Nancy Cooper

Jury deliberates in Brad Cooper's murder trial

Posted May 4, 2011 12:22 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2011 5:50 p.m. EDT

— Jurors in the trial of Brad Cooper continued Wednesday the task of sifting through eight weeks of evidence to determine whether the Cary man is guilty of murder in his wife's 2008 death.

The 10 women and two men got the case around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, after hours of closing arguments in what has been one of the longest murder trials in Wake County's history. They must weigh whether the evidence points to either a first- or second-degree murder conviction or a not guilty verdict.

Cooper, 37, has been jailed since October 2008, when he was charged with first-degree murder.

Nancy Cooper, 34, disappeared on July 12, 2008. Her husband said she went out for a jog and never returned. A man walking his dog found her body two days later in a drainage ditch in an unfinished Cary subdivision 3 miles from the couple's Lochmere home.

The Coopers moved to Cary from Alberta, Canada, in 2001 for Brad Cooper to take a job at Cisco Systems in Research Triangle Park. The couple had two daughters, Bella and Katie Cooper, who have been living in Canada with Nancy Cooper's twin sister since their mother's death.

In Tuesday's closing arguments, defense attorneys hammered repeatedly on what they called a lack of hard evidence linking the defendant to his wife's death.

"No blood, no bodily fluids, no fibers," attorney Robert Trenkle said.

Trenkle pointed out several examples where evidence and testimony depended more on inference than science to connect it to the crime. He mentioned tire tracks and footprints found near the victim's body, as well as dirt and straw found inside the Coopers' home.

All were examined, but none directly linked Brad Cooper to the murder scene, Trenkle said.

Prosecutors raised a number of questions about Brad Cooper's actions based on examinations of the couple's computers and phones, including the possibility that the Cisco-certified Voice over Internet Protocol specialist staged a phone call to his cellphone to make it appear that Nancy Cooper was still alive when prosecutors contend she was dead.

Investigators, however, said they never found the computer equipment, including a router, needed to make such a call, although the state argued he had access to it and could have gotten rid of it.

"This case is filled with mighta-beens, coulda-beens and shoulda-beens," Trenkle said.

Prosecutors argued that Brad Cooper planned his wife's death, citing computer files on his Cisco laptop that shows someone viewed a Google Map the day before Nancy Cooper's disappearance of the site where her body was found.

Several of Nancy Cooper's friends testified about trouble in the Cooper marriage, including signs that Brad Cooper has a controlling personality. He put Nancy Cooper, who was unable to obtain a work visa, on a weekly allowance, cut her access to bank and credit cards and monitored her phone calls and email, witnesses testified.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger told the jury that the case was more "about the defendant's actions" than about hard evidence.

"Two little girls will never see their mother again because of that man," he said.