Portland chef and instructor Dan Brophy usually unlocked the door to the Oregon Culinary Institute after letting himself in and disabling the alarm. So as students began to show up for class on June 2, 2018, they knew something was wrong.
The door was still locked. Unbeknownst to the students who gathered outside the building that morning, the beloved chef was dead inside: murdered, allege Multnomah County Prosecutors, by his romance novelist wife, Nancy Crampton Brophy.
“We waited for a long time,” said Clarinda Perez, who took the stand in Crampton Brophy’s trial, which began Monday. “Typically Chef Brophy would be in there, the coffee would be brewing, the lights would be on and everything would be ready to go to class… I just figured maybe he was getting ingredients for us.”
It wasn’t until another instructor let Perez and her classmates in that she discovered the truth, and her mentor’s body.
“I seen Chef Brophy on the floor,” Perez said, choking back tears and visibly shaking on the witness stand. “He was lying on the floor by the sink. The water was running, the lights were on.”
Perez had worked as a medical assistant, she said, so she quickly tapped Brophy to see if she could get a response from him, then ran to a doorway and yelled out for someone to call 911, before returning to perform CPR. At that point, she thought Brophy might have fallen. She had no idea he’d been shot twice, once in the back and once in front, both bullets piercing his heart.
“My friend Miranda came in and calmed me down. She just said ‘Do what you know how to do,’ and she got everyone out of the kitchen for me,” Perez said. “His chest was really squishy. I thought I had broken a rib.”
Perez continued to do compressions, until blood from Brophy’s gunshot wounds began to seep out onto her hands. Later, she heard one of the paramedics mention a gunshot wound, and knew her teacher had been shot.
Perez offered the most emotional testimony on an otherwise dry day of state witnesses in the trial, which had been expected to last seven weeks but that prosecutors now say could take considerably less time. The state has a fairly circumstantial set of evidence to introduce, but they say the motive of an insurance payout, the footage of Crampton Brophy driving to and from the crime scene just before and after the murder, and her purchase of an identical gun to the one used in the shooting—along with a slide and barrel that could have been traded out to disguise ballistics experts—should convince a jury of a guilty verdict.
Crampton Brophy’s defense, as introduced by her attorneys Monday, will lean heavily on her interest in writing and the couple’s by-all-accounts happy marriage. Her research into guns and gun parts was based on an idea she had for a novel, her attorneys said in their opening statements. And she loved her husband too much to want to kill him, they argued, adding that Crampton Brophy will take the stand and speak for herself as the trial proceeds. .
Based on the testimony so far, Dan Brophy had only admirers, not enemies. “He was a no bullshitter,” Perez said. “He pushed us to our potential and he’s very caring in everything he showed us and taught us.” Added Miranda Bernhard, another of the students who testified Tuesday, “He was a really great instructor. He was all about nature and foraging and we would talk about gardening a lot.”