Local News

Autopsy: Nancy Cooper likely strangled

Posted September 29, 2008 5:57 p.m. EDT
Updated September 30, 2008 2:01 p.m. EDT

— 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.