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‘How to Murder Your Husband’ writer, who killed her own spouse, attempted to get away with ‘the perfect crime’

Nancy Crampton Brophy is Oregon-based romance writer who wrote the essay "How to Murder Your Husband" seven years before she killed her spouse Dan Brophy.

Heidi Joy Tretheway was stunned when she learned that a romance writer had been arrested on suspicion of murdering her spouse – and she knew exactly who it was.

“I was shocked,” Tretheway told Fox News Digital. “The first time I ever found out this was happening was when I saw Nancy Crampton Brophy’s mugshot on the news.”

The Oregon writer who plotted for months to kill her spouse until she made her devious plan a real-life tale is the subject of a new true-crime podcast on Wondery, “Happily Never After: Dan & Nancy.” It’s hosted by Tretheway, who was once in the same writing circle as Crampton Brophy. It features new interviews with those who met Crampton Brophy over the years.


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Before life became stranger than fiction, Tretheway joined the Rose City Romance Writers, a local chapter for Romance Writers of America, in 2013. Crampton Brophy was president at the time.

“She seemed to be the queen bee,” Tretheway recalled. “She seemed to thrive on the attention that being a president gave her – running the meetings, being at the front of the room, dishing out unsolicited advice. She just liked to pull the attention her way as the main character.”

Tretheway said it was in early 2014 when she proudly showed off her new book that would be published. Crampton Brophy wasn’t amused.

“Nancy immediately criticized the cover,” said Tretheway. “She said the title placement was wrong, the color placements were wrong. And many other folks in the group then piled on their criticism. Initially, I felt attacked because I was so proud of this book. I thought I’d nailed it. 

“I made the changes that were suggested, and that book ended up being one of my most commercially successful books. So the feedback was not bad by any means. But it was striking coming from somebody who was not really successful as a writer.”

But Crampton Brophy wasn’t outspoken about everything. Tretheway said she couldn’t recall the writer ever mentioning her husband, Oregon Culinary Institute instructor Dan Brophy.

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“I had no insight that would suggest that there were any difficulties at home,” said Tretheway. “None of her friends who talked for this podcast ever suggested either that there were any problems. This crime seemed so out of the blue because Nancy would be the last person that I would imagine could potentially do something like that. She seemed like a sweet little old lady who was very goofy, very gregarious… and loved being in the spotlight.”

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“I never could have imagined this kind of brutal crime coming from her,” Tretheway added.

Pals described the couple as being opposites who thrived on having a very loving relationship with each other.

“Nancy is loud and always laughing, but then, on the flip side, Dan is very quiet and introspective,” said Tretheway. “He liked going out into the woods foraging for mushrooms. He liked organic gardening. He probably liked his chickens more than he liked talking to people. They were very different people, but… they had a loving marriage. Even one of Nancy’s friends said that Nancy had told her they had sex every single night, and then afterward she would go back to writing. Talk about real commitment.”

But a very different story was unfolding behind closed doors, investigators said. According to the prosecution, the Brophys were struggling financially. The fall before Brophy’s death, the couple took out $35,000 from his retirement account, or about half its total, Portland’s KOIN 6 News reported. The funds were used to catch up with mortgage and credit card payments.

Meanwhile, Crampton Brophy kept busy writing. Over the years, she published novellas and romance suspense novels with titles like “The Wrong Lover,” “The Wrong Hero” and “The Wrong Husband.”

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Then in 2011, she penned a tongue-in-cheek essay titled “How to Murder Your Husband.” KOIN 6 News reported that in the piece, Crampton Brophy listed several methods for killing a person, including shooting a gun.

“Loud, messy, requires some skill,” she wrote, as quoted by the outlet. “If it takes 10 seconds for the sucker to die, either you have terrible aim or he’s on drugs.”

“I think Nancy wrote it simply for the shock value, the clickbait of it all,” said Tretheway. “That was consistent with her personality. At the time, people wrote in the comments section, ‘Nancy, I love how your mind works. You’re so wickedly ornery.’ Even one of the authors said, ‘I identify with this – there are plenty of times when I would like to kill my husband, too.’”

