Relationships, flings detailed as Cooper trial progresses

Staff writerApril 26, 2011 

Former family friend John Pearson, right, is questioned about phone records on the stand by Defense Attorney Howard Kurtz, left, during the Brad Cooper murder trial in Raleigh on Tuesday, April 26, 2011.

COREY LOWENSTEIN - CLOWENST@NEWSOBSERVER.COM — COREY LOWENSTEIN - clowenst@newsobserver.com

— The man who had a sexual encounter with Nancy Cooper on Halloween in 2005 testified today that he had coffee with her a couple of months before her death.

John Pearson and Nancy Cooper met in May 2008 at a downtown coffee shop in Cary to talk about a lawsuit that his wife had filed against Heather MeTour, the woman with whom both he and Brad Cooper had extra-marital relations.

Pearson was called as a witness by the defense this morning in the sixth week of testimony in the murder trial of Brad Cooper.

Brad Cooper is accused of strangling his wife Nancy to death early on July 12, 2008, then dumping her body at a remote site nearly three miles from their Cary home.

The murder trial, one of the longest in Wake County in which the death penalty is not being sought, has brought of cast of witnesses to the stand who have depicted their Cary social circles as ones in which there were numerous allegations of furtive, flirtatious glances developing into duplicitous relationships. Neighbors got together to exercise, for book groups or over backyard grills and often shared details of marriages in trouble or crumbling friendships.

The defense maintains Cooper is innocent of the allegations against him. They argue that Cary police singled him out as their prime suspect and ignored details that might have led them to a different conclusion.

In their effort to bolster such claims, defense attorney Howard Kurtz asked Pearson about his reasons for not telling Cary police the first time he talked with them in August 2008 about his sexual encounter with Nancy Cooper.

"The only thing I was holding back, for privacy and the protection of my children, was the indiscretion I had with Nancy in 2005," Pearson testified today.

Pearson said he walked Nancy Cooper home from a neighborhood party on Halloween in 2005 and went inside with her. He had been drinking, he said, and his memory now is fuzzy about the encounter. But today he said he recalled taking a shower in her home, then coming back downstairs to find Nancy Cooper on the couch. The two talked, undressed and had a sexual encounter, he said, but no relationship or crush developed. The two talked once shortly after that about the encounter being a mistake and agreed not to mention it again.

In May 2008, Pearson said he got a call from Nancy Cooper "out of the blue." She had been contacted about a lawsuit brought by his ex-wife Kinde Rawlins against Heather MeTour, who Pearson has described on the stand as his ex-girlfriend.

He told police and the defense that he agreed to meet Nancy Cooper for coffee and talk about the suit. He said he did not want to talk on the phone because of his divorce.

The coffee shop meeting, Pearson said, lasted no more than half an hour. Nancy Cooper told him then she did not want to get involved in the lawsuit. They talked about her training for a half marathon and then parted ways.

Pearson testified that he encountered Nancy Cooper one other time before her death, in a Cary grocery store.

But the defense showed him phone records from May and June of 2008 in which 10 calls between the two are noted.

Kurtz has argued that police did not properly rule out other suspects in the homicide case.

Jurors were out of the courtroom as the defense and prosecution argued before Judge Paul Gessner about whether a taped interview that a Cary detective had with Pearson could be played for the jury.

Outside the jurors presence, Kurtz told the judge that investigators, in their interrogation of Pearson, should have been more critical of his reports to police.

Initially Pearson told them he had a "passing relationship" with Nancy Cooper, Kurtzs said, then weeks later he mentioned the Halloween encounter.

"These are all the things an investigator should be looking at," Kurtz said.

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

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