In 2011, Oregon-based romance novelist Nancy Crampton Brophy penned a guest post on a writer’s blog titled How to Murder Your Husband. “As a romantic suspense writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about murder and, consequently, about police procedure,” Crampton Brophy wrote. “After all, if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail. And let me say clearly for the record, I don’t like jumpsuits and orange isn’t my color.” The 700-word piece was then split into sections detailing the pros and cons of “killing a villainous husband.”
Seven years later, on 2 June 2018, Crampton Brophy’s real-life husband, Dan Brophy, was filling buckets of ice and water at a sink to prepare for his day as an instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland when he was shot in the back. After Brophy collapsed to the ground, he was shot again in the chest at close range. His body was later found in the classroom by his students.
While Brophy’s death gripped the Oregon culinary industry, nobody seemed more shocked than his wife. “For those of you who are close to me and feel this deserved a phone call, you are right, but I’m struggling to make sense of everything right now,” Crampton Brophy wrote on Facebook the day after his death.
But in a plot twist that only rivals her own books, Crampton Brophy was arrested three months later and charged with her husband’s murder. The self-published romance novelist is currently standing trial, which opened on Monday 4 April 2022 in Portland. While the tongue-in-cheek essay serves as a major red flag to investigators, the trial judge has deemed it inadmissible as evidence—on the grounds that it could unfairly prejudice the jury.
The prosecution has alleged that Crampton Brophy killed her husband to benefit from a $1.5 million life insurance policy. “[Crampton Brophy] executed what she perhaps believed to be the perfect plan,” Shawn Overstreet, Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney, told the jury in the trial’s opening statements, as per The Oregonian. “All of the leads that detectives followed up with all pointed back at Nancy Brophy.”
While there were no cameras inside the institute where her husband was shot, prosecutors argued Crampton Brophy was seen driving a minivan around the area on surveillance footage. This activity was registered between 6:39 am and 7:28 am on the day of the killing—Brophy arrived at the institute at 7:20 am. The authorities further discovered that Crampton Brophy had researched ‘ghost guns’, unserialised firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home, and had purchased a 9mm pistol at a gun show before her husband’s death.
She then allegedly switched out the gun’s barrel with a Glock slide and barrel she had purchased on eBay, “thus being able to present a new, fully intact firearm to police that would not be a match to the shell casings that she left at the crime scene.”
Defence attorney Lisa Maxfield, however, countered this narrative—arguing that Crampton Brophy has made several purchases as part of her research work as a writer. “To support her writing, Miss Brophy has spent good money on night vision goggles, a telescope, law-enforcement-quality handcuffs, high-powered binoculars, art supplies, antique glass doorknobs, and lots and lots of locks,” Maxfield said. The defence attorney added that she would call at least two other writers as witnesses, one of whom bought “a giant crossbow” to back her writing, while the other, identified as Delilah, purchased a chastity belt for similar purposes.
While Crampton Brophy’s trial is expected to end in a few weeks, a new plot twist seems to have gripped the case. In a recent conversation with one of her cellmates, the How to Murder Your Husband author allegedly slipped up and confessed to the shooting by mistake.
“Miss Brophy held her arms apart, like a wingspan, and said, ‘I was this far away when the shooting happened’,” Overstreet stated, reiterating the comment Crampton Brophy made to her fellow inmate in court. The novelist then allegedly corrected herself and said that the shooting happened within a close range. The inmate, Andrea Jacobs, told detectives that Crampton Brophy seemed to be embarrassed after making the comment, and said their relationship became “very awkward.”
In How To Murder Your Husband, Crampton Brophy additionally listed five potential “motives” that might lead someone to kill their spouse. The first category was “Financial: Divorce is expensive, and do you really want to split your possessions?” Second read, “Lying: This is a crime of passion. In anger, you bash his head in or stab him with a kitchen knife.” This was followed by “fell in love with someone else,” “abuser” and “it’s your profession.”
She also gave readers “options” on what their murder weapon or technique should be. “Guns: loud, messy, require some skill. If it takes 10 shots for the sucker to die, either you have terrible aim or he’s on drugs,” she wrote. “Knives: really personal and up close. Blood everywhere. Eww.”
A Chinese court sentenced American citizen Shadeed Abdulmateen to death on Thursday 21 April for allegedly murdering his former girlfriend, a 21-year-old Chinese woman surnamed Chen, according to Chinese state media.
After a disagreement over their breakup in June 2019, Abdulmateen, who taught at the Ningbo University of Technology (NBUT), arranged to meet and talk with Chen at a bus stop in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, before killing her with a “folding knife,” said the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court in its verdict.
According to CNN, by looking at public broadcaster CCTV, the court held that the defendant’s “premeditated revenge killing, stabbing and cutting Chen’s face and neck several times, resulting in her death, was motivated by vile motives, resolute intent and cruel means, and the circumstances of the crime were particularly bad and the consequences particularly serious, and should be punished according to law.”
As reported by Yahoo! News, a US State Department official said the situation was being monitored but refused to comment further in the interest of privacy.
In a 2020 review conducted by Amnesty International, China was found to be the world’s top executioner, but the country, itself, doesn’t actually disclose death penalty numbers. The review used information including official figures, judgements and media reports, alongside information from families and civil societies, in its findings.
Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, said in a statement at the time: “As the world focused on finding ways to protect lives from COVID-19, several governments showed a disturbing determination to resort to the death penalty and execute people no matter what.”
“The death penalty is an abhorrent punishment and pursuing executions in the middle of a pandemic further highlights its inherent cruelty,” Callamard continued.
Over the past decade, people from Uganda, South Korea, Japan and Kenya have received death sentences for drug crimes. In 2016, the Nigerian senate reportedly heard that 120 of its citizens were on death row in China. And in 2019, China handed down a death sentence to a Canadian citizen accused of smuggling drugs, sending shockwaves around the world.