RALEIGH — Brad Cooper, the Cary man accused of strangling his wife Nancy inside their Cary home in July 2008 as their marital and financial troubles mounted, has been found guilty of first-degree murder by a Wake County jury.
Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner sentenced him to life in prison.
"Your verdict in this case speaks the everlasting truth," Gessner told the jurors, adding, "This case is a horrible, sad tragedy. ... I suspect this matter will weigh heavily upon you in the days to come."
Sheriff's deputies led Cooper, stone-faced, from the courtroom.
Todays verdict brings a terrible chapter in our community to a close," said Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore. "Nancys family and friends as well as our citizens at large can move ahead with confidence that justice has been served."
The decision caps one of the county's most protracted murder trials, one which took observers through the tawdry trysts of a suburban neighborhood, though the high-tech world of international telecommunications and to the vacant lot where Nancy Cooper's body was found.
During the two-month trial, Brad Cooper's lawyers maintained his innocence. On Tuesday, during final remarks to the jury, they laid out a blistering attack on Cary police, accusing investigators of tampering with computer evidence and ignoring details that might have led them to a different suspect.
Prosecutors, who got the last word with the jury, countered that their case was not rooted in gossip from Cary cliques or a tainted police investigation. Theirs was a case of domestic violence, they argued, based on facts - noting Google satellite images of the crime scene found on the defendant's computer as a key evidence.
The jury deliberated for two days before reaching their verdict.
The verdict caught some trial-watchers off-guard.
"I'm really surprised it was a guilty verdict.," said Raleigh defense attorney James Crouch. "I didn't think it was the type of evidence, the quality of evidence, that would sustain a verdict beyond the reason of doubt. It was a circumstantial case, and I thought it was very thin circumstantial case."
Howard Kurtz and Robert Trenkle, the defense lawyers who represented Cooper, announced immediate plans to appeal the verdict.
"We are disappointed at the jury's verdict, and believed the case for Brad's innocence was strong," they said in a prepared statement. "We feel that, had the jury been permitted to hear the testimony of our computer experts, the verdict likely would have been different. It is our belief that the appellate issues are strong and we hope to have another chance to exonerate our client in the future."
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