A romance author writes about how to murder a husband—and then kills her spouse. It might sound like the plot of a novel, but it happened in Oregon in 2018.
Nancy Crampton Brophy, 72, shot and killed her husband, Daniel Brophy, on June 2, 2018 at the now-closed Oregon Culinary Institute, where he was a well-respected instructor. She was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in September 2018, and was found guilty in May 2022 after a seven-week trial. She was sentenced to life in prison and is serving her sentence at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon.
At trial, the prosecution said Crampton Brophy, a novelist, plotted for months to kill her husband in order to cash in on his $1.4 million life insurance policy and own their $300,000 home.
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The prosecution said the Brophys were struggling financially. The fall before Daniel Brophy was killed, the couple took out $35,000 from his retirement account, or about half its total, to catch up with mortgage and credit card payments, Portland’s KOIN 6 News reported.
Crampton Brophy testified she would “do better” with her husband alive, because they were cashing in their retirement plans and intended to downsize their property. The defense speculated Daniel Brophy’s murder could have been a robbery gone wrong.
Writing About Murder
According to Brophy’s Amazon.com author profile, her first published work was a pamphlet for the University of Houston titled “Between Your Navel And Your Knees” about the changing mores of sexuality in the 1960s and ’70s. She also wrote for trade journals and human resources departments, “but her true love was story-telling.”
In 2003, she joined the local chapter of Romance Writers of America and started publishing novellas and romantic suspense novels whose titles included “The Wrong Lover,” “The Wrong Hero” and “The Wrong Husband.”
“Her stories are about pretty men and strong women, about families that don’t always work and about the joy of finding love and the difficulty of making it stay,” her profile states.
Seven years before her arrest, Crampton Brophy wrote an essay titled “How to Murder Your Husband” for the website See Jane Publish, according to KOIN 6 News. (Other media described it as a blog post.)
The judge excluded the essay from trial, “but the prosecutor quoted its themes without mentioning it by name,” The Oregonian reported.
In her post, Crampton Brophy listed five motives for murder: financial; lying and cheating; falling in love with someone else; being abused; and being a professional (ie. a hired killer).
She also listed several methods for killing a person, including using knives, garrote (or strangling), poison, heavy equipment and hiring a lover or a hitman. As for guns, she wrote: “Loud, messy, requires some skill. If it takes 10 seconds for the sucker to die, either you have terrible aim or he’s on drugs.”
Ghost Guns and Footage
An autopsy showed Daniel Brophy was shot once in the back and then in the chest, at close range, while he was lying on the floor of a kitchen at the Oregon Culinary Institute. His students discovered his body; he’d been filling buckets of water and ice after arriving and unlocking the building in the morning, The New York Times reported.
A forensic scientist with the Oregon State Police testified that Daniel Brophy was likely shot with a Glock pistol, the same brand of gun parts that Crampton Brophy had purchased, Portland’s KPTV FOX 12 reported.
The prosecution said that in late 2017, Crampton Brophy started researching “ghost guns,” untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home. She spent $15,000 in guns and gun parts, including a ghost gun delivered in January 2018 that she didn’t have the skills to build, the prosecution said.
Investigators also found Crampton Brophy bought a Glock handgun barrel on eBay in February 2018. They theorized she attached that barrel—which was never recovered—to another Glock pistol she bought at a gun show, The Oregonian reported.
Video cameras captured footage of Crampton Brophy’s minivan near the Oregon Culinary Institute at the time her husband was killed. She claimed she had “no memory” of the trip. She and a psychologist called by the defense said she suffered retrograde amnesia from the trauma of finding out her husband had been murdered.
At trial, Stillwater described his father as an affectionate grandfather with a dry sense of humor. He also testified that his father and stepmother seemed to have a good marriage, and never spoke with him about their relationship or finances.
Stillwater said that, after his father’s murder, he took a week off to grieve and help Crampton Brophy, KPTV FOX 12 reported.
“I knew there was a lot to be done but [I was] also concerned for her well-being,” he said. “At that point in time, we didn’t know what had happened.”
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