Local News

Police probe murder of Cary mom

Posted July 15, 2008 9:09 a.m. EDT
Updated July 17, 2008 5:04 p.m. EDT

— A missing persons case has turned into a murder investigation, Cary police said Tuesday evening, a day after the body of Nancy Cooper, a 34-year-old mother of two, was found in an undeveloped subdivision just outside Cary’s town limit.

"The search for our Nancy is over," Cary police Chief Pat Bazemore said at a news conference Tuesday evening, accompanied by Cooper's parents, twin sister, brother-in-law and brother. "Nancy was murdered, and our investigation is now a homicide."

Crime-scene tape surrounded the Cooper home on Wallsburg Court Tuesday evening, and police cars sat nearby. Authorities would not say why.

Town of Cary spokeswoman Susan Moran said she did not anticipate any more information about the case would be released Tuesday. Any new information to be made public would be available at a news conference scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, she said.

A man walking his dog near Holly Springs Road and Fielding Drive – less than three miles from Cooper's home – found Cooper's body lying on the bank of a storm water pond near a cul-de-sac in the yet-unbuilt Oaks at Meadowridge subdivision.

Bazemore said investigators do not have a suspect or person of interest in the case, but that they do not believe it was a random crime. She declined further disclosures about the investigation, including a cause of death.

"We are appalled and outraged by this terrible tragedy," Bazemore said. "And as chief of this department, I promise each one of you, nothing will stand in our way to ensure a swift and certain closure to this case."

Cooper is survived by her husband, Brad Cooper; daughters, Bella, 4, and Katie, 2; parents Garry and Donna Rentz, of Edmonton, Alberta; a brother, Jeff Rentz, and two sisters, Krista Lister, her identical twin, of Toronto, and Jill Dean, of Edmonton.

"The wheel that is our family is missing a spoke. And while that wheel is now forever changed, it's incumbent on us to adapt so we may continue to spin," Cooper's brother, Jeff Rentz, said. "Nancy is a mother, a daughter and a sister, and that's how we'll keep her alive in our hearts."

Brad Cooper, who told police his wife went jogging Saturday morning and never returned, was not at Tuesday's news conference. Bazemore said he was expected, "but at the last minute, he declined."

"We have spoken with Brad," she added. "He has cooperated with us today, and we are still working with him."

"He was devastated," she said, when he heard the news. She declined to answer further questions about him.

Police were watching Brad Cooper and have a police car parked outside the Coopers’ home in Lochmere, a Cary subdivision, as what Bazemore said was a service the department was offering the family.

"We have had a police car there, and we've also had a police car with Nancy's family the entire time they have been here," she said. "We're here to do anything we can to make this situation as less difficult as possible for them."

Volunteers who helped search for Cooper for two days gathered Tuesday evening at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Cary to mourn; an attendee said a counselor was there helping people cope with her death.

Authorities and nearly 200 volunteers searched for Cooper by air, land and water on Sunday and Monday along jogging trails near Regency Park, Lochmere Lake and other areas she was known to frequent.

Searches had not expanded beyond the town limits when the discovery was made Monday evening.

Volunteers also set up a Web site and had posted more than 2,000 fliers throughout town asking for information.

"We cannot possibly put into words the thanks to Nancy's many friends and the mass of volunteers (and law enforcement officers) both of whom are tireless and tenacious in their efforts," Rentz said. "We regret that all we can return for all of your efforts is our gratitude and thanks."