Oregon romance novelist Nancy Crampton Brophy remembers plenty about the late spring day in 2017 that her husband was gunned down in a kitchen at the Oregon Culinary Institute, she testified Tuesday. She remembers going to bed late the night before, waking up that morning, putting clothes on, getting back into bed to write, and then fielding a phone call from a friend about something going on at the school.
There’s just one swath of Brophy’s memory of the morning of June 2, 2017, that’s fuzzy, she said in court. It’s the hour during which she drove her minivan to and from the school where her chef husband, Dan Brophy, worked. Nor does she remember what she was doing during the several minutes that elapsed between when surveillance footage shows her driving towards the school and away from it, the minutes during which her husband was murdered. That window, she said in court, is blank.
What happened during that stretch of time was a confusing thing for prosecutors to sort through in a Portland courtroom Tuesday. Questioned by detectives on the day of her husband’s killing, Brophy said she last saw her husband when he left for work. She then went back to sleep, and didn’t leave the house until her friend called to let her know something was going on at the school.
On Monday, she testified to her attorney that she now has a different memory, of driving to the area to do some writing, though she’s not sure if that memory is from June 2. On Tuesday, questioned by District Attorney Shawn Overstreet, Brophy’s story evolved a bit more.
“You agree you were driving around in front of the culinary institute at the exact time Dan was being murdered,” Overstreet asked.
“I was driving around for a full hour before Dan got murdered. I was only in the vicinity for six minutes. I don’t know that Dan was murdered in that time frame… I was driving around writing,” she said.
“Yesterday you stated you were there for a time… And you decided to leave. Your attorney then asked you if that was on June 2,” Overstreet continued.
“Because if I was down there, that’s what I was doing,” Brophy replied. “Now having thought about it for awhile, at 7:28 I definitely turned the van and was driving there, we all saw it, but I know I wasn’t parked in front of the building. I’m doing this based on putting this together, not based on actual memory.”
“If you have no memory,” Overstreet asked, “how do you know you didn’t go in the building?”
“You know, I’m reconstructing this, I’m reconstructing this because I have no memory,” Brophy said. “But I know in my heart —”
“What I’m asking is, did you go in the building, and how would you know if you didn’t?” Overstreet said. “Would you agree it’s possible you went into OCI on the morning of June 2 to use the bathroom?”
“Impossible,” Brophy said.
“Even though you have no memory of it?” Overstreet said.
“Even though I have no memory of it,” Brophy said.
And back and forth they went like that, prosecutor and defendant, until Brophy stopped to clarify something. “I have to apologize to you,” she said. “What I do is I reconstruct, based on what I know what would have happened, not what happened. Allow me to apologize for misleading you.”
“So that morning you get dressed, you go downstairs, you leave, you don’t have any recollection of where you went,” Overstreet said.
“No,” Brophy said. “I know I didn’t go into the building because I didn’t kill Dan. I know that for a fact.”
The two also went ’round and ’round about gun parts, in another bewildering exchange. Brophy testified that she bought both a gun kit, an actual gun at a gun show, and then a slide and barrel on eBay for the gun show firearm. The kit was research for a book, she said. The actual gun was for self defense, in the wake of a Florida school shooting. The eBay slide and barrel was also for research, she claimed, even though it matched the gun show weapon and not the kit gun.
Police found the gun show gun and the gun show kit, but ballistics from the weapon and the kit didn’t match the bullets used to kill Dan Brophy. The only thing detectives didn’t find was that eBay slide and barrel. She kept the gun show kit in storage, she said, being sure to mark the box that contained it, because she figured the police would eventually ask for it, she testified.
“Since I believed I didn’t kill my husband, I didn’t think I was a serious suspect,” she said. “But I told people I was a suspect because it’s always the wife.”
Overstreet repeatedly pressed Brophy to explain why she bought a slide and barrel to match the gun show gun—which was for self-defense—when it was the gun kit gun that she said was for research. “You didn’t buy other gun pieces, you bought a slide and barrel that would fit this gun,” Overstreet said.
“I wasn’t finished shopping, either,” Brophy replied.
“You have a gun that’s complete, the slide and barrel is intact, you know how to remove it, and in fact you did… but you chose to buy the exact same piece?” Overstreet said.
“I was thinking because for me the gun was the gun, the toy was the toy, the piece was the toy,” Brophy said.
“Why in the world, when you already own this exact piece, would you need to buy another one?” Overstreet asked.
“It was for writing, it was not to murder my husband,” Brophy said.
And where was that extra slide and barrel now, Overstreet asked?
“I have no idea,” Brophy replied.
“You didn’t lose the gun. You didn’t lose the gun kit,” Overstreet said. “Do you see the irony in not being able to locate that, and it being the allegation that it was the murder weapon?”
“I see nothing ironic about this case at all,” Brophy replied. Later, she reiterated, “I did not kill Dan. I didn’t kill Dan with the gun that was put together, the gun that wasn’t put together or the slide that we can’t find… I think your case is held together real frankly with Band-aids.”
Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here