Oregon romance writer seeks murder conviction reversal, citing prosecutor’s wink to infamous essay


A top prosecutor’s sly reference to an infamous essay, “How to Murder Your Husband,” is one of the reasons Oregon romance novelist Nancy Crampton Brophy should get a new trial, her attorney argues.

The how-to essay and trial figure prominently in “Happily Never After: Dan and Nancy” a new podcast from Wondery and The Oregonian/OregonLive.

An appeal filed earlier this year claims a dozen errors riddled Crampton Brophy’s murder trial in 2022, including the introduction of evidence found on Crampton Brophy’s laptop, as well as life insurance records that hadn’t been properly authenticated.

But more unusually, the appeal insists that Crampton Brophy shouldn’t have been allowed to answer prosecutor Shawn Overstreet’s final question while crossing-examining her in the fatal shooting of her husband, Dan Brophy.

Overstreet asked: “My last question to you, Ms. Brophy, is: If there’s one thing that you know about murder, is it that anyone is capable of doing it?”

He lifted the phrasing from the self-published writer’s now-fateful essay — a reference that skirted the judge’s order not to directly mention it. The news organization discovered the essay among Crampton Brophy’s online writings and wrote about it shortly after her arrest.

Crampton Brophy is serving a life sentence in state prison for killing her husband of 25 years on June 2, 2018. She shot him in his classroom at the Oregon Culinary Institute, where the chef worked as an instructor.

Multnomah County Circuit Court jurors deliberated only eight hours following the two-month trial before finding Crampton Brophy guilty of second-degree murder.

Prosecutors postulated that Crampton Brophy hoped to collect a hefty insurance payout. But she denied all, repeating on the witness stand that she loved Dan Brophy.

Judge Christopher Ramras had excluded her supposedly satirical murder essay on the first day of trial, noting it had been written in 2011 for a workshop and that any value in showing it to jurors was “outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”

Overstreet, however, circumnavigated Ramras’ ruling by asking Crampton-Brophy questions taken from the text without explaining the allusion. The verbose writer couldn’t help but respond, saying in part that she “absolutely” believed that anyone is capable of murder.

“If it’s your child,” she said, “10 to 1, you will find yourself capable of murder.”

In his 68-page motion for reversal, appellate defense attorney Ryan Scott argues Crampton Brophy’s opinion regarding humanity’s capacity for murder was irrelevant and improper character evidence — and should have been shut down by an objection.

Scott also argues that photos by police Detective Rico Beniga of a distinctive scratch on Crampton Brophy’s van taken at her home on the day of the murder should have been excluded from the case.

In Crampton Brophy’s initial accounting of events, she reluctantly drove to the shooting scene after hearing about police activity at the school. Once there, investigators told her that someone had killed Dan. She then told investigators she had a gun at home and invited Beniga to escort her home to retrieve it.

Beniga was still at her Beaverton home when he learned from other investigators that Crampton Brophy’s van had been caught on nearby surveillance camera footage driving to the school hours earlier, right before the shooting occurred.

Scott contends Beniga’s photos of the van, which the detective took from a part of the driveway not directly on the path to the front door, broke the “implied consent” that Crampton Brophy had given him to enter the home.

The defense attorney also seeks to suppress all evidence gathered from investigators’ warrants to search Crampton Brophy’s computers and phone. A judge had approved the warrants after police said a bookmark found on Dan Brophy’s tablet led to an article titled “10 Ways to Cover Up a Murder” and that they believed they would find more evidence in a search.

The couple shared an iTunes account, so any article bookmarked on one device was accessible to another, the warrant application explained.

The warrant’s approval led police to evidence that Crampton Brophy had purchased a “ghost gun” kit online and also bought parts for a Glock pistol on an online auction site, but Scott says the article was insufficient proof that Crampton Brophy’s digital devices would contain evidence of the murder.

The “10 Ways to Cover Up a Murder” article wasn’t written by Crampton Brophy, but was instead advice for would-be mystery novelists, not criminals, Scott contends.

Finally, the defense attorney argues that written declarations regarding the authenticity of business records created by a number of insurance companies shouldn’t have been introduced without testimony from a person who could vouch for their accuracy.

Scott declined to comment on the appeal.

Crampton Brophy’s bid for a new trial isn’t unexpected; her trial attorneys promised to appeal on the day of her conviction on May 25, 2022, though Scott’s brief wasn’t filed until this February.

The state must respond to the appeal by August.

Delays are common in the appellate court, however, and even a ruling in Crampton Brophy’s favor would mean only that she would be transferred back to the county jail in preparation for a new trial. For now, she will be eligible for parole when she turns 96.

The third and fourth episodes of “Happily Never After” was released Monday on all major podcast apps, while the second half of the series is available on the Wondery+ app.

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