$1.5M Payout Was the Motive for Romance Novelist’s Murder Plot: Court Docs

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Rachel Olding
·4 min read
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Multnomah County Sheriff
Multnomah County Sheriff

Oregon writer Nancy Crampton Brophy, 69, and her husband of 27 years, chef Daniel Brophy, had been struggling financially for a few years leading up to 2018, barely surviving month-to-month and falling behind on their mortgage repayments.

So, Crampton Brophy, a failing romance mystery novelist who penned a now-infamous essay titled How to Murder Your Husband, did just that, killing Brophy in mid-2018 so she could get $1.5 million and start a new life, police allege.

“[She] planned and carried out what she believed was the perfect murder,” Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill wrote in a memorandum filed in the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon, first reported by KGW8. “A murder that she believed would free her from the grips of financial despair and enter a life of financial security and adventure.”

Nearly two years after Brophy was shot in the back at his work, prosecutors finally revealed a motive in the sensational case this week and outlined some of the meticulous planning Crampton Brophy allegedly went to.

The 69-year-old made a bail application on Tuesday, asking to be let out of prison while she awaits trial because she is at high risk of contracting coronavirus. A judge denied her bid on Wednesday, citing the strong prosecution case, The Oregonian reported.

In a written memorandum arguing against her release, Underhill said that homicide detectives had learned, after interviewing the couple’s friends, that Crampton Brophy wanted to sell their home and travel the world, but she didn’t think she could convince her husband to do it.

The couple had been struggling financially for years, falling $6,000 behind in mortgage repayments while Crampton Brophy paid $16,000 in insurance premiums during 2017. Her self-published romance novels were financial flops too, Underhill wrote.

After Brophy’s death, Crampton Brophy stood to receive around $300,000 in home equity and $1.15 million in insurance payouts, including life insurance and a worker’s compensation claim that would have been paid out because Brophy was killed at work. She was an insurance agent and sold herself the policies, for which she was the sole beneficiary, Underhill wrote.

“Dan Brophy was content in his simplistic lifestyle, but Nancy Brophy wanted something more,” he argued. “As Nancy Brophy became more financially desperate and her writing career was floundering, she was left with few options.”

Brophy was shot once in the back with a Glock in the early hours of June 2, 2018, and then once more in the chest as he lay on the ground. His body was discovered by students and instructors arriving for class at the Oregon Culinary Institute.

Nearby CCTV captured a minivan at the scene that appeared to be the same as Crampton Brophy’s minivan.

During interviews with police, Crampton Brophy produced a Glock pistol that she and her husband had bought at a gun show that year, but it hadn’t been used before. Investigators then found she’d Googled “ghost guns” and purchased a Glock gun kit online from a “ghost guns” website, as well as a Glock slide and barrel from eBay.

Prosecutors allege she removed the slide and barrel from the gun show gun, inserted the eBay parts, shot her husband, removed and sold the eBay parts, and then reinserted the original slide and barrel—“thus being able to present a new, fully intact firearm to police that would not be a match to the shell casings she left at the scene,” Underhill wrote. She deleted her eBay account a few days after the killing.

In her online writings, Crampton Brophy sometimes made strange references to her married life. “I live in the beautiful, green, and very wet, Northwest, married to a Chef whose mantra is: life is a science project,” she wrote in one section on her website. “As a result there are chickens and turkeys in my backyard, a fabulous vegetable garden which also grows tobacco for an insecticide and a hot meal on the table every night. For those of you who have longed for this, let me caution you. The old adage is true. Be careful what you wish for, when the gods are truly angry, they grant us our wishes.”

Then there was her essay, How to Murder Your Husband, in which she touted her knowledge of police procedures and said she thought about murder frequently.

“Nancy Brophy once wrote that finances could be motivation for murdering, asking the question, ‘Divorce is expensive, do you really want to split your possessions?’” Underhill wrote in the court filing.

“Dan Brophy was worth about $1.5 million to Nancy Brophy if he was dead and he was worth a life of financial hardship if he stayed alive.”

Crampton Brophy has pleaded not guilty to the murder.

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