Nancy Cooper unhappy as newlywed, sister says

Staff WriterApril 6, 2011 

— Nancy Cooper thought about leaving her husband in her first year of marriage after developing a relationship with another man, her twin sister said Tuesday.

Krista Lister spent part of Monday and Tuesday on the witness stand in the trial of her brother-in-law, Brad Cooper

Nancy Cooper, according to Lister, had met a man in Florida while visiting a friend during the first year of her marriage. That man later came to Lister's wedding in Canada in August 2001.

At the time, Lister said, Nancy Cooper did not want to return to North Carolina. She was planning to leave Brad Cooper, her husband of 10 months.

Since moving to Cary in January 2001, Nancy Cooper struggled with feelings of isolation. The couple had only one car, and Brad Cooper used it most of the time. Nancy Cooper, her neighbors testified, strapped on in-line skates and a backpack to make trips to and from the grocery store in Cary.

But Nancy Cooper decided to return to Cary in 2001, her sister testified, after Brad Cooper agreed to get her a car and to start a family.

Now Brad Cooper is ontrial, accused of murdering his wife in the seventh year of their rocky marriage, as marital and financial troubles reached a crescendo. Prosecutors contend that he strangled Nancy Cooper and then dumped her body at a remote spot nearly three miles from their house.

Defense attorneys maintain that Brad Cooper is innocent of murder. They argue that Cary police conducted an "inept" and "dishonest" investigation. They contend investigators focused on Brad Cooper as the prime suspect early and ignored details that could have led them to a different conclusion.

Brad Cooper's lawyers acknowledge he had an extramarital affair, which his wife found out about in 2007.

They contend Nancy Cooper had an affair with a Cary man, years after her relationship with the man she met in Florida. They also point out that in the months before her death she had been texting a man she dated before getting married.

Defense attorneys also questioned Lister about comments her sister made about Craig Duncan, a neighbor and co-host of the cookout Nancy Cooper attended the night before she was reported missing.

Nancy Cooper told her sister that Duncan made advances toward her one night, actions that disturbed her and made her uncomfortable.

"She was creeped out," Lister said.

In their opening statement, defense attorneys were critical of the Cary police for mistakenly erasing data on Nancy Cooper's cell phone. The defense contends there could have been revealing text messages or Internet searches that might have led investigators down a different path.

About phone routing

For much of Tuesday, prosecutors continued calling witnesses on a list that is expected to take the trial into next week.

A colleague of Brad Cooper's at Cisco talked about a phone account set up in Paris. Through that account, according to testimony, Brad Cooper could route calls to and through Paris to other phones. In search warrants, investigators have alleged that Cooper used his cell phone and computer equipment to route a call through his home phone on July 12, 2008, the day prosecutors contend Nancy Cooper was killed, to make it appear as if she had called him and asked him to pick up juice from the grocery store.

Theresa Hackeling, a friend, testified that Nancy Cooper told her she slept in jeans with her keys in her pocket in the months before her death. "She just said that maybe some day she would have to get out fast," Hackeling said.

Nancy Cooper also told Hackeling that in those same months she kept important documents, including passports for her and the children and papers from lawyers, locked in her car. Defense attorneys argue otherwise.

Sports bra brought up

Hackeling, a runner, also spent several minutes on the stand talking about how to put on a sports bra - testimony that drew strong objections from defense attorney Robert Trenkle. Trenkle said he did not see the relevance of such testimony, and he added that Hackeling had not been rendered an expert on the topic.

Nancy Cooper was found dead, clad only in a sports bra bunched up under her arms. Brad Cooper told investigators that his wife went out for a run at 7 a.m. July 12 and never returned home.

Hackeling explained, at the request of prosecutor Amy Fitzhugh, that sports bras often bunch under the arms when women first put them on, but it would be uncomfortable to go out for a run without pulling the sides down.

Prosecutors also brought in two women who had children at the same preschool as the Coopers did, who testified to hearing two loud arguments between the couple in the preschool parking lot in the months before the homicide.

But the women acknowledged, on cross-examination by defense lawyers, that they never saw Brad Cooper become physically violent with his wife nor had they heard Nancy Cooper make such allegations.

anne.blythe@newsobserver.com or 919 836-4948

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