Nancy Cooper

Cooper detective questioned about wiped cellphone

Posted March 30, 2011 2:26 p.m. EDT
Updated March 30, 2011 10:26 p.m. EDT

— One of the Cary police detectives assigned to help investigate the 2008 death of Nancy Cooper spent a fifth day on the witness stand Wednesday as defense attorneys tried to discredit the work that led to their client's arrest.

Brad Cooper, 37, is on trial, facing a life sentence in prison if convicted of first-degree murder in the July 12, 2008, death of his wife.

Her body was found approximately 3 miles from the couple's Cary home in a drainage ditch. An autopsy found she had been strangled.

Detective Jim Young, who was one of two primary detectives assigned to the case, faced tough questions Wednesday from defense attorney Howard Kurtz about how he handled evidence in the case, specifically Nancy Cooper's password-protected BlackBerry smartphone from which he said he accidentally deleted data while trying to unlock it.

Young said he contacted the cellphone carrier, AT&T, to help him obtain access to Nancy Cooper's call history and a text message she had received on July 12, 2008.

He said he talked to an AT&T representative who told him he would need to go through a sequence of screens before entering a PIN unlock key (PUK) code.

It was more than a week later that he attempted to access the phone data based on what he remembered the instructions to be, Young said.

He was never prompted for the PUK code and, instead, was warned that the phone's data would be wiped from the device.

He proceeded, thinking "the PUK code request screen was forthcoming," he said.

Young said that he never tried to call AT&T to try to recover the data because the information he had sought was already contained in cellphone records.

Also discussed at length Wednesday morning were shoes – those of both Brad Cooper and Nancy Cooper.

Young has testified that Brad Cooper told him during an initial interview that Nancy Cooper had an old pair and new pair of running shoes but never mentioned a third pair of shoes that the defense contends she might have worn jogging on the morning of her death.

Investigators were never able to account for the shoes, a pair of women's Saucony 3D Grid Hurricane running shoes purchased from The Athlete's Foot in September 2006.

Police did find two right shoes, Kurtz said, and he questioned Young about whether detectives believed Brad Cooper disposed of two left shoes by accident.

Young said he was never able to determine what happened to the shoes and couldn't determine whether they had been returned – the store didn't track returns – or disposed of.

"I wouldn't classify those shoes as missing," he said.

Young also testified that he never asked Brad Cooper about a pair of shoes that he was wearing in one of two Harris Teeter surveillance videos on the morning of his wife's death.

He made two trips to the store within about 20 minutes and was wearing different shoes on each trip.

By the time he learned about the surveillance video, Young said, investigators could no longer question Brad Cooper, who had hired attorneys.

Defense attorneys have said that Cary police investigators set their sights on Brad Cooper early on in their murder investigation and ignored evidence that could have proved he did not kill his wife.

The state has said that Brad and Nancy Cooper were in the process of separating and that he became financially controlling of her when she wanted to move to Canada with their two children.

Prosecutors have said he allegedly killed her in the early-morning hours of July 12, 2008, shortly after she returned home from a neighborhood party.