Dan Brophy: Wife of Popular Chef Exposed as Killer

In my last blog, I profiled the case of Eric Witte. When Witte was a teenager, his mother goaded him into killing his father. This week, we look at the case of Chef Dan Brophy. Culinary students found Brophy shot to death in a kitchen at the school where he taught. The person tried for the murder surprised many.

Dan Brophy

Daniel C. Brophy was a chef. But more than that, he was a chef instructor. For a dozen years, he taught at the Oregon Culinary Institute (OCI) in Portland, Oregon. He’d been on the faculty there since the school opened in 2006. In 2018, he was the lead instructor at the school. Chef Brophy was popular with his students, sometimes injecting humor into his lectures. For instance, he warned his students against grinning in the kitchen, saying that “smiling could sully the food.” He took classes foraging for mushrooms in the words and digging for clams on the coast.

Chef Dan Brophy

Chef Brophy’s wife was 68-year-old Nancy Crompton-Brophy. Nancy was a native Texan who met Dan when she moved to Oregon in the 1990s. She took some classes at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts where Dan taught at the time.

Nancy Crompton-Brophy
Nancy Crompton-Brophy

The Chef’s Wife

Nancy Crompton was the daughter of two lawyers from Wichita Falls, Texas. After moving to Oregon and marrying Dan Brophy, she wrote a series of steamy romance novels, which often included crime themes. She published the books herself. According to an article in Portland Monthly, the books are replete with typos and overwritten pages. But they also had a brisk pace and many fans on Goodreads.

Nancy and Dan in happier times
Nancy and Dan in happier times

Nancy wrote about other things besides romances. In an online biography, she described the challenges of being married to a chef. “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.”

Chef Dan Brophy Found Murdered

June 2, 2018 was a Saturday. Chef Brophy arrived at OCI to prepare for a morning class. He disabled the alarm system at 7:21 a.m. At 7:30 a.m., another instructor arrived at the school. She opened the doors for students at 8:00. That’s when they found Dan Brophy lying on the floor in the rear kitchen, bleeding from two gunshot wounds. He’d been shot once in the chest and once in the back. He was still alive—barely—when students found him but died before paramedics could reach him.

Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon where the murder occurred
Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon where the murder occurred

Evidence Against Nancy

In murder cases, the spouse is always a person of interest, at least at first. In Nancy’s case, there were additional reasons for suspicion. Perhaps the first red flag was the special request she had for Portland detective Darren Posey. Three days after Dan’s murder, Nancy asked Posey for a letter confirming that she wasn’t a suspect in her husband’s death. This was, she said, to help her collect her on husband’s $40,000 life insurance policy. But that wasn’t all. Police later learned that Nancy stood to collect more than $1.4 million in life insurance.

Nancy claimed she was at home during the time Dan Brophy was killed. But surveillance cameras from businesses hear OCI contradicted her story. Video shows her vehicle near the school at about the time of the murder. Furthermore, she admitted to purchasing parts for a “ghost gun,” a Glock 9mm, similar to the murder weapon. Prosecutors alleged that she replaced the slide and barrel on a Glock she owned with parts she bought on eBay.

Nancy Crompton-Brophy in court
Nancy Crompton-Brophy in court

There was more evidence that was less tangible but definitely interesting. A search of Dan’s phone turned up a bookmarked article in an iTunes account the couple shared. Its title was “10 Ways to Cover Up a Murder.” She had also recently written an online essay entitled, “How to Murder Your Husband.”

Epilogue

On May 25, 2022, a jury found Nancy Crompton-Brophy guilty of second-degree murder. She is now serving a life sentence at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon.

In June 2022, NBC’s Dateline broadcast an episode about the case, Murder in Kitchen One.

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