A Multnomah County jury convicted Nancy Crampton Brophy, a self-published romance novelist who notoriously wrote an essay titled “How to Kill Your Husband,” of shooting the man she called the love of her life twice through the heart four years ago.
The jury of five men and seven women delivered a verdict of guilty Wednesday on a single count of second-degree murder after deliberating about eight hours over two days in the death of chef Daniel Brophy, an instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Southwest Portland.
Crampton Brophy, now 71, displayed no visible reaction inside the packed courtroom.
Several members of Crampton Brophy’s family sat in the audience directly behind her during the 27-day televised trial. Several family members wrenched forward and audibly gasped, one emitting a sob, as the verdict was read aloud by the judge. Crampton Brophy herself did not visibly react to the verdict.
Brophy’s mother and son have sat behind the prosecution’s table throughout the trial.
Crampton Brophy’s how-two treatise detailed various options for committing an untraceable killing and professed a desire to avoid getting caught. Circuit Judge Christopher Ramras ultimately excluded the essay from the trial, noting it was published in 2011.
A prosecutor, however, alluded to the essay’s themes without naming it after Crampton Brophy took the stand in her own defense. His reference spurred a dramatic monologue from the novelist, who stood by her claim in the essay that anyone is capable of committing murder.
“I think if you’re going to murder someone, 10 to 1 that person knows that you are not happy with them,” she said last week during two days of testimony. “I think most people don’t murder for flimsy reasons.”
But, she said, she had no reason to kill her husband, insisting their financial woes had largely been solved by cashing in a chunk of Brophy’s retirement savings plan.
Crampton Brophy has remained in custody since her arrest in September 2018, several months after her husband was shot around 7:30 a.m. on June 2, 2018. She will be sentenced at a later date.
The presumptive punishment for second-degree murder is life in prison with a minimum of 25 years behind bars.
Students found Daniel Brophy, 63, bleeding on the floor of a classroom near a kitchen sink where he was working at the now-defunct cooking school.
Lead prosecutor Shawn Overstreet detailed a monthslong plot by Crampton Brophy to kill her husband, relying mostly on circumstantial evidence.
Crampton Brophy owned the same make and model of gun used to kill her husband, was seen on surveillance camera footage driving to and from the culinary institute at the same time her husband was shot and sought to collect some $815,000 in life insurance after his death, according to court exhibits and testimony.
After more than a decade running a catering company, Crampton Brophy changed careers and began selling life insurance and Medicare policies on commission while writing on the side.
“It’s not just about the money. It’s about the lifestyle Nancy desired that Dan could not give her,” Overstreet said during his final rebuttal, noting the couple’s dire financial situation had meant forgoing mortgage payments.
Police never found the gun that killed her husband. Prosecutors alleged Crampton Brophy swapped out the barrel of the gun used in the shooting and then discarded the barrel to foil forensic analysis.
Defense attorneys Lisa Maxfield and Kristen Winemiller offered much different theories, suggesting someone else might have killed Brophy during a robbery gone wrong and that Crampton Brophy had no motive to kill her husband. The couple’s finances were recovering and she deeply loved her partner of more than 25 years, they said.
“Nancy Brophy loved her husband,” Winemiller told the jury during her closing argument. “You can see that in her eyes every time she talked about him. Her eyes lit up, they absolutely twinkled.”
The attorneys said the gun parts were inspiration for Crampton Brophy’s writing.
They acknowledged Crampton Brophy was driving nearby on the morning of her husband’s death, but said it was to work on her writing. Then Crampton Brophy completely forgot about the coincidental trip due to shock-induced retrograde amnesia after she learned hours later that he had been killed, they said.
Overstreet narrated his own version of the fatal shooting in his rebuttal, theorizing that Brophy likely knew his wife was in the room just before the first shot severed his spine and struck his heart. The chef had trusted Crampton Brophy enough to turn his back, the prosecutor said.
Then, Overstreet said, Crampton Brophy would have loomed over her husband, preparing the second volley that would pierce the chef’s heart.
“She looked him in the eyes as he’s breathing in his last bit of life — paralyzed, injured — but he wasn’t dead yet,” Overstreet said. “She looked into his eyes and pulled the trigger, that’s the last time she saw him.”