Nancy Cooper

Detective didn't initially suspect Cooper in wife's disappearance

Posted March 29, 2011 2:56 p.m. EDT
Updated March 31, 2011 3:58 p.m. EDT

— Defense attorneys for a Cary man on trial for his wife's death nearly three years ago began Tuesday cross-examining one of the lead detectives in the investigation.

Brad Cooper, 37, is charged with first-degree murder in the July 12, 2008, strangling death of his wife, Nancy Cooper, 34, who he has said went jogging that morning and never returned home.

Her disappearance prompted a massive two-day search of jogging trails and lakes in Cary until a man walking his dog found her body in a drainage ditch in an undeveloped subdivision 3 miles from the couple's home.

Cary police detective Jim Young told defense attorney Howard Kurtz on Tuesday that he never considered Brad Cooper a suspect in his wife's disappearance until a July 14, 2008, interview, during which Brad Cooper's statements raised red flags for him.

Until that point, Young said, he was conducting a missing persons investigation.

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

Prosecutors have said that Brad Cooper 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.

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

Young also testified Tuesday that investigators searched the Coopers' home in August and October but never recovered a pair of shoes that Brad Cooper had been wearing in Harris Teeter surveillance video on July 12, 2008.

It was one of two shopping trips he says he made between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. for his wife that day. Defense attorneys have said the grocery store visits prove Nancy Cooper was still alive before the time Brad Cooper has said she went jogging.

During cross-examination, Young said that because of the quality of the surveillance video, he couldn’t say for sure whether Brad Cooper’s shoes were clean or whether he left dirty footprints on the store floor.

Young also testified that that during an Oct. 29, 2008, search of the Cooper home – two days after Brad Cooper was arrested –investigators also seized a number of pieces of jewelry, including a diamond pendant necklace and a diamond ring that belonged to Nancy Cooper.

Those items, he said, were found in a drawer of clothing belonging to Brad Cooper's mother in an upstairs guestroom, the same room Brad Cooper had used when his wife was alive.