Nancy Crampton Brophy killed Daniel Brophy, her husband of 25 years, after publishing an essay titled "How to Murder Your Husband."
In 2011, a self-published author named Nancy Brophy wrote an essay titled “How to Murder Your Husband.” Seven years later, she did just that.
Daniel and Nancy Brophy had been married for 25 years when Nancy walked into a kitchen at Oregon Culinary Institute, where Daniel worked as an instructor, and shot him twice. The two had been struggling financially, and prosecutors argued that Nancy wanted to cash in on Daniel’s substantial life insurance policies.
Nancy denied any involvement in Daniel’s death, claiming that she’d been at home in bed when he was killed. However, investigators in the case uncovered more and more evidence that pointed to Nancy, and they ultimately charged her with his murder.
In 2022, Nancy Brophy was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing her husband. Here’s how the romance novelist’s murderous fantasies went from fiction to reality.
The Murder Of Daniel Brophy
On the morning of June 2, 2018, students at Oregon Culinary Institute arrived for class to find their 63-year-old instructor, Daniel Brophy, dead from two gunshot wounds.
His death was immediately investigated as a homicide, but it wasn’t for another three months that police turned their attention to their primary suspect: his wife, Nancy Crampton Brophy.
Traffic camera footage showed Nancy’s minivan arriving at 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 Daniel’s death, Nancy Brophy took to Facebook, where she expressed her grief. She described her husband 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 consider 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 Nancy and asking if the police had been in touch with her. “She said, ‘No, I’m a suspect,'” stated McConnell, adding that she appeared to be unfazed and emotionless when giving her response.
All the while, investigators were indeed slowly but steadily building a case against Nancy Brophy.
The Evidence Mounts Against Nancy Brophy
As the police began looking into Daniel’s murder, they came across some suspicious evidence against Nancy that they just couldn’t look past.
First, investigators determined from Nancy’s internet search history that she had been researching untraceable ghost guns prior to the murder. Despite the fact that she and Daniel were struggling financially, she spent $15,000 on guns and gun parts in the year before his death. This included a kit for a ghost gun that was delivered in January 2018 but was never built. The following 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 used in Daniel Brophy’s murder was never found, it was determined the bullets did, in fact, come from a Glock 17 handgun. Investigators believe Nancy 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 Sept. 6, 2018, and charged with the murder of her husband.
Inside The Trial Of Nancy Brophy
Nancy Brophy’s trial began nearly four years later, 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 Sparling. “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 piece 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.
Nancy’s 700-word essay outlined possible motives for why someone would want to kill their husband, listing examples like adultery, domestic violence, and greed. Brophy wrote:
“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.”
Prosecutors argued that Nancy’s motive was money, claiming she stood to benefit from several life insurance policies taken out on her husband that totaled around $1.4 million. Just a few days after Daniel Brophy’s murder, Nancy reportedly asked police for an official statement saying that she was not a suspect so she could collect on the policies.
“She had the plan in place,” said Shawn Overstreet, a deputy district attorney, during the trial’s closing arguments, according to The New York Times. “She had the opportunity to carry out this murder. She was the only person who had the motive.”
After seven weeks on trial and two days of deliberations, Nancy Brophy was found guilty of murdering 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 [we] feel that we can start to move on and remember my father always, but begin that process of starting to grieve.”
After learning about the romance novelist who murdered her husband, go inside the disturbing story of Omaima Nelson, the model who killed her abusive husband — cooked his head. Then, check out this roundup of 23 infamous female serial killers.