Nancy Brophy sentenced to life in prison for murder of husband

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The morning he was murdered, Daniel Brophy’s body lay inside the kitchen of the Portland, Ore., culinary institute where he worked. One of the students who discovered his body described on Monday the chef’s final facial expression as “utterly heartbroken.”

Clarinda Perez, the student, attributed the chef’s green-eyed, grief-stricken look to the last thing she said he’d seen before two bullets pierced his spine and heart: his wife, Nancy Crampton Brophy, holding a 9mm Glock pistol.

Last month, after a seven-week trial, Crampton Brophy — a 71-year-old romance writer best known for penning a 2011 blog post titled “How to Murder Your Husband” — was found guilty of second-degree murder. On Monday, she was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years for the 2018 murder of her then-63-year-old husband.

Four years later, Brophy’s loved ones are still reeling from the loss. They described the pain of knowing his grandchild will never meet him — all because Brophy was killed by the woman for whom he’d cooked meals, washed clothes and brought into his family’s fold for 27 years.

“You opted to lie, steal, cheat, fraud, ultimately killed the man that was, for some reason still unbeknownst to me, your biggest fan,” Nathaniel Stillwater, Brophy’s son, said in a statement before the sentence was handed down. “You executed my father in an act of coldblooded, premeditated murder. The man that did everything for you.”

Over the course of Crampton Brophy’s trial, which began April 4, prosecutors with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office outlined for jurors how they believed she plotted the killing of the beloved chef at the Oregon Culinary Institute. They allege Crampton Brophy bought a ghost gun and attempted to collect life-insurance policies, mirroring things she’d written about in her romantic suspense novels.

‘How to Murder Your Husband’ writer on trial for allegedly killing husband

The Brophys’ marriage appeared idyllic from the outside — the “kind of relationship that made me personally think marriage may not be a bad idea,” Susan Estrada, the writer’s niece, tested in the trial. The couple built a quiet life in the Portland suburbs, where chickens frolicked in the backyard, hot meals were served every night and a “fabulous” vegetable garden bloomed, Crampton Brophy wrote on her website.

But cracks started forming when it came to the couple’s financial situation, prosecutors said. Money became tight the year before Brophy’s death — that’s when his wife hatched a deadly plan to collect the life-insurance policies, they said.

The alleged plot involved a kit to build a ghost gun, the type of untraceable weapon that people can assemble at home. But after having trouble putting it together, Crampton Brophy allegedly bought a pistol. Prosecutors argued that she replaced the gun’s slide and barrel with one she ordered on eBay — making the gun’s shell casings appear not to match the weapon she owned.

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On June 2, 2018, Crampton Brophy drove in her minivan to the culinary institute shortly before her husband arrived at work, surveillance cameras showed. When Brophy got there around 7:20 am, the chef poured ice and water into buckets he was filling by the commercial sink. That’s when he was shot dead.

Students at the now-defunct cooking institute found his bleeding body about an hour later. Perez, the student who gave a statement at Crampton Brophy’s sentencing, tried to administer CPR. Others called 911. Another one “courageously cleared out the kitchen, so no one would have to see Chef Brophy the way that [his wife] left him,” Perez said.

Shortly after her husband’s death, Crampton Brophy sought to collect $1.4 million in life insurance. That, prosecutors alleged, was the motive behind the slaying.

Police never found the gun that killed Crampton Brophy’s husband. During the trial, prosecutors posited that Crampton Brophy had replaced the gun’s barrel and then discarded it to throw off investigators. Her defense team, on the other hand, suggested someone else might have killed Daniel Brophy—perhaps during a botched robbery.

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Through it all, Crampton Brophy has maintained her innocence. When she took the stand, Crampton Brophy said she and her husband had both purchased life-insurance policies as part of their retirement planning. The weapons she bought, she said, were part of research she was doing for her upcoming novel — one about a woman in a toxic relationship who gradually began acquiring gun parts to gain the upper hand over her abusive lover.

But the jury was not convinced — instead, it unanimously found her guilty on May 25 after eight hours of deliberation.

An upcoming hearing for restitution is slated for August. In the meantime, Judge Christopher Ramras said he hoped the sentencing could bring closure to the loved ones of a man he’d come to know as “Chef Brophy” throughout the trial.

“I think the thing that you can take away, which I hope gives you some small measure of solace, is that he was a mentor and a teacher to many and had an impact over a lot of people’s lives, and hopefully they will turn and have an impact on others themselves as they teach,” Ramras said.

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