Judge grants temporary custody to Nancy Cooper's family
Posted October 22, 2008 1:35 p.m. EDT
Updated October 22, 2008 7:19 p.m. EDT
Cary, N.C. — The two young daughters of Nancy and Brad Cooper will remain in the temporary custody of their slain mother's family in Canada, a Wake County judge ruled Wednesday.
“This is a very good day for Nancy, her children, and our entire family," Nancy Cooper's father, Garry Rentz, said in a statement.
"We are extremely grateful to Judge (Debra) Sasser for her careful and thorough attention to our case. We could not have asked for a more fair or deliberate process and are confident that she acted in the best interest of not just our grandchildren but all children who may be in a similar circumstance."
Attempts to reach Brad Cooper were unsuccessful, but his attorney, Seth Blum, said his client was upset about the ruling and that he wants his children back.
"He's extremely disappointed. He misses his daughters. He would like to have them back in his arms," Blum said.
The details of the custody arrangement were not immediately clear Wednesday evening. Sasser's order, which is expected to outline them, should be filed within the next two weeks.
"We are thankful that Bella and Katie will remain in Canada with their mother's family," Alice Stubbs, an attorney for Nancy Cooper's family, said in a statement. "They are in a safe and nurturing environment. It is not appropriate for us to release further details until the court order is signed by Judge Sasser."
Wednesday's ruling comes more than three months after Nancy Cooper, 34, was found dead in an undeveloped subdivision about three miles from her Cary home. An autopsy determined she likely had been strangled.
Two days later, Rentz, his wife, Donna Rentz, and their daughter, Krista Lister, filed for temporary custody of the girls, saying Brad Cooper is an unfit father who is mentally unstable and was emotionally abusive to and financially controlling of his wife in the months prior to her death.
Police have made no arrests and have not named any suspects in the slaying, but Nancy Cooper's family testified during last Thursday's hearing that they believe Brad Cooper was involved.
Blum said it is unusual in North Carolina for a father to lose custody of biological children and that he believes the case hinges on the murder allegations.
"Brad has been put in a position where he's required to prove his innocence, which is a very difficult thing to do, given we don't have the police file, and we don't know the details of the investigation up until this point," Blum said.
Earlier this month, Brad Cooper's attorneys subpoenaed investigators to turn over all evidence in the case after an affidavit by the lead investigator George Daniels, who said statements their client made in a videotaped deposition were inconsistent with police interviews.
They argued they needed the information to explore why Daniels made that claim. But Sasser quashed the subpoena, saying it is inappropriate to turn over such materials until someone is charged.
Brad Cooper has said his wife went jogging at about 7 a.m. July 12 and never returned. A friend reported her missing when she failed to show for an appointment.
Police have declined to talk about the murder case but have said in recent weeks that the investigation "continues to be going very well."