he reminded the jury, Crampton Brophy had admitted on the witness stand to being at the culinary school at the time of the killing and investigators had determined the killer used the same make and model of Glock pistol that Crampton Brophy had purchased earlier that year .
“The exact same time and the exact same weapon? There’s too many coincidences,” Overstreet said.
He replayed surveillance camera footage showing Crampton Brophy’s minivan entering the Goose Hollow neighborhood as early as 6:39 am, then making three passes around the school until 7:19 am
The chef had disabled the school’s alarm around 7:22 am, and his wife was seen driving away from the area six minutes later, according to state exhibits shown in court.
Overstreet said students discovered Brophy’s lifeless body at 7:29 am, while Winemiller disagreed, saying another instructor did not unlock the student entrance until 7:35 am
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 did not remember the trip.
The trauma of her husband’s death had wiped that chronology from her memory, both she and a defense expert witness said. Instead, the 71-year-old Crampton Brophy said it wouldn’t have been unusual for her to be in the vicinity because she liked driving around the neighborhood to jot down notes for her self-published writings.
The prosecutor told jurors that explanation simply defies logic.
“Nancy suffers not from retrograde amnesia,” Overstreet said. “Nancy suffers from convenient amnesia.”
Both sides also sparred over the alleged motive for the killing, with Overstreet admitting that the prosecution had miscalculated the widely reported figure of $1.4 million in life insurance on Brophy.
The actual number was about $815,000, but he argued Crampton Brophy stood to gain as much as $1.68 million from her husband’s death, after accounting for retirement savings, the sale of the couple’s Beaverton home and worker’s compensation from an on-the-job death.
“Nobody would want to hurt Dan, even Nancy herself told that to detectives,” Overstreet said. “So nobody else had a motive, but Nancy did.”
Winemiller cited testimony from an earlier expert witness who calculated that Brophy, 63, was on track to contribute $1.3 million to the household over the next 10 years, using standard demographic formulas for income and services.
“The bottom line is that Nancy Brophy was far better off with Dan Brophy in her life, even if you look at it just in pure economic terms, even if you ignore the love,” she said.
In another thrust of her argument, the defense attorney floated a homeless resident, Oscar C. Taylor, as a potential suspect in the killing, saying he was largely ignored by police.
Taylor, now 64, was seen collecting cans near the school on the day of the killing and told investigators he had gotten a bottle of cabernet and a candle earlier from somewhere, according to a detective’s handwritten notes presented during the trial.
Taylor was not called to testify by either side and his current location is unknown. He has more than a dozen convictions each for felonies and misdemeanors, court records show.
Winemiller suggested Taylor could 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 about the fact that he’s taking other people’s property,” she said.
Overstreet slammed the conjecture as racist, saying Taylor’s robbery offenses never involved weapons and were akin to pushing a clerk after being caught shoplifting.
“They’re asking you to consider the Black guy in the neighborhood as the killer, without any evidence,” the prosecutor said. “You should be offended.”
The defense and prosecution clashed once more on the gun allegedly used in the killing. Overstreet has theorized Crampton Brophy swapped out the gun barrel on her Glock, used the hybrid pistol to shoot her partner of 25 years, then discarded the barrel so detectives couldn’t match it with the shell casings found at the scene.
Crampton Brophy spent a total of $1,550 buying the Glock pistol, the matching gun barrel and an unregistered “ghost gun” kit that she never assembled, court exhibits showed.
“Why are you buying the exact same gun parts that you already own?” Overstreet said. “It makes no sense that at 67 years old she decided to become a gun nut.”
In response, Winemiller said it was preposterous for the state to paint her client as a meticulous planner who then failed to consider the possibility of outdoor surveillance cameras and didn’t expect prosecutors to examine the joint bank account used to buy the gun parts.
“Nancy ‘Management’ Brophy planned this murder for months and then forgot to drive to the scene incognito,” Winemiller said sarcastically, referencing Brophy’s nickname for his wife.
Overstreet countered that Crampton Brophy was a cold-hearted Svengali who could not stop herself from inventing lies.
“She sat up there with the intent of manipulating all of you,” he told the jury.
Closing statements concluded Monday, to be followed by the state’s rebuttal Tuesday. Jurors are expected to start deliberations later Tuesday.
Crampton Brophy did not speak during Monday’s proceedings, but held several whispered conversations with her sister during breaks in the trial. If convicted of second-degree murder, she faces the prospect of life in prison with a minimum of 25 years behind bars.