"I find it is easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them. I don't want to worry about blood and brains splattered on my walls. And really, I'm not good at remembering lies."
Nancy Crampton Brophy, a 68-year-old romance novelist, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing her husband. Although cases like this aren’t necessarily uncommon, what’s particularly disturbing about this case is the fact that the suspect once wrote an essay ironically titled “How to Murder Your Husband”.
The 2011 essay was initially published on a website called See Jane Publish and is no longer available to the public, according to The Oregonian, but archived versions are still available online.
The 700-word piece outlines possible motives for why one would want to kill their husband, namely adultery, domestic violence, and greed. Brophy writes:
“As a romantic suspense writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about murder and, consequently, about police procedure. After all, if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail… I find it is easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them. I don’t want to worry about blood and brains splattered on my walls. And really, I’m not good at remembering lies. But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us has it in him/her when pushed far enough.”
Here’s how the romance novelist’s murderous fantasies went from fiction to reality.
The Murder Of Daniel Brophy: Suspicions Turn To The Wife
Nancy and Daniel Brophy had been married for 27 years, according to court records. They lived together at their home in suburban Portland which featured a lush garden and a farm filled with turkeys and chickens, seeming to have an idyllic life.
But on June 2, 2018, students at Oregon Culinary Institute arrived for class, only to find their 63-year-old instructor, Daniel Brophy, dead from two gunshots.
His death was immediately investigated as a homicide, but it wasn’t for another three months that investigators’ attention turned to their primary suspect: his wife, Nancy.
Traffic camera footage showed her minivan arriving at and leaving the institute during the 13-minute window in which Daniel Brophy was murdered. She claimed to have no memory of the drive, blaming “retrograde amnesia” from the trauma of finding out her husband had died.
A day after her husband’s death, Nancy Brophy took to Facebook where she expressed her grief. She described Daniel as her “best friend” and wrote that she was “struggling to make sense of everything right now.”
“While I appreciate all of your loving responses, I am overwhelmed,” the Facebook post read. “Please save phone calls for a few days until I can function.”
But Don McConnell, a neighbor of six years, told The Oregonian that Nancy Brophy didn’t have what he would categorize as a normal reaction to her husband’s death.
“She never showed any signs of being upset or sad,” said McConnell. “I would say she had an air of relief, like it was almost a godsend.”
McConnell also recalled discussing the murder with her and asked her if the police had been in touch with her. “She said ‘No, I’m a suspect,'” said McConnell, adding that she appeared to be unfazed and emotionless when giving her response.
Additionally, investigators determined from Nancy Brophy’s Internet search history that she been researching ghost guns. She then spent $15,000 on guns and gun parts, including a kit for a ghost gun that was delivered in January 2018 but that was never built. The next month, she bought a Glock handgun barrel on eBay.
Then, she searched online for “cleaning a Glock 17” and “loading a 9mm Glock,” and watched videos on assembling, disassembling, and cleaning a Glock 17.
While the gun that killed Daniel Brophy was never found, it was determined the bullets did in fact come from a Glock 17 handgun. Investigators believe she mixed and matched the parts, attaching the barrel she purchased from eBay to another Glock 17 she purchased at a gun show and then switching them back after the murder.
“It’s not totally out of the norm to look up a Glock 17 purchase, but when you break it down to a barrel and slide, well, that’s a little more interesting,” said former Portland Police Bureau Officer Aaron Sparling, who was tasked with analysis of digital evidence in the case, in an interview with Police1.
Nancy Brophy was arrested on September 6, 2018, and charged with the murder of her husband.
The Trial Of Nancy Brophy
Nancy Brophy was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Daniel Brophy. The trial began in April 2022.
The prosecution’s case was largely circumstantial, relying almost entirely on the traffic camera footage and her Internet search history.
“This case wasn’t built around photographs and text messages, it was built [entirely] around Internet evidence,” said former Portland Police Bureau Officer Aaron Sparling, who worked the case, according to Police1. “It’s all search history. I can’t recall a single other case in my tenure that was built off of Internet-related [evidence].”
And despite the ironic and aptly-named “How To Murder Your Husband” essay penned by Nancy Brophy, the judge ultimately excluded the essay from being used as evidence in the trial, largely due to the essay having been written seven years before Daniel Brophy’s murder.
“Any minimal probative value of an article written that long ago is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice and confusion of the issues,” Judge Christopher Ramras said, according to CBS News.
Prosecutors argued that money was the motive, claiming Nancy Brophy stood to benefit from several life insurance policies taken out on her husband, totaling an estimated $1.4 million. According to The New York Times, just a few days after her husband was murdered, she asked police for an official statement saying that she was not a suspect so she could collect on the life insurance policies.
“She had the plan in place,” said Shawn Overstreet, a deputy district attorney, during the trial’s closing arguments. “She had the opportunity to carry out this murder. She was the only person who had the motive.”
After seven weeks in trial and two days of deliberations, Nancy Brophy was found guilty of the murder of her husband. She was sentenced to life in prison.
“We’ve all been waiting three and a half, almost four years now to start grieving this loss,” said Nathaniel Stillwater, Daniel’s son from a previous marriage, in an interview with KGW8 News. “To finally have some closure has been very important and meaningful for our family, and feel that we can start to move on and remember my father always, but begin that process of starting to grieve.”