Nancy Crampton-Brophy is charged with murder and unlawful use of a weapon

By Christine Pelisek
September 12, 2018 03:39 PM
Nancy Crampton-BrophyCredit: Multnomah County Sheriff's Office
Credit: Multnomah County Sheriff's Office

In November 2011, long before she was accused of murder, novelist Nancy Crampton-Brophy explained the perfect way to kill her husband.

“As a romantic suspense writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about murder and, consequently, about police procedure,” she wrote in the essay “How to Murder Your Husband.”

Today, Crampton-Brophy, 68, stands accused of doing just that.

She was charged last week with murder and unlawful use of a weapon in the fatal shooting of her 63-year-old husband, chef Daniel Brophy.

Brophy, a well-known culinary instructor, mushroom expert and marine biologist remembered for his cutting wit and eclectic teaching style, was found mortally wounded by students and staff in his kitchen around 8:30 a.m. on June 2 at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon.

After a three-month investigation, police arrested Crampton-Brophy — the author, under her married name, of books such as Hell on the Heart and The Wrong Cop.

In a brief statement announcing her 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.

Her attorney did not returns calls seeking comment and she has not entered a plea.

The blog where Crampton-Brophy published her “How to Murder Your Husband” essay has since been made private but the URL and headline are still available to see via an internet search. A previous version of the piece, as reported on by The Oregonian and The Washington Post, is also preserved in full.

In a wry tone — equal parts explanatory and self-aware — Crampton-Brophy used her essay to detail various writerly perspectives on putting a spouse’s slaying into a story.

“What constitutes a good romantic suspense is the whys?” she wrote. “What happened that forced a person into this situation? How will they justify this action? (By the way, he needed killing is not a legal defense.) Can they keep a secret?”

In addition to five possible motives to give a character (“if you married for money, aren’t you entitled to all of it?”), she discussed the pros and cons of various methods — such as arsenic (“easy to obtain … easy to trace”) or a contract killer (“an amazing number of hit men rat you out to the police”).

Daniel Brophy
| Credit: Linkedin

Despite the morbidity, Crampton-Brophy concluded the piece by noting that, personally, “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, 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.”

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As Crampton-Brophy sits in jail, those who knew her and her husband are left to puzzle over what may have really been going on in their relationship.

Brophy’s former student Travis Richartz said he often spoke kindly 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 told PEOPLE.

The affection appeared mutual. On her website, Crampton-Brophy described her marriage as having “ups and downs” but “more good times than bad.”

She did not mention her husband by name. Instead she referred to him as a chef and by another name: “Mr. Right.”