Witnesses recall hours after Nancy Cooper's disappearance
The first-degree murder trial of Brad Cooper continued Tuesday with prosecutors focusing their case on the hours after his slain wife went missing.Posted — Updated
"I was very concerned. It didn't feel right. It was a combination of things that brought me to that point," Jessica Adam said. "I had seen Brad in my house, and he was agitated that week, related to the painting, and there was obvious tension there between them."
Had Nancy Cooper's plans changed that morning, Adam said, she would have called her.
"I had a very bad feeling that something was wrong," she said.
Brad Cooper, 37, is charged with first-degree murder in the July 12, 2008, strangling death of his wife, whose body was found two days later in a drainage ditch in an undeveloped subdivision three miles from the couple’s Cary home.
He has said that Nancy Cooper, 34, went jogging on July 12 and never returned and that he never called police because it was not uncommon for his wife to leave for a run and stay gone for several hours.
By the time he became worried, he has said, Adam had already reported his wife missing.
On Monday, Adam said that she hired Nancy Cooper to paint the front room of her home– a job prosecutors have said had become a new source of conflict in the couple's troubled marriage.
Brad Cooper was angry, Adam said, because she paid her friend $240 for her work, and during the project, she said, she could feel tension between the couple when they both were at her home on Tuesday, July 8, 2008.
On the afternoon of Friday, July 11, 2008, Adam and Nancy Cooper had made plans for her to paint Adam's dining room at 8 a.m. the next day in exchange for Adam helping her organize her house.
But Nancy Cooper never arrived. And by 9 a.m. that day, Adam said, she became worried and called the Cooper home. Brad Cooper answered.
"He said she was not (there) and that she was out for a run with Carey Clark," she said.
Hours later, with still no word on Nancy Cooper's whereabouts, she called Cary police. Officer Daniel Hayes responded to the Cooper home. Brad Cooper was gone – his attorneys have said he was out looking for his wife.
"He looked – initially, my thought – tired," Hayes testified Tuesday, about meeting Brad Cooper for the first time.
But he never appeared upset, Hayes said, as he took basic information from him in the couple's dining room.
As he spoke about his wife, "it was thoughtful," Hayes testified. "Every time I asked a question, I remember him taking a second to answer the question. I didn't get a sense that he was upset."
By 4:30 p.m., several witnesses have testified, neighbors and friends had gathered in front of the Cooper home, including Carey Clark, who testified she had no plans to jog with Nancy Cooper that morning.
We were tentatively making plans for Sunday to run," Clark testified. "She had already had plans for Saturday morning."
Clark told jurors that she and Nancy Cooper had been running together for about a year and that she remembered her to run in a pair of white, blue and gray running shoes that she later identified to be Saucony.
She also recalled her carrying her keys, which were found at the Cooper home, Hayes said.
Also on Tuesday, Adam testified that:
- Nancy Cooper always wore a diamond pendant necklace. "She never took off her diamonds," Adam said, referring to the necklace and a pair of diamond-studded earrings. She last saw her friend wearing them on July 11, 2008, as Nancy Cooper was getting ready for a neighborhood barbecue that night.
- A purse and a cell phone were sitting in Nancy Cooper's locked BMW SUV on the afternoon of July 12, 2008.
- Brad Cooper avoided eye contact with friends and neighbors who had gathered outside the Cooper home on July 12, 2008. "I remember thinking it was just odd that he kept this distance from everyone and that he kept his baseball cap down," Adam said. "I remember thinking that if he were my husband and I were missing – it didn't feel right."
- Nancy Cooper had talked to Adam on July 8, 2008, about organizing the Coopers' garage but that Brad Cooper had said he had already cleaned it. Adam said Nancy Cooper, however, complained because she was still unable to fit her SUV inside.
- Nancy Cooper never told Adam about an alleged sexual encounter she had with a friend in 2005 but did tell her about a male friend from Canada who had recently got in touch with her.
Brad Cooper’s defense attorneys have doubted Adam’s claim that she and Nancy Cooper had plans to paint on July 12,2008, saying it wasn’t likely since Nancy Cooper had already agreed that her husband could play tennis with a friend and also made tentative plans with another friend to go to the pool.
They have also referred to Adam as one of Nancy Cooper’s “divorce friends,” with whom they have said she developed friendships after deciding she wanted to divorce her husband.
"She was already airing the marriage’s dirty laundry, listing Brad’s faults and embellishing as only Nancy could,” defense attorney Howard Kurtz said during opening statements last week.
Kurtz said that Nancy Cooper biased her friends against Brad Cooper to ensure they would take her side and that Nancy Cooper was "seeing the world through divorce-colored glasses."
But her longer-term friends, who knew Brad when the marriage was on better footing, “were not fed the same distorted negative information about Brad," Kurtz said. "Nancy knew better, so Nancy didn’t not tell them things they would not have believed.”
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