Murder, She Wrote? Romance Novelist Allegedly Shoots Husband Out of Nowhere — but Mystery Remains
Romance novelist Nancy Crampton-Brophy was accused of killing her husband, culinary school instructor Dan Brophy
Dan, an instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute and Nancy, a self-published romance novelist who sold Medicare and life insurance polices, lived near Portland, where they raised chickens and tended to a large vegetable garden.
Dan’s fondness for his 68-year-old wife was on full display in his classroom where he’d affectionately refer to her as “management.”
“She was the love of his life,” Dan’s former student Travis Richartz tells PEOPLE.
The affection appeared mutual. On her website, Nancy 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?”
But on the morning of June 2, Dan was found by his students at the institute with mortal gunshot wounds. And nobody seemed more distraught about it than Nancy, his wife of more than two decades.
“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,” she wrote on Facebook the day after his death.
• For more on how a romance novelist became a murder suspect, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands now.
Those who knew Dan — who was also a mushroom expert — wondered how anyone could harbor animosity against him.
“I was in complete shock,” Dan’s student Madison Amburgy tells PEOPLE.
Not only was Dan known for his kitchen prowess and generosity with the local homeless community, he also posessed a dry wit and was known for his “Brophyisms” and other quirks — like making students wear oven mitts when they neglected to wash their hands, or making them wear a sombrero or clown hat if they forgot their chef’s hats.
“He had a closet full of different hats and jackets, and wacky cow outfits that you would velcro the parts of the cow onto,” recalls Richartz. “He was just that guy that you showed up to his class, kinda never knowing what to expect. He was always a guy to keep you on your toes.”
But, in September, in a twist befitting her own romantic mystery novels, Nancy was charged with murder in Dan’s death. Authorities allege she used a 9mm handgun to commit the crime.
She has pleaded not guilty and remains held without bail at the Multnomah County jail. Crampton-Brophy’s attorney could not be reached for comment.
‘How to Murder Your Husband’
So far authorities have not revealed a motive or evidence in the case and they have not disclosed details on how they believe the crime occurred. There were no surveillance cameras in the building in the institute where Dan was shot, and it is not publicly known what evidence authorities might have recovered from the Brophy family home.
But Nancy’s own words have come under question.
In November 2011, long before she was accused of murder, Nancy explained the perfect way to kill one’s husband in a tongue-in-cheek essay on her website entitled “How to Murder Your Husband.”
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
In a wry tone, in which she assumes the persona of a woman who wants to murder her husband, Nancy wrote, “Divorce is expensive, and do you really want to split your possessions?”
She added, “Or if you married for money, aren’t you entitled to all of it? The drawback is the police aren’t stupid. They are looking at you first. So you have to be organized, ruthless and very clever.”
Nancy concluded the piece by noting that “it is easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them.”
“I don’t want to worry about blood and brains splattered on my walls,” she wrote. “And really, I’m not good at remembering lies. But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us have it in him/her when pushed far enough.”
In a 2012 interview with the blog Romancing the Genres, Nancy 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.”
The couple’s close friend Tania Medlin says Nancy’s writings were just a joke and her musings were nothing but fiction. “She wrote about murder mysteries and [people] are spinning it way out of control,” she says. “I don’t believe she’s capable of this, I’ve known her, I know him, they were in love.”
But not everybody is convinced.
“I can tell you we’ve been briefed by the district attorney’s office, and that from what we know, the homicide charges are substantiated,” Christine S. Mascal, the attorney for Dan’s family, tells PEOPLE.
Mascal says that nobody suspected Nancy at first.
“I think everyone was somewhat surprised,” she says. “There was no history of animosity between the two.”
Now, friends and families are left with their fond memories of the chef they loved and respected.
“He’s not somebody you can replace,” says Medlin. “There’s going to be a hole for a while. He was an amazing person. He really was. He was very well-loved. He touched so many people’s lives, and I mean daily.”