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Slain mom's family asks for mental exam for Brad Cooper

Court filings Thursday from Brad Cooper's attorneys offer further insight into his marriage to Nancy Cooper.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The attorney for slain Cary mom Nancy Cooper's family filed a motion Thursday to compel her husband, Brad Cooper, to submit to a psychiatric evaluation and psychological testing.

The motion claims Brad Cooper engaged in a "bizarre pattern of behavior in the months prior to his wife's murder through the present date" and says he is not fit to care for the couple's two young daughters.

Nancy Cooper's parents, Garry and Donna Rentz, and twin sister, Krista Lister, filed for custody of the children last week and were awarded temporary custody of them until Friday, when a hearing on the matter is scheduled. The family arrived in the Triangle late Thursday evening for the hearing.

"The defendant's mental health is in controversy," Thursday's motion states. "To fully evaluate the defendant's mental health and whether he is a danger to himself and/or the minor children, and psychological testing, plaintiffs respectfully request that this Court order a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation of the defendant."

Another court filing Thursday afternoon was a certificate of service of a subpoena served upon Interact, a nonprofit group that provides support to victims of domestic violence. Representatives of Interact of Wake County declined to comment Thursday.

Attorneys for Brad Cooper also filed an objection to more than a dozen affidavits filed earlier this week claiming he is an absent father who was emotionally abusive to his wife and children.

"The only arguably relevant material in these affidavits is entirely hearsay and opinion," it states.

Family members and friends attested to Brad Cooper's character and fitness as a father in several affidavits, also filed Thursday.

"Brad would never do anything violent – it's just not in him," his father, Terry Cooper, said.

The latest filings come a day after Brad Cooper's attorneys filed several motions, including one asking for his wife's autopsy results so that he could "challenge the plaintiffs' unfounded insinuation" that he killed his wife.

A man walking his dog found Nancy Cooper's body in an undeveloped subdivision nearly three miles from her home on July 14.

Jessica Adam, a friend of Nancy Cooper, reported her missing July 12, hours after she failed to show up to help paint her house. Brad Cooper told police his wife went jogging around 7 a.m. and never returned.

In an affidavit filed Wednesday, Brad Cooper said he had been out looking for his wife and was getting ready to call 911 when he learned that Adam had already called.

Thursday's affidavits – which state Brad Cooper is a nonviolent man, attentive father and good husband – are contradictory to those Wednesday from Nancy Cooper's friends. They claim he was controlling, withheld money from his wife for basic necessities, took away her cell phone and was an absent father until recent months when he decided he wanted to fight for custody of the children.

In a second affidavit filed Thursday in which he refutes some of those claims, Brad Cooper states he regularly gave his wife $300 a week and never denied any of her requests with the exception of a few "major home improvements."

Refuting other claims, he states:

  • He stopped training for Ironman competitions in June 2007 and since then "refocused my attention and efforts" on his family. He cites his Web site, www.adventuresofbrad.com, as evidence for that. A posting on the site, dated Jan. 10, 2008, says, however: "After almost 5 months of not training... I'm Back!!! Between work, MBA and holidays my training was put on hold until now. Now that my MBA is complete and the holidays are over, its definitely time to start training for Ironman Lake Placid in July 2008."
  • He never took away her his wife's cell phone but discussed the phone bill in April 2008 when it had reached $460 in one month.
  • He started looking for jobs in Toronto to be closer to her and his daughters when she was planning to move back to Canada to be closer with her family.
  • He left photos off his family off his Web site per his wife's wishes and concerns.
Witnesses for Brad Cooper stated in affidavits that Nancy Cooper "often exaggerated the details of stories for dramatic effect" and that "she liked to tell people stories and liked the attention."

"Brad Cooper is a very private person who always keeps to himself," one affidavit stated.

Other affidavits state he went to get his Masters of Business Administration at North Carolina State University "to make a better life for his family" and that he stopped training for Ironman triathlons so he could work on his marriage.

Brad Cooper's parents said in affidavits that he and Nancy Cooper "lived the high life" and bought expensive items and clothing "beyond their means" but that their son was concerned about the over-spending and needed to cut back.

Cooper case rare

Authorities have released few details about Nancy Cooper's death and have declined to comment publicly about the case, possible suspects or motives.

But the hundreds of pages in the back-and-forth filings of the Cooper custody case provide a glimpse at the life of Nancy Cooper and her family, which is rare for most homicide cases, retired Raleigh police homicide detective Chris Morgan says.

"This is kind of a unique case, because you've got the dual issue of the homicide investigation, and at the same time, all this information pouring out through this child custody battle," he said.

Although the custody case is separate from the murder case, Morgan says information in the former could be used in the latter.

"It's circumstantial background information that may be of some benefit to the investigators," Morgan said.

Police have said Nancy Cooper's death was not random, but they have not named any suspects or persons of interest in the case.

They have also said that Brad Cooper has cooperated with police investigators and answered their questions. His attorneys have said he will continue to do so and that their client has told police he did not kill his wife.

Morgan, however, says investigators must always look at the people closest to the victim, first.

"When you've got an unsolved murder, as far as I'm concerned, everybody who was in a position to come in contact with the victim would be a person of interest," he said. "And you work your way from the inside out."