What Romance Novelist Told a Neighbor Before Surprise Arrest in Chef Husband's Murder
Nancy Crampton-Brophy, the writer of multiple romantic suspense novels, was arrested last week for allegedly murdering chef husband Daniel Brophy in June
The June 2 shooting death of 63-year-old Oregon chef Daniel Brophy — who was found mortally wounded in the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland, where he’d worked for more than a decade — rattled his friends, family and students.
But no one seemed more distraught than Brophy’s wife of 27 years, novelist Nancy Crampton-Brophy.
The day after Brophy died, Crampton-Brophy, 68, mourned him on Facebook, writing: “For those of you who are close to me and feel this deserved a phone call, you are right, but I’m struggling to make sense of everything right now.”
A day after that, as hundreds attended a candlelight vigil, Crampton-Brophy reportedly told attendees that “Dan was one of the very few people I’ve known that knew exactly what he wanted in life and loved doing it.”
Yet in a twist befitting Crampton-Brophy’s own romantic mysteries, such as Hell on the Heart and The Wrong Cop, authorities arrived at her home on Wednesday to take her into custody following a nearly three-month investigation.
In a brief statement announcing the arrest, Portland police said “detectives believe Nancy L. Crampton-Brophy is the suspect in Daniel C. Brophy’s murder,” but they did not comment further on her alleged motive or what evidence may link her to the crime.
A probable cause affidavit supporting Crampton-Brophy’s arrest has been sealed and prosecutors declined to discuss the case. Crampton-Brophy’s attorney did not return messages seeking comment.
She remains behind bars on charges of murder and unlawful use of a weapon.
While Brophy’s mother, Karen Brophy, told ABC News that her family “is just in shock” amid the revelation of her daughter-in-law’s suspected involvement, Crampton-Brophy’s sister, Holly Crampton, told the network that they aren’t swayed by the allegations.
“None of us believe it,” she said. “It’s craziness and it’s just not true.”
Those who know the couple are left to puzzle over what may have really been going on in their relationship, in light of the murder charge.
Neighbor Heidi Hutchinson, who lives not far from them in Beaverton, Oregon, recalls Crampton-Brophy saying this summer that her husband’s death had lingered — and a move seemed her best chance at escape.
“She said that his side of the bedroom was haunting her,” Hutchinson tells PEOPLE.
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“The memory of him was upsetting her, and she wanted to move pretty quickly,” Hutchinson says of Crampton-Brophy. “She wanted to get out of the house.”
Early last Wednesday, Hutchinson’s husband, Jeff Hutchinson, noticed police at the Brophy home: They had come for Crampton-Brophy.
“I think everyone in the neighborhood is surprised and shocked,” Jeff says. “It’s more disbelief.”
‘Finding Love and the Difficulty of Making It Stay’
Brophy, a well-known chef, mushroom expert and marine biologist remembered for his cutting wit and eclectic teaching style, was found by students and staff barely alive in his kitchen around 8:30 a.m. on June 2 at the Oregon Culinary Institute.
First responders unsuccessfully attempted to revive him.
Former student Travis Richartz tells PEOPLE that Brophy was not only known for his kitchen prowess and “Brophyisms” — such as “the best cure for a sick chicken is a shovel,” according to another student — but also for his generosity with the local homeless community.
“He would go and deliver hot meals to people,” Richartz says. “Every Thanksgiving we would do a big bake off, and all the pies he would personally go and deliver them.”
Brophy’s warm heart, he says, was also evident in how he spoke about his wife, whom he called “management” as a kind of culinary world in-joke.
“We knew that they loved each other very much, that she was his best friend,” Richartz says.
The affection appeared mutual. On her website, Crampton-Brophy described her marriage as having “ups and downs” but “more good times than bad.”
“I can’t tell you when I fell in love with my husband, but I [can] relate the moment I decided to marry him. I was in the bath. It was a big tub. I expected him to join me and when he was delayed, I called out, ‘Are you coming?’ ” she wrote.
“His answer convinced me he was Mr. Right. ‘Yes, but I’m making hors d’oeuvres.’ Can you imagine spending the rest of your life without a man like that?”
Until his death, Crampton-Brophy and her husband had lived for years in a rural neighborhood with their two dogs, PB and J.
He raised turkeys and chickens in their backyard and she wrote (under her married name) as well as sold Medicare, according to a criminal complaint in the case.
According to her Amazon biography, she published trade journal articles and technical writing for human-resources departments before joining the local chapter of Romance Writers of America in 2003, where she began writing stories “about pretty men and strong women, about families that don’t always work and about the joy of finding love and the difficulty of making it stay.”
In a 2012 interview with the blog Romancing the Genres, Crampton-Brophy was asked what attracted her to romantic suspense.
“Murder, mayhem and gore seem to come naturally to me,” she said, “which means my husband has learned to sleep with one eye open.”