Nancy Cooper

Witness recalls tension in Cooper marriage

Posted March 11, 2011 2:16 p.m. EST
Updated March 11, 2011 4:43 p.m. EST

— Testimony continued Friday in the trial of Brad Cooper with a friend of his wife saying she saw the couple arguing the night before her death.

Brad Cooper, 37, is on trial for first-degree murder in the July 12, 2008, strangling death of his wife, Nancy Cooper, whose body was found two days later in a drainage ditch three miles from the couple's Cary home.

He claims she went jogging that morning and never returned home.

Longtime friend Diana Duncan testified Friday that Nancy Cooper was angry with her husband the day before her death and at Duncan's barbecue that evening, told her that she was having an "I hate Brad day."

Nancy Cooper had told her that she and Brad Cooper had been fighting that day over money that Nancy Cooper had made from painting a room in the house of friend Jessica Adam.

"She was kind of in a state, but she was still talking to people and putting on a good party face," Duncan testified.

When Brad Cooper arrived at the party about an hour later, Nancy Cooper was visibly upset, and at one point, Duncan testified, had a confrontation with her husband.

"It was startling to me because I had never seen them fight publicly," Duncan said.

"She was angry," she continued. "I remember she was sort of pointing at him ... just very angry body language."

In opening statements, both prosecutors and defense attorneys said that the Coopers, both Canadian citizens, were going through a divorce and that Nancy Cooper was preparing to move back to Canada.

Duncan testified that she had planned a going away party for April 19, 2008, "The Saddest Party Ever," but that Nancy Cooper called her the night before, upset, saying the party had to be canceled because she wasn't leaving.

Although Nancy Cooper's plans to leave changed, her plans to divorce her husband didn't, Duncan said.

"It seemed like every week, there was some new wrinkle or some new idea," she said.

The couple then talked about other plans to keep Nancy Cooper local, including buying a townhouse and pursuing Brad Cooper's employer, Cisco Systems, to help his wife get a work visa.

Duncan testified that Nancy Cooper told her that she had also been keeping a notebook and important documents, including her passport and those of her children, locked in her car and hiding her keys.

"She was keeping them from Brad. These were things she did not want him to see," Duncan said. "She felt very nervous and scared that he was going to come and get those things from her."

Prosecutors say Brad Cooper eventually got the documents from Nancy Cooper's SUV, to prevent her from leaving the U.S. with their two daughters.

Duncan also testified that on July 12, 2008, Brad Cooper asked her to help him search for a black dress that he said his wife had been wearing so that police could use it to assist in their search.

Unable to recall the dress Nancy Cooper was wearing, Duncan said they searched the house but were unable to find it.

After talking with friends later, she said, she remembered Nancy Cooper was wearing a teal dress with a black pattern. While watching the Coopers' daughters on July 15, 2008, she said, she found it hanging over a dining room chair.

"My mind was pretty committed to it being black," she said of the search. "I looked at it and said, 'Oh, that's what she was wearing.'"

"My ability to remember what she was wearing that night had been compromised," Duncan continued. "It's like the memory had been replaced. I felt that Brad did it on purpose by coming over and asking to help me find the black dress she was wearing."