Anger led to Nancy Cooper's slaying, lead detective says
Posted April 15, 2011 12:31 p.m. EDT
Updated April 15, 2011 6:36 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Nancy Cooper's slaying nearly three years ago was a domestic issue that blew up after months of marital troubles, and her husband, Brad Cooper, was upset about how she had treated him in the days leading up to her death, the lead detective in the case testified Friday.
"The motive that I saw was a motive of anger – a motive of pent-up aggression – and at some point, he just couldn't take it anymore," Cary police detective George Daniels said.
Taking the stand for a second day in Brad Cooper's first-degree murder trial, Daniels testified that a number of factors led him to that conclusion. Among them: tension over finances and distrust stemming from an extramarital affair that Brad Cooper had in 2004.
"We were looking at the totality of the whole circumstances, and looking at that, it became evident to me, at the time, that this was a domestic issue," Daniels said.
Nancy Cooper had been upset and angry with her husband about the cleanliness of their house when she returned home from a weeklong vacation that week, Daniels said.
"I could tell by his statements, in the beginning, that he was hurt, that he was upset by how she treated him when she came back home from her vacation. He said he thought that he had cleaned the house," Daniels said
The day before her death, on July 11, 2008, he said, the couple fought over money, specifically a weekly cash allowance she usually received, and Nancy Cooper embarrassed her husband in front of their neighbors at a barbecue that night.
"She doesn't argue with him. She argues at him, and there's tension between them," Daniels said.
Prosecutors say Brad Cooper killed his wife several hours later, in the early-morning hours of July 12, 2008, when she returned home from that neighborhood party.
Brad Cooper has said his wife went jogging at 7 a.m. that morning and never returned home.
Two days later, a man walking his dog found Nancy Cooper's body lying facedown in a drainage ditch at the end of a cul-de-sac in the undeveloped Oaks at Meadowridge subdivision on Fielding Drive, 3 miles from the Coopers' Cary home.
She had been strangled, an autopsy found.
Defense attorneys say Cary police work on the case was inept and dishonest because investigators ignored evidence that could have led them to Nancy Cooper's killers and tampered with computers to support their theory that Brad Cooper killed his wife.
Daniels spent hours being cross-examined about his handling of the case, specifically a 6:40 a.m. phone call that, the defense says, Nancy Cooper made to her husband while he was driving to the grocery store to get milk.
The phone call, attorneys say, proves Nancy Cooper was alive when the state says she was not.
Investigators theorized that Brad Cooper, an expert in Internet phone technology, somehow made the phone call himself – either by scheduling it or by calling remotely.
"He had the know-how. He had the means to do it and the opportunity to do it," Daniels said.
Defense attorney Howard Kurtz said there was no proof. Brad Cooper didn't have the technology in his home to make the call remotely, and phone logs and records don't indicate he did, Kurtz said.
"You don't have any phone records that can show that's what happened?" Kurtz asked.
"No," Daniels said.
"You have no expert that can show that's what happened?" Kurtz asked.
"No, I don't," Daniels replied.
Daniels said earlier that investigators spent months collecting information and evidence and following up on information in the case.
Information from Brad Cooper's company computer, which included an Internet search of Fielding Drive the day before Nancy Cooper disappeared, and a deposition he gave for a custody case involving his two children, raised concern for detectives.
Statements he made in the deposition about doing laundry, sleeping with the children, cleaning the garage and his car trunk and the dress his wife was wearing the night before her death were inconsistent with information investigators had learned from other sources, Daniels said.
"He's saying she wore a dress that he couldn’t tell us the color, at first, but then he tells us he washed it because it had a stain on it," he said. "As we're looking into this, from July to October, I'm thinking, 'Yes, in fact there might have been a stain from where he choked her when she came home that night.'"
"In looking at all this and putting all this together and then having the final part of knowing he knew about Fielding Drive. He was still in what I say was in an act of not really feeling responsible for (his wife's death)," Daniels continued.
Brad Cooper never called police to find out about the ongoing investigation, Daniels said, and at a certain point, he addressed himself as a suspect.
"When you take away all the computers, all the cellphones, all the other things, you've got a domestic issue," Daniels said. "There was a domestic incident that occurred, and I believe that was homicide."
"How many times did he look you in the eye and say, ‘Detective Daniels, I did not kill my wife?'" Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings asked.
"He never did," Daniels replied.