Key Witness Falls Flat at ‘How To Murder Your Husband’ Writer’s Trial for Murdering Her Husband

·3 min read
Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP
Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP

Looming for weeks over the trial of an Oregon romance novelist charged with killing her chef husband has been the question of whether a witness who shared a jail dormitory with Nancy Brophy will testify, having told detectives that Brophy had described herself as being “this far apart” (her arms outstretched) from her husband when he was shot.

As attorneys for the prosecution and defense argued about whether the witness, Anndrea Jacobs, should be allowed to testify, Multnomah County Judge Christopher Ramras had previously ruled that she could do so only if Brophy’s attorneys introduced evidence that would warrant the state calling her as a “rebuttal witness” to push back on some information the defense had presented. On Wednesday, Brophy’s lawyers asked what, exactly, Jacobs would be rebutting.

Jacobs would rebut “the statement that (Brophy) did not kill her husband,” Deputy District Attorney Shawn Overstreet said, by testifying “that she was so far apart when she shot her husband.”

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Only, that’s not quite what Jacobs testified, after Multnomah County Judge Christopher Ramras ruled she would be allowed to take the stand.

Jacobs said Brophy showed her a copy of People Magazine when the two shared a dormitory in the Multnomah County Jail, and offered for her to read an article about the case. Jacobs said she suggested Brophy might be able to “use the media” to help find out who killed her husband, Dan Brophy, and that Nancy Brophy replied that wasn’t necessary.

“She said she didn’t have to prove who killed her husband,” Jacobs said. “She just needed to worry about proving that she didn’t.”

As for the “this far away” claim, here’s how Jacobs described it:

“She told me he was shot two times to the heart,” Jacobs said. “She showed me the distance, she said it was about, and used her arm span. I said ‘Wow, that must have been close up.’ She said ‘Well it was about this far.’”

“Did she say anything about her involvement?” Overstreet asked.

“When we were first talking, she slipped up, and started to say ‘I’ but then switched to ‘It,’ saying ‘It was about this far apart.’”

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Not exactly a confession, in other words. But that didn’t stop Brophy attorney Lisa Maxfield from grilling the witness about what she might have been promised in exchange for her testimony. Jacobs was a bookkeeper, convicted on felony fraud charges after diverting more than $1.1 million from medical and dental practices she worked in and sentenced to four years in federal prison. Jacobs is facing new charges, it was revealed in court today, of Medicare fraud. Maxfield did her best to get Jacobs to admit her testimony was in the hope of receiving some kind of leniency. She suggested the Portland Police detective who interviewed Jacobs in April had promised if she cooperated in this case, “it could be of value to you.”

“His offer was even a little better than that,” Maxfield said. “He told you you wouldn’t even have to testify if you didn’t want to. It was totally up to you. But he said we don’t even play this game until we hear your information. What game did you think you were playing?”

“I have no idea,” Jacobs replied.

“You were hoping your Medicaid case would go away,” Maxfield said.

“No,” Jacobs replied.

At the end of her testimony, Jacobs insisted she had no desire to be involved in this case, would get nothing out of it and in fact had received a series of threats at the prison camp in Texas where she’s now incarcerated. “This is not an easy thing to do, and it’s the worst thing when you’re incarcerated is to testify against another inmate,” Jacobs said. “There’s a certain code of ethics when you’re in person and in jail.”

The case is apparently now close to its finish, with the defense resting Wednesday morning and the state calling its rebuttal witnesses in the afternoon. Next come closing arguments—and a verdict.

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