Nancy Cooper

State rests its case in prosecution of Brad Cooper

Posted April 18, 2011 9:36 a.m. EDT
Updated April 19, 2011 2:28 p.m. EDT

— Prosecutors in the trial of a Cary man accused in his wife's slaying rested their case Monday after 28 days of testimony and more than five dozen witnesses.

Jurors hearing testimony in Brad Cooper's lengthy first-degree murder trial also reviewed state evidence, including photos, computer equipment, phones, running shoes and Nancy Cooper's green summer dress she wore the night before her death.

Brad Cooper, 37, is accused of strangling Nancy Cooper, 34, in the early-morning hours of July 12, 2008, and dumping her body in a drainage ditch in an undeveloped subdivision 3 miles from their home in Cary's Lochmere subdivision.

Defense attorneys have said that Nancy Cooper went jogging at 7 a.m. that morning and never returned home.

The state's final witness, George Daniels, a detective with the Cary Police Department, testified that the crime was the result of longstanding marital issues over money and a lack of trust because of an extramarital affair by Brad Cooper.

"The motive that I saw was a motive of anger – a motive of pent-up aggression – and at some point, (Brad Cooper) just couldn't take it anymore," Daniels said.

A witness from the FBI testified that computer evidence found on Brad Cooper's password-protected IBM laptop indicated that someone had searched maps of Fielding Drive, where Nancy Cooper's body was found, the day before she disappeared.

Daniels said that Brad Cooper, an expert in Internet telephone technology, also had the knowledge and ability to stage a phone call from the Coopers' home phone to Brad Cooper's cellphone to make it appear that Nancy Cooper was still alive when prosecutors say she wasn't.

"We were looking at the totality of the whole circumstances, and looking at that, it became evident to me, at the time, that this was a domestic issue," Daniels said.

Daniels faced tough questions during cross-examination on Friday and Monday about that phone call and about a lack of evidence to prove that Brad Cooper staged it.

Brad Cooper has said his wife called him at 6:40 a.m. the day she disappeared as he was driving to a grocery store for laundry detergent.

“What specific evidence do you have that shows that phone call was automated?” defense attorney Howard Kurtz asked.

“I don’t have any specific information, and I think that’s one of the unusual issues here, because there were so many different ways he could have done it," Daniels said. "He had the motive. He had the means. He had the opportunity.”

Kurtz has said that Cary police's work on the case was inept and dishonest and that investigators, early in the case, focused solely on Brad Cooper as a suspect and ignored evidence that could have helped find his wife's killer.

Daniels was questioned at length about the number of interviews police did with Brad Cooper while the investigation was still classified as a missing persons case. Kurtz suggested that made his client feel like a suspect.

But Daniels said it wasn't unusual for detectives to conduct multiple interviews and that detectives repeatedly tried to get Brad Cooper to go to the Cary Police Department for an in-depth interview, but he declined each time.

Kurtz also questioned Daniels about the defense's claims that police ignored for three months more than a dozen people who said they saw a woman matching Nancy Cooper's description jogging on the morning of July 12, 2008.

Daniels defended the police work, saying all information was gathered when it was reported and that any credible information was followed up on.

He did have detectives interview those witnesses three months later, he said, to ensure they had no other information to assist in the investigation.

“There was never any information that wasn't followed up on," Daniels said.

Defense attorneys could begin calling witnesses to testify as soon as Tuesday.

The trial, which began with opening statements on March 9, could last several more weeks. A list of potential witnesses for the defense includes 227 names.

If convicted, Brad Cooper faces life in prison.