Nancy Cooper

Brad Cooper's story raised red flag for Cary detective

Posted March 24, 2011 2:30 p.m. EDT
Updated March 25, 2011 10:28 a.m. EDT

— Brad Cooper's account of what happened the morning his wife went missing nearly three years ago raised suspicions for a Cary police detective investigating her disappearance.

Detective Jim Young testified Thursday that Brad Cooper told him early on in the case that his 2-year-old daughter, Katie, cried for about 15 minutes on the morning before Nancy Cooper disappeared before he got up and carried her out of the room she shared with her 4-year-old sister, Bella.

Bella, meanwhile, slept through the crying, even though it woke up Nancy Cooper in a room down the hall, Brad Cooper told the detective. He and his wife went downstairs and took turns trying to console Katie. Bella woke up around 8:30 a.m., that day, Young said, recalling a July 14, 2008, conversation with Brad Cooper.

"I had a red flag about the statement he had just said," Young testified.

Brad Cooper, 37, is now on trial for first-degree murder in his wife's July 12, 2008, death. He has said she went jogging that morning and never returned home.

Her body was found two days later at a construction site in a new housing development outside Cary's town limit, about 3 miles from the Coopers' home at 104 Wallsburg Court.

What also didn't seem to add up, Young testified, was that Brad Cooper spoke about an old pair and new pair of running shoes that Nancy Cooper used, but he never talked about the shoes she would have used to go jogging.

"As a third-party reasonable person, I would consider her to be wearing an old pair or a new pair to go running on July 12," he said.

There were also inconsistencies with the description of a dress that Nancy Cooper had worn to a party the night before her death.

Young had wanted it, he said, to provide Nancy Cooper's scent to a tracking dog. Brad Cooper described it as a blue, knee-length summer dress with thin shoulder straps.

When they couldn't find the dress, Young said, Brad Cooper told him that he was "quite certain" about the color.

He then left the house, returning a few minutes later with neighbor Diana Duncan to search for what she said had been a black dress, Young said.

Young said he, Brad Cooper, Duncan, her husband and detective George Daniels then searched the house a second time. When they couldn't find a black dress, they settled on a right Saucony running shoe for the tracking dog.

During an interview the next day, Young said, Brad Cooper presented a green-and black-patterned dress with wide shoulder straps. Nancy Cooper had spilled something on it, Brad Cooper told him, and she had been doing laundry the morning she disappeared.

"It took me aback, because we had been there looking for a blue or black summer dress the evening before," Young said.

Young said Thursday that he actually noticed a teal dress folded over a laundry hamper while he was searching but didn't pay much attention to it. It appeared to him to be a woman's shirt because of the way it had been laid.

"No part of that appeared to be a summer dress, and it definitely was not black or blue," he said.

In her testimony for the state on March 11, Duncan recalled that she had been outside the Cooper home on July 12, 2008, when Brad Cooper approached her for her help to find a black dress his wife had worn.

She said that she later realized Nancy Cooper had worn the green dress and that she thought Brad Cooper had purposely "compromised" her memory and tricked her into believing the dress was black.

Thursday marked the 11th day of testimony for the state, which has so far called more than 30 witnesses, including several of Nancy Cooper's friends and her mother who testified that they believe Brad Cooper killed her.

But prosecutors haven't presented any apparent physical evidence to link him to his wife's death.

The past several days, however, have focused on testimony about how investigators preserved, collected, tested and stored evidence. Such testimony is standard in murder trials, and it doesn't necessarily support any theory or argument by the state.

Brad Cooper's defense attorney, Howard Kurtz, has characterized Cary police's work in the case as "inept" and "dishonest," saying they disregarded evidence that didn't support their theory that Brad Cooper killed his wife.

Kurtz spent much of Thursday morning cross-examining another Cary police detective about computer forensics and procedures used to secure and collect evidence from cell phones and computers taken from the Cooper home.

He has said that protocols were ignored and that hundreds of files on Brad Cooper's computer had been tampered with while in control of police.