Local News

Parents of slain Cary mom have unanswered questions

Posted March 7, 2011 12:03 p.m. EST
Updated May 4, 2011 3:48 p.m. EDT

— The parents of a Cary woman whose husband goes on trial this week in her death have unanswered questions for their former son-in-law.

Donna and Garry Rentz appeared on NBC's "Today" show Monday and said they wondered why Brad Cooper never called them after his wife, Nancy Cooper, disappeared July 12, 2008. Her body was found two days later in a drainage ditch a few miles from the couple's home.

“I would like to know, if he did this, why he did this,” Donna Rentz told “Today” anchor Ann Curry. “Divorces happen all the time.”

Donna Rentz said the Coopers were separating and that her daughter wanted to return home to Canada but that Brad Cooper had confiscated her passport and those of their two young daughters shortly before her death.

They last saw Nancy Cooper at a family vacation the week before her death.

“We did have an opportunity to bring Nancy home the last time we saw her,” Donna Rentz said. “I had her in my arms, and she was sobbing. And she said, ‘Mom, I just want to come home.’ But we couldn’t do it. The last thing we saw of her was walking out of the airport with her two little girls.”

Opening statements in Brad Cooper’s first-degree murder trial are expected to take place as early as Wednesday.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors are expected to finish up jury selection on Tuesday and are also expected to go through more pre-trial motions.

The high-profile case, which has drawn international attention, is expected to be a lengthy one, with attorneys estimating it could last as long as month. A list released Monday shows 227 potential defense witnesses and 116 potential witnesses for the prosecution.

Brad Cooper, who was arrested Oct. 27, 2008, told police that Nancy Cooper went jogging around 7 a.m. on July 12, 2008, and never returned home. Around noon that day, a friend called police, concerned that something might have happened to her.

In an Oct. 2, 2008, videotaped deposition, Brad Cooper said he never called anyone in his wife’s family because he was focused on talking with the police that day.

“I was kind of a mess and a wreck at the time,” he said. “I talked with … one of the neighborhood friends. I had indicated if they could call my family and Nancy’s family.”

As investigators sought clues in the homicide case, a 10-month custody battle over the Coopers’ daughters played out in the public eye.

The Rentzes and Nancy Cooper’s sister, Krista Lister, claimed Brad Cooper was an unfit parent who was mentally unstable and was emotionally abusive and controlling of his wife in the months prior to her death. They were awarded permanent custody in May 2009.

The girls know their mother was killed but have no idea who did it, Donna Rentz told NBC.

“This is a court decision. It’s a jury who will decide whether he is guilty or innocent, and we want to emphasize that we believe in the process,” Garry Rentz told “Today.” “At the end of the day, that court will make a decision for Bradley and for us.”

“My belief, of course, is that there were never more than four people in the house the night Nance died and that she never did go running,” he added. “But that’s my personal feeling.”