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Autopsy: Nancy Cooper likely strangled

Posted September 29, 2008
Updated September 30, 2008

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— A Cary woman found dead in an undeveloped subdivision in July likely was strangled in "homicidal violence," according to an autopsy report released late Monday afternoon.

The report also states there was no other trauma to Nancy Cooper's body other than a faint mark on her neck and a bone fracture in the same area.

Cooper, 34, was reported missing July 12 after she failed to show up to help paint a friend's house. Her husband, Brad Cooper, told police she went jogging around 7 a.m. that day and never returned.

A man walking his dog near Holly Springs Road and Fielding Drive – less than three miles from the Cooper home – found her body lying on the bank of a storm water pond near a cul-de-sac in the yet-unbuilt Oaks at Meadowridge subdivision.

According to the autopsy report, her body was decomposed because of the elements, and she was clothed only in what the report refers to as a black, gray and red "halter top" pulled up in an unusual way. She also had on one diamond earring.

There were no obvious signs of sexual assault, the medical examiner reported, and there were no drugs other than caffeine in her system. Ethanol was present, but the medical examiner concluded that was likely created by the decomposition of the body.

"Based on the history and autopsy findings, it is in my opinion that she died as a result of external causes, homicidal violence, most likely asphyxia by strangulation," Dr. John D. Butts wrote.

Cary police have not named a suspect or person of interest in the case and have said very little about the investigation.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore said investigators are making progress in the case, but declined further comment.

"Outside her family, no group is more committed to resolving Nancy's murder than the Cary Police Department, and as it's been since the day she disappeared, not one day goes by that we aren't working hard, making progress and coordinating closely with the FBI, SBI and the Wake County district attorney's office," Bazemore said.

Also in a statement, Nancy Cooper's father, Garry Rentz, said the release of the autopsy is "particularly poignant and painful but necessary" to help convict the person or persons responsible for his daughter's death

"The journey to truth and justice can be long and arduous," he said.

Brad Cooper has adamantly denied being involved in his wife's death, and police have not said they suspect him. His attorneys could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

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  • duwbit Oct 1, 2008

    Rev-Sounds like the bleach was rumor. But just because he didn't buy bleach doesn't mean he wasn't involved. You don't need bleach to clean up blood if he strangled her.

  • something2say Sep 30, 2008

    Story telling time:
    If she did go running, couldn't see have been grabbed by someone in a vehicle, assaulted, killed and then dumped? If something like that happened then more than likely you are looking at more than one individual and the clothing, shoes and socks she had on were left in the vehicle.

    It was stated that her friends and relatives said she always ran with her phone and keys. Well, maybe that is true during the week when she is running and the kids are at School. On the weekends she wouldn't need keys to get in the house and wouldn't need her phone as the father of her children was caring for them.

    Lots of speculation I know but we don't have much fact to go on.

    It would seem to me that at this point we will always wonder what really happened to Nancy Cooper! Unless some DNA testing hasn't been completed I can't imagine what else they might find now to bring in a suspect.

    Brad Cooper will live with a cloud of suspicion always around him. And I for one will wo

  • Adelinthe Sep 30, 2008

    chauncey - "... it may not be her shirt."

    It wasn't a shirt; it was a sports bra, and she was wearing it. So how could it not have been hers???

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Adelinthe Sep 30, 2008

    turtlestew - "Note that the autopsy report didn't include a specific time of death. It only said it fit in the interval she was reporting missing. The interval would include the hours prior to 7am as well. So don't think she couldn't have been placed there earlier in the moring."

    Like some of her neighbors are saying she was murdered the night before and that Brad was in the Harris Teeter buying bleach to clean up the mess, when video at Harris Teeter show he was buying milk and laundry detergent.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • duwbit Sep 30, 2008

    Note that the autopsy report didn't include a specific time of death. It only said it fit in the interval she was reporting missing. The interval would include the hours prior to 7am as well. So don't think she couldn't have been placed there earlier in the moring.

  • Adelinthe Sep 30, 2008

    chauncey7381 - "I think her shoes were removed to get her shorts off; to destroy the evidence of the perps fibers; or to prevent being kicked."

    Hmmm, interesting!

    Thanks for the info.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • chauncey7381 Sep 30, 2008

    Rev--here is the exact verbatim from the report.

    +++Autopsy examination revealed decomposed remains whose condition is consistent with the time interval she was
    reportedly missing.+++

    I think her shoes were removed to get her shorts off; to destroy the evidence of the perps fibers; or to prevent being kicked.

  • Adelinthe Sep 30, 2008

    Chauncey - "Time of death was consistent with the time she was reportedly missing according to the Medical Examiners report."

    Thanks for that information.

    If this is indeed the case, it could NOT be the husband, for we know, by the statement of the neighbor who called for Nancy, that he was home with the children at that time.

    Praying for the children.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Adelinthe Sep 30, 2008

    keeptraveling - "I think the strangling was accomplished with a cloth held down over her, perhaps a pillow...or the top she was wearing stretched down and across her neck... maybe I'm wrong but I think they were saying that injuries were consistent with this type of attack..."

    That's not in the autopsy report, so who was saying that?

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Adelinthe Sep 30, 2008

    "I didn't read anywhere whereany hand prints or brusing was found around the neck?"

    The hyoid bone can be broken simply by crushing the neck with someone's fingers.

    The autopsy report said there was too much decomposition around the neck to determine if there were finger marks there or not.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

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