RALEIGH, N.C. — Brad Cooper's contact with his children is limited to phone calls so long as he remains in jail awaiting trial on a charge of murdering his wife Nancy, a Wake County District Court judge has ruled.
A temporary custody order in the Cooper case was made public Friday.
Deborah Sandlin, a family law attorney for Brad Cooper, argued before Judge Debra Sasser that although other documents and hearings in the custody case have been made public, releasing this particular order would be prejudicial to her client.
Brad Cooper is charged with the July death of Nancy Cooper. Since her body was found in an undeveloped subdivision near their Cary home July 14, Nancy Cooper's parents and twin sister have battled her husband for custody of the couple's daughters, ages 4 and 2.
Sandlin argued Friday that the press and public’s right to know does not outweigh a defendant’s right to a fair criminal trial.
Releasing the order, she said, could taint a potential jury pool for Cooper's murder trial because of the widespread public interest in his wife's death.
Cooper's criminal attorney, Howard Kurtz, is considering requesting a change of venue for that trial.
"No matter how it is we approach it, it's going to be an extremely difficult hurdle at this point" given the information available to potential jurors via filings in the custody case, Kurtz said.
In October, Sasser granted custody of the girls to Nancy Cooper’s parents, Garry and Donna Rentz, and Krista Lister, Nancy Cooper's twin sister. They all live in Canada.
Their attorney, Alice Stubbs, questioned Brad Cooper's motives in seeking to keep the custody order sealed.
“I’m sure if the court had awarded custody to Mr. Cooper, we would not be here,” she said.
Sasser ruled that the order be released, saying nothing in it could not be addressed properly by a Superior Court judge in the criminal case against Cooper, 35.
The order makes clear that some of the custody conditions are dictated by Brad Cooper's arrest. Specifically, it suspends any personal visits and webcam visits between him and his daughters "for so long as defendant is incarcerated."
He is being held without bond in the Wake County Jail.
He is allowed two 15-minute phone calls with the girls each week and may correspond with them by mail.
The Rentzes also asked for child support, saying they believe Cooper is still receiving income from his employer, Cisco Systems Inc. A Cisco representative said last week that he is still an employee and that the company was still reviewing his employee status.
Nancy Cooper's family also had won a temporary restraining order from Sasser telling Brad Cooper not to try to liquidate any of the couple's assets, including their house in Cary's Lochmere subdivision.
A couple days after the order was granted, a Marrins' M-o-o-ving crew loaded a 26-foot van with tables, sofas, armchairs and a flat-screen television from the Cooper house. Cooper agreed to hand over clothes and toys to the Rentzes.
The order released on Friday is subject to review after six to eight months.