Nancy Cooper

Trial testimony focuses on phone call to Brad Cooper

Posted March 18, 2011 2:36 p.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2011 6:08 p.m. EDT

— Defense attorneys in the first-degree murder trial of a Cary man charged with killing his wife continued on Friday cross-examining a Cary police detective, focusing partly on two trips the defendant made to a grocery store the morning his wife disappeared.

Detective Adam Dismukes testified on Thursday that he believes Brad Cooper, 37, killed his wife, Nancy Cooper, 34, inside their house when she returned home after midnight on July 12, 2008, and transported her body in his car to a construction site approximately 3 miles away.

But defense attorneys, who say Nancy Cooper went jogging and never returned home, tried to counter Dismukes' theory, saying that Brad Cooper's cell phone received a call from his home landline phone at approximately 6:40 a.m., while he was driving to a Harris Teeter less than 2 miles from his home.

The call lasted 38 seconds, Dismukes testified, and by that time, Brad Cooper was in the store's parking lot. Surveillance video shows Brad Cooper entering the store and leaving minutes later.

Defense attorney Howard Kurtz has said the call was from Nancy Cooper, asking her husband to buy some juice for their daughter, in addition to the Tide laundry detergent he had set out to buy.

"It would not be possible to actually drive form the Cooper residence to that Harris Teeter in a one-minute period of time?" Kurtz asked.

"No, I don't believe so," Dismukes answered.

During opening statements, Kurtz said prosecutors would try to argue that the call was automated but that there is no evidence to support the accusation.

Brad Cooper was an expert in Internet telephony at Cisco Systems Inc. and would have had access to equipment to make the call, investigators have said in search warrants.

But Kurtz said in his opening statement that the Cooper's landline phone didn’t have the technology to place an automated call.

Also on Friday, Dr. John Butts, the retired chief medical examiner for the state, testified that the right, back portion of Nancy Cooper's hyoid bone was fractured, indicating to him that she had likely died from asphyxiation by strangulation.

Her body had been badly decomposed and had been infested with insects, he said, making it difficult to determine if there was any minor trauma, such as bruising or markings.

Upon cross-examination, Butts said there was no indication of sexual assault. It was also possible that caffeine in her system could have been from the morning of July 12, 2008, or left over from the previous day, he said.

He said it was impossible to determine whether she had vomited before her death, therefore clearing her stomach of all food with the exception of a piece of onion. But Butts said it couldn't be ruled out either.

Witnesses who last saw Nancy Cooper at a neighborhood party the night before her death have testified there had been no caffeine at the party and that they only saw her drinking wine and beer and eating food, including lemon cake and an avocado salad that contained onion.

But it wasn't uncommon, the defense has said, for her to go jogging on an empty stomach and only having a cup of coffee.