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Brad Cooper won't face death penalty

Posted December 5, 2008
Updated December 7, 2008

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— Brad Cooper learned Friday that he won't face the death penalty if he is convicted of killing his wife.

The 35-year-old was charged with first-degree murder more than four months after Nancy Cooper’s body was found in an undeveloped subdivision less than three miles from the couple’s home in the Lochmere subdivision in Cary.

First-degree murder is punishable by either the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ruled the case doesn't qualify for capital punishment after prosecutors said in a Friday morning hearing that there were no aggravating factors in the case, such as the commission of another crime that led to Nancy Cooper's death.

"Based on the investigation our office is aware of working with the Cary Police Department, we don't believe at this time there are any aggravating factors to proceed capitally," Assistant Wake County District Attorney Howard Cummings said.

Cummings said after court that because the investigation is ongoing, the state can still go back to the judge and ask for the death penalty if new evidence points to aggravating circumstances.

Cary police, for example, obtained records of Brad Cooper's Google e-mail account this week, according to a search warrant released late Thursday. Investigators said he had rigged his wife's personal e-mail account to forward copies of all incoming messages to his e-mail account, including messages from her attorney as a separation agreement was being drafted last spring, according to the warrant.

Brad Cooper told police he last saw his wife on the morning of July 12 before she went running. A friend reported her missing after she failed to show up for a scheduled meeting.

A man walking his dog on July 14 found Nancy Cooper's body lying on the bank of a storm water pond. The 34-year-old mother of two was likely strangled, according to a medical examiner's report.

Through his attorneys, Brad Cooper has denied being involved with her slaying but has admitted to police that he and his wife were having marital difficulties.

He has been held without bond in the Wake County Jail since his arrest, and defense attorney Howard Kurtz asked Stephens to set a bond Friday morning, saying Cooper's job at Cisco Systems Inc. depended on him getting out of jail.

Stephens was a bit put off by the request, noting that notice is usually required for a bond hearing.

"Mr. Cooper's employment may be important to him, but frankly sir, it is of little consequence in the scheme of things in light of the charges he is facing," Stephens said.

A Cisco spokeswoman said that, as of Friday morning, Cooper was an employee and that the company was reviewing his status in light of the charges. Kurtz said after the hearing that Cooper would resign from the company

Kurtz said Cooper has no criminal history and continued to live and work in Cary after his wife's death, even though he knew the police investigation centered on him. He said Cooper's mother would stay with him.

Stephens set a $2 million bond and said he would revisit the matter in February if Cooper were still in jail at that time.

"It's a bond that almost no one can make," Kurtz said, adding that keeping Cooper in jail hinders the defense. "Our focus here is to clear Brad Cooper's name, and our focus all along has been to clear his name."

Claiming Cooper was emotionally abusive to his wife in the months prior to her death, Nancy Cooper's family was granted temporary custody of the couple’s two young daughters.

Under a judge’s order, Cooper is limited to two 15-minute phone calls with the girls each week as long as he is in jail. He may correspond with them through the mail.

Also, as part of the temporary arrangement, neither he nor Nancy Cooper’s family are allowed to discuss with the children the circumstances of their mother’s death or the charges against him.

Nancy Cooper's parents, Garry and Donna Rentz, said Friday they were pleased with prosecutors' decision not to seek the death penalty. Garry Rentz said the family was consulted but left the decision in their hands.

"We've been through a horrendous five months," he said. "We're really pleased that there's some light at the end of this period. We've been really lucky a lot of things have gone right."

Donna Rentz said the Coopers' daughters, Bella, 4, and Katie, 2, are doing well and that the extended family is looking forward to spending Christmas together.

"It's a time when we're going to take time for Nancy, and we are having our own private family memorial for her, and we're expecting that to be very special," she said.


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  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 11, 2008

    This country is founded on INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY!! Not GUILTY TILL PROVEN INNOCENT!! Go back to you History classes!!!!

    Absolutely! If only we as people would see and agree to that. But I feel Mr. Cooper is innocent. But time will tell on that.

  • Alexia.1 Dec 8, 2008

    teacher-mom, I don't know why they have death penalty, either. As I see it, if you kill a man in vengence (or "justice"), you are just as guilty as killing as the killer is. But, that is just my opinion.

    That said, I do not believe this man is guilty. What amazes me is that the police are still gathering evidence even now. After he was indicted at a last-minute, unscheduled hearing before the Grand Jury (who were in a rush to go home for the day), the police went back to his house to get evidence. They just issued a search warrant for Google to find more info about him. In short, they clearly do not have enough to win a case. He should never have been indicted in the first place.

  • valleyGirl Dec 5, 2008

    Lets all celebrate our freedom tonight. Be glad you are not behind bars.. There are reasons Mr Cooper is behind bars. Do not put yourself in position to forfeit your freedoms. Relax and be happy.

  • cupcake1989 Dec 5, 2008

    exxe 75 is not posting on the wrong blog - common sense man you need to wake up and get some common sense. :)

  • cupcake1989 Dec 5, 2008

    Have any of you read his affividats? His can be proved with say video tape from Harris Teeter, an eye witness seeing his wife on the day she was jogging, cell phone bills show every message text or call. Where is your common sense people?? If his rights where is children are concerned have been destroyed and THEY HAVE - then you COULD be next. Judge Sasser could potenetially target you if you did something or thought you did something. You should be ashamed of yourselves!!! This country is founded on INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY!! Not GUILTY TILL PROVEN INNOCENT!! Go back to you History classes!!!!

  • cocker_mom Dec 5, 2008

    NC Statue says that one or more "statutory aggravating circumstances" must be present in a 1st degree murder case in order for prosecutors to seek the death penalty. It's not that they "don't want to", or that 1st degree is "the easy way out". In this case, it does not appear that any one of the 11 fit (I looked them up - and if you want to discuss the why's and wherefore's or death penalty cases, so should everyone). There is one circumstance "for pecuniary gain", i.e. money - but getting that to fit here would be a bit of a stretch even though most of us can concede that there was a general undertone of money in this entire situation. The only other one would be a homicide that was "heinous or cruel" - but really - what homicides aren't???

    So - there's a matter of statute that dictates if the DP can be pursued - not the whim of the DA, or even what the public wants. (as it should be)

  • RyeBread Dec 5, 2008

    "Mr. Cooper's employment may be important to him, but frankly sir, it is of little consequence in the scheme of things in light of the charges he is facing," Stephens said."

    So much for the concept of "innocent until proven guilty."

    This whole thing stinks of political connivery in my opinion.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 5, 2008

    "I think he should face the death penalty. They (the courts) very seldom use it. I do not know why they even have it."

    It's easier for lawyers to get a 1st degree murder conviction than it is to get a death penalty conviction.

    Lawyers take the easy way out.

  • teacher-mom Dec 5, 2008

    I think he should face the death penalty. They (the courts) very seldom use it. I do not know why they even have it.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 5, 2008

    What concerns me is that Nancy Cooper's friend was too quick to say that Brad did something to Nancy when she reported her missing.

    I bet that Nancy's friend knows more than she's saying about who killed Nancy.

    Something doesn't seem right with this situation.