Nancy Cooper

Brad Cooper was in shock, mother testifies

Posted April 27, 2011 2:50 p.m. EDT
Updated April 27, 2011 7:53 p.m. EDT

— Brad Cooper was in shock and was traumatized in the days following his wife's strangling death, his mother said Wednesday, as she testified about life with her son in the months prior to his arrest for first-degree murder.

Carol Cooper, of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada said that after Nancy Cooper's body was recovered from a drainage ditch on July 14, 2008, that she and her son would go on walks, go shopping and do housework, including painting and organizing the Coopers’ Cary home, to stay busy.

They grieved Nancy Cooper's death privately, she said, and chose not to attend a July 19, 2008, public service in her honor.

"Bradley had bought a bouquet of flowers and he had put a picture of Nancy at the front door – and her running cap," Carol Cooper said. "We wanted to be out of the public eye."

By that time, he was already involved in a high-profile custody battle with his wife's family over his two children. A family court judge had granted them temporary custody of Bella, 4, and Katie, 2, two days after Nancy Cooper's body was found.

"He was very sad. Very quiet," Carol Cooper said. "He couldn't believe his children had been taken and his wife, all in the same week."

Brad Cooper, 37, has said Nancy Cooper went jogging on the morning of July 12, 2008, and never returned home. Prosecutors contend that he killed her because of pent-up aggression and anger and dumped her body 3 miles from their Cary home.

Defense attorneys have said Cary police ignored evidence that could have proved Brad Cooper didn't kill his wife and have accused investigators of being dishonest.

Carol Cooper's testimony was their latest attempt at discrediting police work in the case.

Detectives said they were never able to find wooden ducks that sat on a table in the foyer of the Cooper home and thought that they might have been broken during a struggle.

But Carol Cooper testified that she remembered seeing them packed in a box several weeks after Nancy Cooper's death.

They were part of several pieces of artwork that Brad Cooper had given to his attorney in the custody case to help pay his legal bills, she said.

Earlier Wednesday, longtime friends Laura and Mike Hiller testified that the couple was often cordial to one another in public and that they had no indication of physical or emotional abuse in the relationship or that Nancy Cooper was scared of her husband.

The testimony differed from that of earlier witnesses, who said Nancy Cooper often talked about her failing marriage after her husband admitted to an affair with a friend of hers and her desire to divorce him and move with their two children to Canada.

Although they were aware the marriage was in trouble, the Hillers said they never knew information that other witnesses have testified that Nancy Cooper told them about.

Among those details were that Brad Cooper gave his wife a weekly cash allowance and took his daughters' passports to keep his wife from leaving the country. Nancy Cooper also had suspicions that someone was listening in on her phone calls, other witnesses testified.

Defense attorney Howard Kurtz said in opening statements in March that, in the year prior to Nancy Cooper's death, she developed close friendships – many with mothers she met at her daughters' preschool – and aired to her new friends the marriage's "dirty laundry" and embellished stories about her relationship with her husband.

Friends, like the Hillers, Kurtz said, weren't "fed the same distorted information."

"Nancy had some distinct groups of friends," Mike Hiller testified Wednesday.

In the hours and days following her death, there was disagreement among the friends, Hiller said, about what might have happened to her and what her plans had been the day she went missing.

"We didn't get together and disagree, but there were different beliefs," he said.

One of those beliefs was whether Nancy Cooper had planned to help paint at 8 a.m. the home of one of her friends, Jessica Adam.

Laura Hiller testified that Nancy Cooper never mentioned plans to paint on July 12, 2008, but did talk about going to the pool and possibly having a game night that evening with the Hillers.

Mike Hiller said that he also had plans to play tennis with Brad Cooper that day at 9:30 a.m. and that Nancy Cooper knew about them.

He and Adam got into a confrontation outside the Cooper home shortly after Adam reported her friend missing, he recalled Wednesday.

"I don't understand how you could have painting plans, because Brad and I were going to play tennis,” Hiller said he told Adam.