Nancy Cooper

Voicemail from Nancy Cooper brings family to tears

Posted April 7, 2011 2:07 p.m. EDT
Updated April 8, 2011 4:37 p.m. EDT

— Nancy Cooper's mother and twin sister cried as jurors listened to a voicemail message Thursday that the slain mother of two left five days before her death, describing how she came home to a dirty house after a vacation with parents in July 2008.

"I've been furious all night last night and today. I came home, and the house was so dirty," Nancy Cooper said in the 71-second call to her father on July 7, 2008, adding that she found an ant infestation on dirty plates and in the cracks of her dining table.

"I'm so furious at how disgusting the house was when I got home," she continued. (Hear more of Nancy Cooper's voicemail message.)

Garry Rentz testified Thursday in the first-degree murder trial of Brad Cooper that he and his daughter had talked on that vacation about how to handle her impending divorce and the challenges she faced being a Canadian citizen in the United States.

She couldn't legally work and couldn't return to Canada with her two young daughters since Brad Cooper had taken the children's passports, he said.

"'Dad, I'm through. I need to get out of this situation,'" Rentz recalled his daughter telling him. "It's not great for the kids, and it's certainly not great for me.'"

Brad Cooper, 37, who showed no emotion during the voicemail message, is accused of strangling his wife sometime in the early-morning hours of July 12, 2008, and dumping her body at a construction site 3 miles from their Cary home.

He has said she went jogging that morning and never returned home.

Rentz said that he and his wife, Donna, were at a funeral in Canada when he received word that Nancy Cooper had been missing, at that point, for nine hours. They left immediately and started making plans to get to Cary.

"I said to Donna that this was a story that was not going to have a happy ending," Rentz, a former child social worker, testified.

"My experience in terms of a deteriorating relationship are far from good. This situation was of concern to me," he continued. "Nance, I knew very well, would not be away from her kids that length of time. I just didn't feel good about this, and my knowledge said this would not be good."

The series of events that led him to that conclusion, he said, started in January 2008, he said, when Nancy Cooper told him that her husband admitted to having a one-night stand with her best friend.

Rentz said that he had encouraged his daughter and her husband to work on the marriage but that it became clear to him that it had "pretty badly deteriorated" by March 2008.

Rentz said his daughter told him that Brad Cooper later admitted to "an affair of some standing" with the friend and said that he felt that he loved her.

"She was quite concerned about the state of the relationship," Rentz said. "It was clearly over."

Nancy Cooper had asked him in early April for $7,500 to retain a divorce attorney, and the couple planned for Nancy Cooper to move back to Canada, Rentz said.

But Nancy Cooper didn't return home, he said, because of child custody issues, and Brad Cooper put forth a series of proposals on how to handle the matter. One involved his wife moving out of their home and working for him as a nanny, Rentz said. Another involved each taking a daughter and raising her.

Rentz's account of the troubles in the Cooper marriage comes on the 21st day of trial testimony for the prosecution.

Earlier Thursday, Eric Gerhardt, a security officer at Cisco Systems Inc.'s Research Triangle Park office, where Brad Cooper worked in 2008, said the defendant's building access key recorded him going in and leaving his office on July 17, 2008.

The state suggested through its evidence Wednesday that Brad Cooper might have used Internet phone technology to make it appear that his wife called him after she died and then suggested that he got rid of the equipment.

Jurors, also on Thursday, began watching a seven-hour videotaped deposition from Oct 2, 2008, that was part of a child custody fight between Nancy Cooper's family and Brad Cooper.

In the video, Brad Cooper gives an account of what he says happened the morning his wife disappeared, his affair and financial problems caused by his wife's excessive spending.

But investigators have said some of the statements he made in the sworn testimony were inconsistent with what he told police and with evidence in the case.

Prosecutors contend that Brad Cooper changed his mind about his wife returning to Canada when he found out about the financial obligations of the agreement and that, in addition to hiding the children's passports, he cut his wife off from their bank accounts and credit cards and put her on a weekly allowance.

Defense attorneys have said that the Coopers were in debt and that the measures their client had taken saved the family from financial ruin.

They have said that Brad Cooper did not kill his wife and that Cary police ignored evidence that could have proved his innocence.

If convicted of first-degree murder, he faces life in prison.