Nancy Cooper

Coopers' relationship was in 'hate mode,' witness says

Posted March 14, 2011 6:39 a.m. EDT
Updated March 15, 2011 12:19 p.m. EDT

— Testimony continued Monday in the trial of a Cary man accused of killing his wife and leaving her body in part of an undeveloped subdivision more than two years ago.

Attorneys for Brad Cooper say his wife, Nancy Cooper, went jogging the morning of July 12, 2008, and never returned home, but the state says the 37-year-old IT engineer strangled his wife sometime before sunrise that day.

During opening statements last week, prosecutors said the couple’s marriage was falling apart in the summer of 2008 after Brad Cooper admitted to an affair. When Nancy Cooper, 34, wanted to take their 2- and 4-year-old daughters and move back to Canada, where she was a legal citizen, he removed her name from their bank accounts and credit cards and started giving her a weekly allowance.

Friends say they last saw Nancy Cooper alive at a party on Friday, July 11, 2008, during which she was upset with her husband after an argument earlier that day about finances.

Ross Tabachow testified Monday that Nancy Cooper seemed "a little more subdued" than she normally was when he arrived at the party that evening.

Nancy Cooper told him, he said, that Brad Cooper withheld her weekly allowance because he found out she had been paid for painting at a friend's house earlier in the week.

Nancy Cooper said their relationship "had swung into hate mode," Tabachow said.

"Their relationship was like a pendulum. Sometimes, it was tolerable, and sometimes it swung to hate mode," he said. "On the night of the party it was in hate mode."

Defense attorneys say Nancy Cooper's spending, including more than $24,000 on her American Express card in 2007, had outpaced their client's salary and that Brad Cooper put his wife on a weekly budget of $300 to protect them from financial ruin.

Their defense is that Cary police, concerned about the town’s reputation as a safe community, decided early on in their investigation that Brad Cooper had killed his wife and disregarded evidence that might have proved otherwise.

“They started the prosecution of Brad Cooper before his wife’s body had ever been found and before the investigation was actually begun,” attorney Howard Kurtz told jurors in opening statements.

Kurtz said police ignored 16 people who said they saw Nancy Cooper jogging, including one witness who said he saw two men in a van following her as she jogged along Kildaire Farm Road in Cary.

Evidence at the site where Nancy Cooper’s body was found, including tire tracks and a cigarette butt, were also ignored. Data was deleted from her BlackBerry smartphone and hundreds of files on Brad Cooper’s laptop were tampered with, Kurtz said.

On Friday, another longtime friend of Nancy Cooper’s, Diana Duncan, testified that she felt Brad Cooper tried to trick her when he asked her to help him find the black dress his wife had been wearing at a party the night before she disappeared.

Duncan said she helped search the couple’s house, although she wasn’t sure if the dress was black, but never found it.

She testified that she later realized the dress was teal, and three days later, saw it hanging over a dining room chair.

"My ability to remember what she was wearing that night had been compromised," Duncan said. "It's like the memory had been replaced. I felt that Brad did it on purpose by coming over and asking to help me find the black dress she was wearing."

Also, last week, jurors heard from William Boyer, who found Nancy Cooper’s body on July 14, 2008.

Boyer testified that he heard crows and saw buzzards as he was walking his dog, Striker, early that evening. He thought he had stumbled upon a deer carcass, but as he got closer, he realized it was a body.

His wife, Jan Boyer, also testified that she was walking in the area on Friday, July 11, 2008, sometime before 9 p.m. when she saw a white truck with its lights off traveling into the cul-de-sac.

Two days later, she was walking the dog off-leash when Striker went down into the area around 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m.

"It was very noisy – just birds, like crows squawking," she said. "It was kind of creepy."