Murder Trial Set to Begin for Romance Writer Who Penned 'How to Murder Your Husband'

Murder, She Wrote
Nancy Crampton-Brophy.Multnomah County Sheriff's Office

Nancy Crampton-Brophy is scheduled to go on trial Monday for allegedly shooting to death her husband.

Romance author Nancy Crampton-Brophy, who once penned an essay titled "How to Murder Your Husband," is accused of doing just that in her own life.

The 71-year-old's murder trial is scheduled to start Monday with opening statements in a Multnomah County courtroom in Oregon. She has pleaded not guilty.

What happened to chef Daniel Brophy is the stuff of crime novels. He was shot to death in the now-closed Oregon Culinary as he stood at the sink filling water and ice buckets. The June 2018 killing generated headlines far beyond Portland. Brophy, a celebrated and beloved cook and instructor, was married to Nancy for 27 years and was 63 when he was shot twice at close range.

His wife was arrested three months after his killing. Prosecutors say Crampton-Brophy’s lawyers used the COVID-19 pandemic to delay her trial and buy time to get her released, including filing a motion to allow her to await trial in a guest house to avoid catching the virus and another asking the judge to delay her trial because older jurors, who would be more sympathetic to the defendant, would likely avoid jury duty because they feared catching the coronavirus.

But Crampton-Brophy has remained behind bars since September 2018. She is charged with one count of murder with a firearm constituting domestic violence.

The murder was a mystery until authorities said they began digging in Crampton-Brophy's personal life.

Portland police said they discovered several insurance policies naming Crampton-Brophy the beneficiary if her husband died. The payout was increased by hundreds of thousands of dollars should he die on the job, police said.

On her computer, detectives allegedly found a ghost gun slide and barrel purchased on eBay that would match the 9mm handgun she told police she and her husband jointly bought at a Portland gun show, authorities said.

“Detectives then suspected that Nancy Brophy removed the original slide and barrel from the gun show gun that she relinquished to the police, replaced it with the eBay- purchased slide and barrel, shot her husband, and then replaced the eBay slide and barrel with the original, thus being able to present a new, fully- intact firearm to police that would not be a match to the shell casings that she left at the crime scene,” prosecutors said in court documents. 

The couple were in severe debt and had fallen $6,000 behind in mortgage payments, prosecutors said.

Then there were the writings of Crampton-Brophy.

“Writers are liars,” she wrote in an introductory post to her website. “I don’t remember who said that but it’s not true. In writing fiction, you dig deep and unearth portions of your own life that you’ve long forgotten or had purposely buried deep.”

In a 2011 essay on “How to Murder Your Husband,” she 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."

Under a section titled "Motives," the author wrote, “This is big. Divorce is expensive, and do you really want to split your possessions? Or if you married for money, aren’t you entitled to all of it? The draw back (sic) is the police aren’t stupid. They are looking at you first. So you have to be organized, ruthless and very clever. Husbands have disappeared from cruise ships before. Why not yours?”

In 2019, her stepson, Nathaniel Stillwater, filed a $1.7 million wrongful death suit against her over the killing of his father.

“Nancy Brophy planned and carried out what she believed was the perfect murder. A murder that she believed would free her from the grips of financial despair and enter a life of financial security and adventure,” Rod Underhill, the district attorney for Multnomah County, wrote in 2020 court documents.

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