Sources: Brad Cooper weighing plea deal in wife's 2008 murder
Posted September 8, 2014 3:57 p.m. EDT
Updated September 8, 2014 6:45 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — A plea deal could be in the works for Brad Cooper, a Cary man awaiting a new murder trial for the strangling death of his wife and the mother of his two children.
Sources told WRAL News Monday that Cooper, 40, is considering a bargain in which he would plead guilty to second-degree murder for the July 2008 death of Nancy Cooper, whose body was found several days after she was reported missing.
Cooper was sentenced to life in prison without parole after being convicted in May 2011. The North Carolina Court of Appeals last September, however, ordered a new trial after finding that jurors should have been allowed to hear critical defense evidence.
Prosecutors declined to comment on or confirm a possible deal Monday, and defense attorneys did not return calls seeking comment. Nancy Cooper's father in Canada, however, said that he and his family are planning to travel to Raleigh for a Sept. 22 hearing in which a guilty plea is expected.
Garry Rentz said it is his understanding that his son-in-law could receive a sentence of 13 to 16 years in prison and receive credit for time served, making him eligible for release in a minimum of seven years.
"We're pleased to have closure for the girls and for our family," Rentz said, referring to the Coopers' two young daughters, who have been in the Rentzes' custody since 2008.
The children are now 8 and 10 years old.
"It's a matter of getting closure for them and not having to wonder," Rentz said. "They worry about what their future is until this gets solidified."
Brad Cooper has maintained that his wife left their home at 104 Wallsburg Court on the morning of July 12, 2008, to go jogging and never returned home.
A friend reported her missing the same day when she never showed up for a meeting, and a man walking his dog two days later found her decomposing body facedown in a drainage ditch in an unfinished subdivision 3 miles from the Coopers' home.
Nearly 100 witnesses testified over 36 days in the high-profile trial as prosecutors sought to prove that Cooper, angry, tired and fed up with his wife, planned her death and carried it out after she returned home from a neighborhood party.
Defense attorneys argued, however, that Cary police never looked beyond Cooper as a suspect and that detectives were careless in their investigation by destroying or mishandling evidence.
The state's case was mostly circumstantial with the exception of Internet files on Brad Cooper's laptop of a Google Maps search that state computer experts said was made the day before Nancy Cooper disappeared.
That was the basis of the Court of Appeals granting Cooper a new trial, because the judge didn't allow defense attorneys to call experts to support their theory that someone had tampered with the laptop.