The victim was the type of cooking teacher who students were happy to get at the beginning of a term. Not only was he the Oregon Culinary Institute’s “resident encyclopedia of knowledge,” but he also had a very creative way of teaching, supplemented by an offbeat sense of humor.
He was the type of instructor who would make his students wear sombreros or spiked helmets if they forgot their chef’s hats. He’d even lead his students on field trips into the forest to forage for new ingredients. Needless to say, he was beloved.
Right from the start, police were baffled over Daniel Brophy’s murder. The 63-year-old chef had been found on the morning of June 2, bleeding out in his classroom at the Oregon Culinary Institute. His students had found him in the kitchen, bleeding from a gunshot wound. Yet there was no sign of a suspect and no one had seen anyone leave the kitchen.
Brophy’s wife Nancy appeared heartbroken when she heard about the killing. She posted the news to her Facebook page rather than calling her friends and family, citing that the grief was too much and that she was “struggling to make sense of this right now.” It was an odd response, though not unheard of considering the jarring nature of her husband’s death.
Dealing With It
As the weeks went on, Nancy’s neighbor, Don McConnell, noticed that the grieving widow seemed more off than usual. The two had been neighbors for six years and they knew each other pretty well. When the two discussed why anyone would want her husband dead, she seemed to bristle a bit at the question.
McConnell asked if the police were keeping her in the loop. She told him that because the police considered her a suspect, they hadn’t kept her abreast of everything in the case. This was not uncommon, as the spouse is normally the first suspect in such cases. Still, if you looked at their relationship, you’d be hard-pressed to think Nancy was capable of killing the man she loved.
The couple had been married for 27 years, which anyone who’s ever been married can tell you is a good long time. They had their ups and downs, but Nancy freely admitted that there were always more good times than bad. Nancy recalled the moment she knew that they were meant for each other.
She Knew Then
Nancy had been taking a bath and called out to Brophy to join her. He responded with “Yes, but I’m making hors-d’oeuvres.” It was more than enough to convince her that he was the one and the man she needed to spend her life with. Storybook love notwithstanding, the police had other reasons to consider Nancy a suspect …
Nancy Crampton Brophy was a novelist and she had a knack for writing mysterious romances with a murderous twist. Her main genre encompassed relationships that were “wrong, but never felt so right.” They were the kind of books with bare-chested men on the cover art. She was a productive writer, publishing at least seven novels.
The majority of those novels focused on steamy secret relationships between rugged men and strong women. The lead male characters were almost always Navy SEALs. Nancy certainly had a type. She also had a pretty solid Modus Operandi, or at least her characters did anyway. Many of those characters had a penchant for murdering their spouses.
The Wrong Cop
For example, in “The Wrong Cop,” Nancy writes about a woman who “spent every day of her marriage fantasizing about killing” her husband. A fantasy of death appears again in “The Wrong Husband,” in which a woman tries to flee an abusive husband by faking her death. There seemed to be a pattern.
Finally, her essay, “How to Murder Your Husband” offers a discussion on how one might murder one’s husband and get away with it. It describes the five core motives and a number of murder weapons one might use to commit murder in a romance novel. She posted it on the “See Jane Publish” blog in November 2011. It was proof enough that something might be amiss.
“How to Murder Your Husband” advised any would-be murderers against hiring a hit man to do their dirty work. She postulates that “an amazing number of hitmen rat you out to the police.” She also suggested not handing the job out to a loved one either; that this is the sort of thing one must do oneself.
Nancy also advises against using poison as a weapon in these types of murders. This is not only because it’s extremely traceable though. The other reason was less about getting caught and more about the long-term effects of poisoning. “Who wants to hang out with a sick husband?” she wrote in the essay.
Of course, it is still a question of motive in the end. Nancy had covered this in the essay by explaining that she would never want to do it in the first place merely because of the consequences. “After all,” Nancy’s essay explains, “if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail.”
Pull the Trigger
Ultimately though, the essay and her many years writing about spousal murder were more than enough to draw the investigator’s eyes in her direction. Indeed, she even appeared to follow some of her own advice. Police alleged that she hadn’t hired a hit man to do the job, she pulled the trigger herself.
The 68-year-old woman was arrested on charges of murdering her husband with a gun and the added charge of unlawful use of a weapon. She pleaded not guilty to the charge, but the evidence of wrongdoing and of plotting the terrible crime is certainly working against her. There was some proof in the essay that she may not have done it, however.
In the “How to Murder Your Husband” essay, Nancy expresses that though she often thinks about murder as a romance writer, she doesn’t see herself as being able to follow through with something so brutal. She further explains this by saying that she wouldn’t want to remember any lies or have to “see blood and brains splattered on the walls.”
Nancy added that she finds it much easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them. This statement, in and of itself, would be more than enough for the police to investigate. She also said that she knows everyone has murder inside of them if they’re pushed far enough. So the question was, did Daniel Brophy push her?
Dark Sense of Humor
It was more than possible. After all, Nancy had written about her 27-year marriage many times on the Internet. She would speak of it with a dark sense of humor that greatly amused her readers. Though, were these tongue-in-cheek jokes little more than humorous statements, or indicative of something more?
“My husband and I are both on our second (and final – trust me!) marriage,” Nancy wrote. “We vowed, prior to saying ‘I do,’ that we would not end in divorce. We did not, I should note, rule out a tragic drive-by shooting or a suspicious accident.” Such statements are remarkably telling.
Art and Life
There is no doubt that Nancy loved her husband, as anyone who knew them could tell you it was true. By all accounts, Daniel made her laugh and knew what to say and how to say it. One wonders what might have pushed her to murder. It remains to be seen whether this is a case of life imitating art or a grave misunderstanding.