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Brad Cooper wants judge to postpone custody decision

Nancy Cooper's husband, charged with her murder, wants the court to keep in place a temporary order that places the couple's children in the care of her family.

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Nancy Cooper with family
RALEIGH, N.C. — Brad Cooper wants to postpone a permanent custody decision regarding his two young daughters until after his murder trial.

In a motion filed Monday afternoon, the 35-year-old Cary father asked a Wake County court to keep in place a temporary order that places the children, Katie and Bella, in the care of their slain mother's family.

A judge last fall awarded Nancy Cooper's parents, Garry and Donna Rentz, and sister, Krista Lister, temporary custody after they claimed Brad Cooper was an unfit father, mentally unstable and was emotionally abusive to his wife in the months prior to her death.

Nancy Cooper's body was found July 14 in an undeveloped subdivision about three miles from the couple's home. An autopsy found she was likely strangled. Brad Cooper is charged with first-degree murder.

A hearing to decide permanent custody is scheduled for June 1, but in the motion, attorney Deborah Sandlin writes that it is in the best interest of the children to continue the custody hearing until after the criminal trial. No date has been set for that.

"It is Mr. Cooper's desire to shield his children from as much publicity as possible within his control," the motion states. "Mrs. Cooper's murder has drawn international press attention and has been closely followed by the media, locally, nationally and internationally."

Brad Cooper, through his attorneys, has denied playing any role in her death. He has said in court filings he last saw her on July 12 before she went jogging. When she did not return, he has said, he went looking for her.

Calls to Sandlin were not returned Tuesday, but Brad Cooper's defense attorney, Howard Kurtz said, "I think it makes perfect sense," when asked about his client's request to delay the custody hearing.

"The Rentz and Lister families remain committed to Katie and Bella and making sure that the permanent custody order protects the girls," their attorney, Alice Stubbs said. "We are reviewing the motion and will file a response at the appropriate time."

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