Nancy Cooper

Brad Cooper guilty in wife's 2008 slaying

Posted May 5, 2011
Updated May 7, 2011

— A Cary man accused of strangling his wife and dumping her body in an unfinished housing development nearly three years ago was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday, after a lengthy trial that turned out to be the longest non-capital case in Wake County.

The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for more than 10 hours over the course of three days before reaching its verdict.

Bradley Graham Cooper, 37, who showed little emotion as the verdict was read, was sentenced to life in prison without parole, in Nancy Cooper's July 12, 2008, death.

Nancy Cooper with family Full trial coverage

"This is another milestone in the history of our family, and we were very pleased today with the hard work and the end of that hard work by the jury," Nancy Cooper's father, Garry Rentz, said shortly after the verdict.

"The tragedy is you have two young lives who were wasted – Nancy, who is no longer with us, and Brad, who now faces an elongated period of incarceration," he continued. "There isn’t joy in either of those events for us."

Defense attorneys said they were disappointed in the verdict and believed the case for their client's innocence was strong.

"We feel that, had the jury been permitted to hear the testimony of our computer experts, the verdict likely would have been different," attorney Howard Kurtz said in a statement. "It is our belief that the appellate issues are strong and we hope to have another chance to exonerate our client in the future."

Brad Cooper was taken to Central Prison in Raleigh, where he will stay until he's placed into the state prison system.

Jurors, some who cried after the verdict was read, declined to comment and were escorted from the courthouse by sheriff's deputies.

"This case, like most of the cases we see, has not been a happy case. This case is a horribly sad tragedy," Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner told them. "If you're bothered by what you've experienced in this case, you're not alone."

Brad Cooper guilty in wife's slaying

Nearly 100 witnesses testified over a course of 36 days in the trial as prosecutors sought to prove that an angry Brad Cooper, tired and fed up with Nancy Cooper, planned her murder and carried it out in the early morning hours of July 12, 2008.

Defense attorneys argued detectives never looked beyond their client as a suspect, because they were concerned that a random murder would tarnish Cary's reputation as a safe community. They characterized police work as being "dishonest" and "inept."

"They essentially tried to put the Cary Police Department on trial," said Karl Knudsen, a local criminal defense attorney not affiliated with the case. "When you do that, the prosecution then looks at what it has and makes a determination that if it's remotely relevant with what they have to prove … they're going to lay out everything they got. And that takes time."

Cary Town Manager Benjamin Shivar on Thursday disputed the defense claims in a written statement.

WRAL News Special Report: Brad Cooper murder trial Special report: Brad Cooper verdict

"With today’s verdict and despite the very public and hurtful allegations to the contrary, it’s clear that they are exemplary, and Cary is served by the best," Shivar said. "Since 1986 … our community has seen 19 murders, and with every one that has been brought to trial, the suspect has been convicted. Clearly, our police department has the knowledge, skills, abilities and resources to solve complex crimes."

Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore also responded to the verdict.

“Today’s verdict brings a terrible chapter in our community to a close," she said. "Nancy’s family and friends, as well as our citizens at large, can move ahead with confidence that justice has been served."

Brad Cooper, who was arrested in October 2008, told police that his wife went jogging around 7 a.m. the day she died and never returned home.

Howard Kurtz Trial excerpt: Jury's verdict

A man walking his dog on July 14, 2008, found her decomposing body – clad only in a sports bra – facedown in a drainage ditch off Fielding Drive in the unfinished Oaks at Meadowridge subdivision, 3 miles from the Coopers' home.

The state raised a number of questions during its five-week case about Brad Cooper's actions in the days leading up to and following Nancy Cooper's death.

That included the possibility that the certified expert in Internet phone technology for Cisco Systems staged a call from his home phone to his cellphone to make it appear that Nancy Cooper was still alive when prosecutors contend she was dead.

They argued that he searched Google Maps for Fielding Drive on his laptop computer less than 12 hours before she was killed and zoomed in on where the body was ultimately found.

Nancy Cooper's family reacts to guilty verdict Web only: Nancy Cooper's family reacts

Police never found they type of router and other hardware that would have allowed their client to stage a phone call, defense attorneys argued, and the computer evidence was tampered with. Jurors, however, were not allowed to hear from two expert defense witnesses on the Google search.

"It's certainly going to be an issue," said Dan Boyce, a former federal prosecutor who's now a defense attorney. "This was a highly unusual case in that it was largely based on unusual circumstantial evidence … the router, the cellphone, the computer, the Google map – all these issues that don't normally arise in a murder case."

More than a dozen of Nancy Cooper's friends and family members also testified about trouble in the Coopers' failing marriage, including signs that Brad Cooper was controlling of his wife.

Prosecutors react to guilty verdict Web only: Prosecutors react

He put her on a weekly allowance, monitored her phone calls and intercepted her email, witnesses testified, and he took away their two children's passports to keep her from returning to her native Canada when he learned of the proposed financial terms of a separation agreement.

"In today’s day and age, people under that domestic violence is far past that (not just physical violence)," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger said. "It involves strained relationships, emotional abuse and issues of control, and that’s exactly what you could see in this case."

In cooperation with the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, family members helped start Nancy's Butterfly Fund to raise money to help minimize the financial obstacles that might prevent women from leaving violent and nonviolent abusive situations.

"We as a family, I think, a long time ago made our minds up that we would not deal with ourselves as victims but deal with ourselves as survivors," Rentz said.

"We've come through the loss of a child. We know that loss is a result of domestic violence. We'd like to do what we can to solve the problem or to save some other family from the journey we've just gone through," he continued.

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  • solarflare40 May 11, 11:17 a.m.

    This headline should read, "Brad Cooper found guilty in wife's 2008 slaying." He was "found" guilty, but NOT proven guilty!

