True Crime Thursday – How to Murder Your Husband

by Debbie Burke


This case sounds like an episode of Murder She Wrote.

Nancy Brophy Booking Photo

On June 2, 2018, Dan Brophy, 63, a chef and instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland, was shot once in the back and once in the chest. Both shots went through the heart, killing him.

In September 2018, Dan’s wife, romance novelist Nancy Brophy, was charged with the murder of her husband of 27 years.

Nancy has been held without bail in Multnomah County Inverness Jail since her indictment. Here’s a link to her booking record.

In April 2020, her attorneys requested Nancy, now 70, be released due to danger from COVID 19. The judge denied the request.

Here is the State’s Memorandum in Support of a Denial of Bail.

The memorandum asserts the alleged motive is more than a million dollars in life insurance, policies which Nancy apparently sold to herself. She reportedly paid more than $16,000 in premiums to keep the policies current while falling $6000 behind in mortgage payments on the couple’s home.

Portland Monthly recounted the chronology of Dan’s murder on June 2, 2018:

[Nancy] had told police she was home when she learned something happened at the culinary institute the day her husband was killed. But a surveillance camera recorded her driving her Toyota minivan west on Jefferson Street, directly in front of the school, at 7:08 a.m.

At 7:21, Dan disarmed the school’s alarm. At 7:28, the surveillance camera again captured Nancy driving on Jefferson Street. At 7:30, Dan’s colleague arrived at OCI, and at 8, his body was discovered as students entered the kitchen.


The murder weapon is believed to be a Glock 9 mm handgun but it has not been found.

The state’s memorandum also asserts that Nancy owned a Glock 9 mm but a forensics expert did not think that particular weapon fired the fatal shots. However, before the murder, Nancy had purchased a different Glock barrel and parts on eBay, giving rise to speculation she swapped parts.

A search of Dan’s phone revealed a bookmarked article on their shared iTunes account entitled “10 Way to Cover Up a Murder.”

A short story written by Nancy entitled “How to Murder Your Husband” appeared on the blog SeeJanePublish in 2011. That site is not now publicly accessible.

The website Nancy Brophy Writer does not appear to have been updated since early 2018. The “About” page includes this passage:

I live in the beautiful, green, and very wet, Northwest, married to a Chef whose mantra is: life is a science project. As a result there are chickens and turkeys in my backyard, a fabulous vegetable garden which also grows tobacco for an insecticide and a hot meal on the table every night. For those of you who have longed for this, let me caution you. The old adage is true. Be careful what you wish for, when the gods are truly angry, they grant us our wishes.

Nancy Brophy’s trial is scheduled to begin September 28, 2020. Stay tuned.



Debbie Burke’s new novella, Crowded Hearts, is unlike her other thrillers–no crime, no murder, but lots of suspense. Crowded Hearts will soon be released in ebook for FREE to say “thanks” to loyal readers of Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with a Heart.

Cover design by TKZ regular Brian Hoffman. 

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About Debbie Burke

Debbie writes Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with a Heart. The first book in the series, Instrument of the Devil, won the Kindle Scout contest and the 2016 Zebulon contest sponsored by Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Additional books in the series are Stalking Midas, Eyes in the Sky, and Dead Man's Bluff. Debbie's nonfiction articles appear in national and international publications. She is a founding member of Authors of the Flathead and helps to plan the annual Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Her greatest joy is mentoring young writers.

19 thoughts on “True Crime Thursday – How to Murder Your Husband

  1. As I read this, I just knew you were pulling your readers’ collective leg. But this is for real. I found this quote from Brophy’s About page even more chilling:

    ” I can’t tell you when I fell in love with my husband, but I relate the moment I decided to marry him. I was in the bath. It was a big tub. I expected him to join me and when he was delayed, I called out, “Are you coming?”

    His answer convinced me he was Mr. Right. ‘Yes, but I’m making hors d’oeuvres.’ Can you imagine spending the rest of your life without a man like that?”

    A crime story with a plot like that would be rejected as too outlandish.

    • This story is proof that truth is stranger than fiction. I too found her website contained a number of statements that sound esp. eerie after the fact of her husband’s murder.

      Mike, how could you *ever* accuse me of pulling the readers’ collective leg???

  2. Hi Debbie,

    I remember hearing about this back when it happened–not a huge surprise since I live in the Portland area and I was working at a branch library just a few miles from the Culinary institute in downtown. I’d forgotten about it since. Wow. Just wow. Truth is indeed far stranger than fiction.

    • Dale, at the time, it made national news b/c the story was so bizarre. With the trial starting in a few days, it may well be back in the headlines again.

  3. As a former romance writer, I apologize for this one’s poor research and stupid plotting, but she did better than military novelist Michael Peterson’s sorry ass murder of his wife.

    I believe it was Conan Doyle who said that teachers and doctors make the best murderers. I doubt novelists would make the top 20 with such a poor showing.

    Your title reminded me of HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE, a black comedy movie starring Jack Lemmon as a thriller cartoonist. Very fun. And on the subject of clever comedies about fake murder with a side order of art world criticism, there’s THE ART OF LOVE with James Gardner and Dick Van Dyke.

  4. That’s an interesting twist (excuse the pun) about swapping barrels on the Glock. It goes a long way to proving “planned and deliberate” which is a vital ingredient in supporting a capital murder charge. Seems to me Nancy was smart and stupid at the same time. Thanks for posting this, Debbie!

  5. I cannot imagine the process of going through the process of planning the murder of one’s spouse. Just too brutal. Just too inhumane. I intend to follow the trial.

  6. She shoulda stuck with writing romance novels. More satisfying. Less disgusting.

    Congratulations on your new novella, Debbie! I plan on grabbing one of the freebies as soon as you release it.

  7. Thanks for this, Debbie. One wonders why she didn’t just leave him. There was obviously some serious anger there. Coupled with her obvious beagle syndrome — clever, but not smart — it makes for a great story. It will be interesting to see how the trial unfolds. The prosecutor’s closing argument should include the statement, “She should have left her rage/on the page!”

    • Beagle syndrome? That’s funny, Joe. Haven’t heard that before.

      She should have followed Sue Grafton’s example. During a nasty divorce, she wanted to kill her ex but decided instead to commit murder on the page, resulting in A is for Alibi.

      And the rest is history….

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