Nancy Cooper case was about domestic violence

Posted May 6, 2011 1:12 p.m. EDT
Updated May 9, 2011 3:03 p.m. EDT

— In the wake of Brad Cooper's murder conviction, family and friends of his slain wife, Nancy Cooper, say they want to continue supporting efforts to bring awareness to domestic violence.

"Domestic violence has to stop," her mother, Donna Rentz, said Thursday, minutes after a jury returned a first-degree murder verdict against her former son-in-law.

Testimony lasted eight weeks in the trial, which experts say highlighted the fact that domestic violence comes in many forms.

"It does illustrate that domestic violence is not just the physical violence, but it includes emotional violence, financial control, emotional abuse and sexual violence, which is often not visible," said Johnny Lee, director of Peace at Work, a Raleigh group dedicated to domestic violence prevention. "There's no physical scars."

More than a dozen of Nancy Cooper's friends and family members testified in the trial that her husband of seven years had become controlling in the months prior to her July 2008 death.

Signs, they said, included cutting access to their bank and credit card accounts, putting her on a weekly allowance and taking their children's passports, making it difficult for her and the children to leave.

"We know that (our) loss is a result of domestic violence," father Garry Rentz said. "We'd like to do what we can to solve the problem or to save some other family from the journey we've just gone through."

That's why family and friends created Nancy's Butterfly Fund in 2009, which works with the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence to raise money to minimize the financial obstacles that might prevent women from leaving violent and nonviolent abusive situations.

"Nancy was so warm. She was so loving. Her soul was just vibrant and full of energy," friend Jennifer Fetterolf said. "If we can keep her memory alive and, at the same time, help domestic violence victims that are out there and provide resources, then I think it's important for us and we're making progress in the right direction."

The fund's annual charity gala, which has been planned for months, is Saturday at 6 p.m. at Embasssy Suites Hotel in Cary.

"We have justice for Nancy, and now we're focused on celebrating her and having this gala," Fetterolf, who's also a co-organizer of the event, said.