  • solarflare40 May 11, 11:16 a.m.

    RE: explain the map, don't say shoddy police work or whatever. Explain the map. Explain how this man looked at where his wife was found before her body was found. Once you have a good explanation for this, then maybe I will listen further. But this alone is enough to convict him. pstroud2 May 10, 2011 5:13 p.m."

    The computer forensics expert COULD explain the map, but Judge Gessner would not allow the jury to hear his testimony. Watch his testimony - it's still on wral (I think his name was Giovanni Masucci or something like that). Every single file related to the google search had invalid time stamp which translates into tampering. This happened while the Cary Police had the computer in their custody. Someone manually changed the time stamps in the computer but mistakenly made the all exactly the same. The expert stated that all of the time stamps should have been different. The person who planted the evidence was not aware of that fact! Brad Cooper was set up! It's clear!

  • pstroud2 May 10, 5:13 p.m.

    explain the map, don't say shoddy police work or whatever. Explain the map. Explain how this man looked at where his wife was found before her body was found. Once you have a good explanation for this, then maybe I will listen further. But this alone is enough to convict him.

  • solarflare40 May 10, 3:49 p.m.

    Very much worth repeating the link:

    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-604838

    Please go read the article and post comments (you have to sign up just like with GOLO) so we can bring our nation's attention to the injustice Brad Cooper received from our court system. The man needs a FAIR trial! Please copy the link and post it repeatedly so people can see what is posted on CNN's site!

  • pebbles262004 May 10, 11:04 a.m.

    The case had to have had the most ingorant jurys and judge ever in the history of N.C. to have found a man guily of murder with nothing but gossip of drama queens to go on...I feel sorry for us as a state. All of us are in trouble. (JA) needs to move to another state as no one wants a lier in there mist.

  • dollibug May 9, 11:34 a.m.

    A person IS NOT innocent until proven guilty..but the Brad Cooper Murder Trial as the title of this murder trial states...Brad Cooper was railroaded before the trial actually got going.......and did not have a chance to a "fair and just" trial....the trial was so very complicated and complex...with so many affairs, gossip, hearsays, thoughts and illusions....Brad Cooper was "convicted" before the state provided any of the could've, should've, would've and did not even had to provide ALL of the facts outright....this is why Brad Cooper was railroaded....I keep wondering....who was the Cary Police Department trying to protect by wiping out Nancy's cell phone....I think someone, somewhere right in Cary knows the real reason why....and I hope and pray that these people will NOT be allowed a peaceful life....the saying goes..."THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE"....

  • dollibug May 9, 11:28 a.m.

    http://www.itbinsider.com/?p=1212
    I wanted to share the above link with anyone who cares to
    know more and perhaps understand the "issues" which went on
    with all of the people in Cary connected to this "grand saga of a murder trial".....I am still not quite sure why it was called...."Brad Cooper Murder Trial"....perhaps someone wanted to protray Brad as the killer....even before he was tried....sounds like it to me...It is suppose to be that everyone and anyone in the USA is allowed to have a "fair and just trial" since this is supposed to be one of our country's Constitutional Rights...and knowing that this kind of "thing" could happen to any of us here....is really very sad....

    Perhaps we all need to put our self in Brad Cooper's place...
    would you really want to know that this is how anyone is protrayed before anything is actually known about what truly happened?

  • ThinkingPerson May 6, 6:26 p.m.

    "1) When first questioned, Brad Cooper immediately said his wife ran in a black jogging bra on the Saturday morning. Later he told police he never saw his wife leave the house? 2) There were scratches on her neck from where he had choked her with her necklace on. Also, scratches on his hands. 3) He Googled Fielding Drive the day before? 4) He never cleaned the house but suddenly, decided to clean up inside the house. 5) No attendance at any of the Memorial services?? Yes, you had a rocky marriage but this is the mother of your children? It does not add up in a jury's mind. I understand the guilty verdict now. And yes, if you kill your wife it IS domestic violence!!
    david35"

    WOW David, you need to go back and listen to the evidence again because you are incorrect on every single point you listed.

  • ferrellelliott May 6, 5:30 p.m.

    On TV and in the movies, they make it look so easy. The prosecution brings in and presents complex forensic evidence; they examine and cross-examine competent, articulate witnesses; everything proceeds smoothly; the presiding judge knows the law inside out and maintains order and decorum at all times. Not so in real life trials. Last time I sat on a jury, many years ago, I was convinced the accused was guilty. Unfortunately, the prosecution's evidence was so flimsy and so poorly presented that we had no choice but to find him not guilty. We wanted to go with our "gut" feelings but could not bring ourselves to do so. There was just way too much "reasonable doubt." Prosecuters and law enforcement personnel are human, just like the rest of us.. and yes, many of them are overwhelmed with work, yet we expect them to find and present convincing evidence, in every case they bring to trial. They failed with Brad Cooper but my "gut" feeling tells me he's guilty, anyway. I certainly hope so.

  • mrschizzy May 6, 5:25 p.m.

    david35 - Yes, if he did, in fact, kill his wife, then it is DV. However, I don't happen to believe he killed her.

    To your points:
    There were scratches on her neck from where he had choked her with her necklace on. Also, scratches on his hands. - I never saw this testified to. The only thing I heard testified was that one of the detectives said that he had some red rub marks on his neck, but no other physical signs of a struggle anywhere else on his body.

    Googled Fielding Dr. - actually, no he didn't He googled his zip code where he lives. I replicated that search and Fielding Dr. does show up in the larger map on the right hand side. Also, Google maps and site like it are made up of tiles. The prosecution didn't show the whole picture, only the one they wanted to show. He was only on the site for 43 second, not really enough time to find a particular spot that wasn't even developed back then.

    I could go on, but I'm running out of room...

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