“I think it was written in a dark humorous way,” Tretheway shared. “Nobody took it seriously or as an actual threat to Dan’s life. Even one person joked, ‘I’m going to call Dan and make sure he’s all right.’ I’m not defending it as a good choice of writing. But I certainly understand from the context of… choosing to write something a little bit incendiary so you can create the clickbait for more people to be potentially exposed to your books.”

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Time passed and no one thought twice of Crampton Brophy’s piece.

Then on the morning of June 2, 2018, Brophy was filling buckets of ice and water at a sink. He was preparing for his day as an instructor. A mysterious figure walked into the kitchen and shot him in the back. Brophy fell to the ground, and he was shot again, this time in the chest at close range.

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Brophy’s students later discovered his dead body.

The community was heartbroken. Brophy was a beloved figure who was known for serving the local homeless. But no one was more distraught than his widow, who lost the love of her life.

But it wouldn’t take long for Crampton Brophy’s story of woe to unravel.

A forensic scientist with the Oregon State Police revealed that Brophy, 63, was shot with a Glock pistol. Crampton Brophy had researched and purchased a “ghost gun” kit online and then later bought a Glock 17 handgun at a gun show, said prosecutors.

Video cameras also captured footage of Crampton Brophy’s minivan. It was near the Oregon Culinary Institute at the time her husband was killed. However, Crampton Brophy insisted she had “no memory” of being there.

And there was motive, prosecutors insisted – greed. They claimed Crampton Brophy would have pocketed over $1.5 million from her husband’s life insurance policy. She would also have full ownership of their $300,000 home.

“According to the prosecution, she had systematically taken out all of these policies on Dan’s life, but not on her own,” Tretheway explained. “She was experiencing the kind of life she did not intend for herself. Prosecutors said she wanted to sell the house, move to Portugal and live as an expat. Meanwhile, Dan had chickens, backyard experiments and his organic garden. His solution to their financial problems was just to work more. Nancy’s solution was to sign him up for another job. So he never had a day off.”

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“But it seemed there was a lifestyle she wanted that her writing could never provide because she was never successful as a writer,” Tretheway continued. “She never sold enough books to even slightly have a comfortable life. It barely supported her Starbucks habit. So it appeared that she thought killing would be the way to get the lifestyle that she always wanted.”

Crampton Brophy was arrested in September 2018. The stunned widow said she had no reason to kill her husband. She pointed out that their financial problems had largely been solved by cashing in a chunk of Brophy’s retirement savings plan.

Police never found the gun that killed Brophy. Prosecutors alleged Crampton Brophy swapped out the barrel of the gun used in the shooting and then discarded the barrel.

Defense attorneys said the gun parts were inspiration for Crampton Brophy’s writing. They suggested someone else might have killed Brophy during a robbery gone wrong. Crampton Brophy testified during the trial that her presence near the culinary school on the day of her husband’s death was a mere coincidence and that she had parked in the area to work on her writing.

Circuit Judge Christopher Ramras excluded Crampton Brophy’s how-to essay from the trial. He noted it was published in 2011, seven years before Brophy’s death.

Tretheway said it was impossible to ignore Crampton Brophy’s infamous piece.

“The essay reveals a lot about her mindset,” she said. “She talks about how you murder someone. Maybe you shoot them, but then you’ll get blood and brain splattered on the walls. You don’t want to clean that up. Well, she committed the murder somewhere else, so she didn’t have to clean it up.”

In 2022, Crampton Brophy, 71, was found guilty of second-degree murder. She displayed no visible reaction. She was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Tretheway said she attempted to reach out to Crampton Brophy. Her letter was unanswered.

“If Nancy had been more successful as a writer, if money had not been a problem, would she have felt so desperate?” Tretheway reflected. “Did she really love Dan? Only she can answer that… Nancy always thought she was the smartest person in the room… She thought she could engineer the perfect crime and get away with it. Ultimately, she couldn’t.”

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