Author Who Knew 'How To Murder Your Husband' Killer Digs Into Case In New Podcast

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When the news broke in June 2018 that a beloved chef had been fatally shot at the Oregon Culinary Institute where he taught, local romance novelist Heidi Joy Tretheway didn’t pay much attention.

“It may have been a blip on my radar,” she told HuffPost about the death of Dan Brophy, 63, “but I wasn’t focused on the news at that time.”

That all changed three months later, when Brophy’s wife, Nancy — who had once written an essay titled “How To Murder Your Husband” — was arrested and charged with his murder.

Romance writer Nancy Crampton Brophy, left, accused of killing her husband, Dan Brophy, in June 2018, watches proceedings in court in Portland, Oregon, on April 4, 2022. She was sentenced Monday, June 13, 2022, to life in prison with the possibility of parole for murdering her husband.
Romance writer Nancy Crampton Brophy, left, accused of killing her husband, Dan Brophy, in June 2018, watches proceedings in court in Portland, Oregon, on April 4, 2022. She was sentenced Monday, June 13, 2022, to life in prison with the possibility of parole for murdering her husband.

Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP, Pool, File

“My husband was watching the news, and he paused it and he called me into the living room,” Tretheway said about that September day. “He’s like, ‘This was a romance writer. Did you know this person?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, I actually did,’” Tretheway said.

In fact, when Tretheway was a member of Rose City Romance Writers, the Portland chapter of Romance Writers of America, Nancy Crampton Brophy, now 74, was its president.

“You can’t imagine that you could potentially know of a murderer,” Tretheway said. “It wasn’t even in my realm of possibility that Nancy could have done this violent crime.”

That said, she wasn’t exactly fond of Crampton Brophy, especially how she delivered feedback.

“She tore up one of my book covers and said it was all wrong” during one of the club’s meetings, she said.

Heidi Joy Tretheway holds a rose she received from Crampton Brophy — who gave them out to authors who finished their books, and who had heavily critiqued its original cover.
Heidi Joy Tretheway holds a rose she received from Crampton Brophy — who gave them out to authors who finished their books, and who had heavily critiqued its original cover.

But Tretheway followed Crampton Brophy’s advice.

“I made those changes and that became my most commercially successful book. So I’m not mad about it,” she said.

In the eyes of podcast network Wondery, the women’s connection made Tretheway — a marketing professional who now has eight romance novels under her belt — a perfect candidate to host “Happily Never After: Dan and Nancy,” its new true crime podcast with The Oregonian/OregonLive.

In the snappy new six-part podcast, we hear from detectives who cracked the case, prosecutors and Crampton Brophy herself — directly from her testimony at her trial but also through lurid passages from her own romantic suspense novels, read by a rapturous voice actor. Many are drawn from Crampton Brophy’s “Wrong Never Felt So Right” series, which includes “The Wrong Husband.”

In real life, Dan Brophy seemed to be Nancy’s Mr. Right. The couple had been married more than 25 years, and seemed very much in love. Detectives believed her shock and grief when they told her about his death. When her essay — which described motives and methods for murder — came to light, Crampton Brophy said it was humorous satire.

Dan Brophy.

Still, one line resonated with investigators:

“But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us have it in him/her when pushed far enough,” she wrote.

Dan Brophy’s body was found by his students in one of the culinary school’s kitchens, where he’d been filling buckets of water and ice on the morning of June 2, 2018. He had been shot twice, once in the back and once in the chest, at close range.

It wasn’t long though before investigators uncovered a possible motive. The Brophys had been struggling financially and Nancy, who had worked as an insurance agent, was the sole beneficiary on her husband’s numerous life insurance policies — policies, authorities said in court documents, she had sold to herself. When combined with Dan Brophy’s worker’s compensation benefits, she stood to gain almost $1.5 million from his death.

Authorities believed that Crampton Brophy altered a gun she owned with a replacement “slide and barrel” she had purchased on eBay — components that when switched out with the original gun frame would produce different markings than the bullets recovered from the crime scene. (Those parts were never recovered.)

Crampton Brophy originally told the police that she had been home in bed the morning her husband was killed. When investigators located surveillance footage showing her van driving near the culinary institute at the time of his death, she attributed her conflicting account to the “retrograde amnesia” she suffered after learning that her husband had been killed.

Despite knowing Crampton Brophy and following the case, Tretheway said she was surprised by the investigation’s “plot twists,” which she learned about while recording episodes of the podcast.

“This story is constantly twisting and turning on different pieces of the investigation,” she said. “You kind of know the ending, right? You know who died, right? You know ‘whodunnit.’”

“How they did it, why they did it — I was constantly surprised by that.”

She also praised prosecutors’ “tactical and strategic moves” during the trial, especially when Crampton Brophy elected to testify.

“Just the fact that they realized Nancy is the main character in her own mind, that she was going to want to tell the story and kind of like step forward into the limelight on the stand.”

“I think ultimately what was most convincing for a jury was to see Nancy try to spin a story that excused all of these very strange circumstantial things that pointed to her guilt, and she was never able to adequately explain them.”

Nancy Brophy self-published a number of romance novels, including the series "Wrong Never Felt So Right."
Nancy Brophy self-published a number of romance novels, including the series “Wrong Never Felt So Right.”

The podcast presented an interesting conflict for Tretheway.

I’m writing romance and then I’m talking about the destruction of a relationship,” she said. “Yikes.”

Tretheway loves the romance genre.

“I really embrace it because it’s part of the human condition. And what’s more important than love? People fight — and die — for this.”

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