Nancy Cooper's family keeps children until October
Posted July 25, 2008 2:05 p.m. EDT
Updated July 27, 2008 8:09 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Brad Cooper and the family of his slain wife reached a settlement Friday, allowing his two young daughters to remain temporarily in the custody of their grandparents and aunt.
The two sides met for more than an hour in a judge's chamber before reaching the agreement, which permits Nancy Cooper's family to return to Canada with Bella, 4, and Katie, 2. A hearing had been scheduled to take place, but it was continued until Oct. 13.
Last week, a judge awarded emergency custody to Nancy Cooper's parents, Garry and Donna Rentz, and her twin sister, Krista Lister, after they filed a petition claiming that Brad Cooper is an unfit father and, among other allegations, that he had been emotionally abusive to his wife and daughters in the months before Nancy Cooper was killed.
"We are very pleased with the decision the court has made," Garry Rentz said Friday. "We respect the judgment of the court and the quality of the work that has been done. So, we are just very satisfied with where we are."
Brad Cooper's attorneys, Howard Kurtz and Seth Blum, said in late Friday afternoon that their client is pleased to know that the agreement means his daughters will be "shielded from the spotlight of media scrutiny."
"While he will miss the daily joys of fatherhood, he fully intends to remain a vital force in his children's lives," the statement said. "Though it is painful to contemplate any additional day without his girls, Mr. Cooper accepts this as a heart-rending but necessary step toward achieving justice."
Under the terms of the settlement, the children will be allowed contact with their father a minimum of four times a week via telephone or Web cam for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Both sides also agreed to two supervised weekend visits before October in which Brad Cooper will be allowed to see his children for a maximum of four hours each day.
Other conditions of the settlement include:
- Counseling for the children to begin as soon as reasonably possible.
- Keeping the children out of a vehicle driven by Donna Rentz. (Brad Cooper stated in a July 23 affidavit that she was not a safe or reliable driver.)
- Keeping the children away from dogs. (Brad Cooper stated in the affidavit that one of his daughters is allergic to dogs.)
Neither side is allowed to talk about the circumstances surrounding Nancy Cooper's death or the pending custody case.
"We think it's fair," Alice Stubbs, attorney for Nancy Cooper's family, said. "We just don't want to jeopardize the criminal investigation."
Authorities have released little information about Nancy Cooper's slaying, but say it was not random. Police said last week they had not named a suspect or a person of interest in her death.
Nancy Cooper's friend reported her missing July 12 after she failed to show up for a planned meeting. Brad Cooper told authorities his wife went jogging and never returned.
He stated in an affidavit earlier this week he had been out looking for her and was going to report her missing when he realized her friend had done so.
And although police have not named Brad Cooper a suspect, the homicide case has poured over into the custody dispute in hundreds of pages of court filings from both sides.
Brad Cooper stated in an affidavit earlier this week that his wife's family suggested that he was involved in the homicide; a friend of Nancy Cooper stated in an affidavit that she thought he killed her.
On Wednesday, Brad Cooper filed a motion seeking the results of his wife's autopsy, so he could "challenge the plaintiff's unfounded insinuation" that he killed his wife.
In more than a dozen affidavits, Nancy Cooper's friends charged that Brad Cooper was an absent father who was mentally unstable, was controlling, withheld money from his wife and had up to four extramarital affairs.
Brad Cooper responded in affidavits, saying he and his wife had marital problems but that she exaggerated, that he was a good father and an attentive husband and that the family was in debt because of her overspending.
In a last-minute filing before the hearing that had been supposed to take place Friday, Brad Cooper's attorneys filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the case and to vacate the temporary custody order that put the children in the care of their mother's family.
"Nothing on the face of the order nor the complaint itself would support any finding of Defendant having acted inconsistently with his parental rights," the motion stated. "Thus, the order must be dissolved and the case dismissed."
Brad Cooper's attorneys said in Friday's statement that it would have been impossible to address the "overwhelming volume" of information exchanged between the sides in the custody matter and that more time is needed to do so.
"In addition," they said, "we have virtually no information about the information about the most serious allegation: the implication that Mr. Cooper was somehow involved in his wife's death."
"We do not know what happened to Nancy," they added. "We know only that Mr. Cooper is neither a suspect nor even a person of interest."