If you’re a fan of crime television, or mystery books about an ALMOST unsolvable murder, odds are that simply as a mental exercise, you’ve plotted out some version of “the perfect crime” in your own head. Without any intent or even really urge to commit any crime at all, but simply because who doesn’t love a good puzzle? Part of the puzzle when you’re cooking up your genius plot for the ages, is that, at the same time as you’re planning every possible outcome and variation, you also have to make sure that there’s zero evidence of this planning itself.

With this in mind, one of the absolute biggest no-nos when you’re planning to commit a crime? Publishing books and blog posts about it. If your name is listed as the author on an essay called “How To Murder Your Husband,” you absolutely, one hundred percent, need to make sure you never end up in court for murdering your husband. If you want to write a book about a murder you committed, you need to wait a LONG time, and also be O.J. Simpson. Portland romance novelist Nancy Brophy is not O.J. Simpson. And on Wednesday, May 25, she was convicted of murdering her husband.

Her husband was shot in the classroom where he was a culinary teacher, somewhere with no video surveillance, and with no witnesses. Seems like a good start for Nancy. Unfortunately, over the course of the trial, pretty much every single detail outside of the actual trigger pull came to light, and painted a pretty compelling image. It turns out that murder isn’t a game of Red Light Green Light where you can be anywhere you want when the person in charge opens their eyes, and where you were in between is none of their business.

lady in a red dress and hat murder scene
Hmm. First, let's look into the guy that wrote that book “I Am Going To Kill Carmen Sandiego”

The conviction wasn’t for lack of effort on Nancy’s part. For example, her choice of murder weapon speaks to someone who’s cooked up a couple murder mysteries in her head, and, I wouldn’t hesitate to wager, run through every episode of Forensic Files that Netflix has to offer. Online, she purchased a ghost gun kit, which is basically a DIY kit that can kill people when you’re done with it. Apparently you can just buy these online with absolutely zero background checks or interaction with pretty much anybody that should definitely know when people are buying guns. So that’s something else to worry about that we’ll just breeze right by for the moment. 

She also bought a gun barrel, a component famous for leaving identifying marks on the bullets shot out of it, off eBay. That gun barrel has not been found. Probably in between the couch cushions, am I right?? It starts to feel like Ms. Brophy maybe heard a couple too many TV prosecutors parrot some variation on “without the murder weapon, we have no case.” Unfortunately for her, this is less a truth in criminal law and more a plot device designed to send the show’s protagonists back to the banks of the Hudson river for Act 3.

There’s one other detail that really tells you that some of her plans revolved around television and books versus the actual reality of murder investigation and prosecution. That’s when CCTV footage was found that showed her minivan parked outside the murder scene at the exact moment that her husband was being killed. Her response to this was to, well, claim amnesia. C’mon, lady. That barely passes the sniff test in a romance novel, and is something I don’t think I’d be able to say in court without the jury actively stifling giggles. Amnesia, especially amnesia that lasts like, 3 very important minutes, just… isn’t around in human life outside of bad network dramas. I know that when we were kids we expected it to be a big part of our life, just like quicksand, but it turns out it’s mostly to make sure movies aren’t over in 30 minutes.

typewriter with the word investigation
Annnnnndddd done. It was the lady that wrote the essay about doing this.

Another huge mistake Nancy made, that honestly, is unforgivable for someone even FANTASIZING about murdering someone? Almost immediately after the murder, she attempted to cash in on her husband’s life insurance policy. C’mon Nance. Trying to cash in on a murdered spouse’s life insurance policy is like standing outside a police station waving a handkerchief at the homicide department, winking. You can’t be doing that. You’re gonna be posted up on a detective’s cork board that only needs one piece of red yarn. You might as well call up the life insurance company and say, “Hi, I’d like to establish my motive?”

Now, we’ll give what little credit is due to Nancy Brophy. The prosecution in the trial DID admit that they had no actual physical evidence that Nancy committed the crime. They instead had to rely on assembling the massive, honestly ABSURD, amount of circumstantial evidence that they had into a case that was enough to get a conviction. This, again, has the distinct scent of someone that’s put in hours of quote unquote research in the best crime content cable tv has to offer. I can’t even hear the phrase circumstantial evidence without picturing Sam Waterston shaking a stack of papers at a detective, feathery brows furrowed, as he tells them, “GET ME SOMETHING I CAN USE!”

But when the dust settled, and the jury returned, Nancy Brophy was found guilty. That gun barrel could be sitting in the tomb of Alexander the Great and it wouldn’t make any difference. It turns out when all roads point to you killing your husband, a jury doesn’t necessarily need to see where they intersect. Sorry, Nancy, but the thing is–being super obsessed with murder and talking all the time about how obsessed you are with it? Makes it REALLY hard to murder somebody without a raised eyebrow. And if you’re going to try to do it anyways? Maybe write a couple romance novels about steamy prosecutors laying out the burden of proof in a murder investigation.

Top Image: Public Domain/Pixabay

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