Former Cisco engineer Brad Cooper (above), 40, has pled guilty ahead of his retrial in the death of his wife Nancy Cooper.  Cooper’s original trial was broadcast on television.  The Coopers had been married for seven years and had two daughters.  As part of the plea deal, which had Cooper plead guilty to second degree murder, he also relinquished all parental rights to his daughters.

Cooper maintained for the last 6 years that he was not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of his wife.  Cooper, native of Canada, moved to North Carolina in 2001 as part of a “tech rush” in the area.  Prosecutors said that Nancy Cooper was strangled to death by her husband as the result of an escalation of domestic violence in their relationship.  Cooper’s body was found 3 miles from her home in an unfinished residential development.  Nancy Cooper’s twin sister, Krista Lister, will now officially adopt the Cooper’s daughters.

“It’s total relief,” Lister said afterward. “…I’m very happy about it.”  She went on to say that it hasn’t been easy for the girls to accept their mother’s death.

Nancy Cooper’s family had pushed for the parental termination to be included as a requirement of the plea deal.

Judge Paul Gessner asked Brad Cooper, as per procedure, “Did you, in fact, kill Nancy Cooper and dump her body on Fielding Drive?”  Cooper hesitated, but answered, “yes.”

As a result of the plea deal, Cooper was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison, with credit for time served. The Coopers’ daughters will be teenagers by the time that Cooper is released.  The family says that they can decide for themselves if they want any relationship with him.

Brad Cooper was arrested in the fall of 2008 after reporting his wife missing.  Her body was found 4 months before his arrest.  Cooper maintained during the trial that his wife had gone jogging and never came home.  In 2011, Cooper was convicted of first-degree murder by a jury and sentenced to life in prison.  The trial lasted a little more than a month and was one of the most expensive trials in the history of Wake County, NC.  In 2013, the N.C. Court of Appeals overturned the verdict and the N.C. Supreme Court declined to review the decision.  The State Attorney General of N.C. had personally appealed the new trial ruling.

The case was largely circumstantial.  Jurors said after the trial that prosecutors won because computer evidence showed that Cooper visited a map of the site where his wife’s body was found before she was found there. The defense had hoped to argue at the new trial the computer evidence could have been tampered with or even planted by inept investigators.  They had wanted to raise questions about the validity of the time stamps on the laptop files.

The appeals court ruled that the “sole physical evidence linking” Brad Cooper to his wife’s murder was the Google Maps search and that “absent this evidence…[the only evidence linking Cooper is] potential motive, opportunity, and testimony of suspicious behavior.”

The panel added that “whether the error was constitutional or not” the failure of the trial judge, which was Gessner, to allow Cooper to present experts testifying about the “sole physical evidence” was an error worthy of a new trial. After this appeal, Cooper got new defense lawyers and the prosecution implied that a plea deal that had been on the table since the original trial was still available.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings said that the case was a case of “mental and physical domestic violence.” Over the years, according to the prosecution, the couple’s relationship deteriorated to the point that Nancy Cooper was considering leaving her marriage and returning to Canada with their two children.  Nancy’s friends described her as an emotionally battered wife, who was formerly an independent career woman and now had to solely rely on her husband.  Friends testified that Brad Cooper used the family’s finances as a means to punish and control his wife. According to authorities, Brad Cooper initially supported his wife’s return to Canada and even told other people that he was in love with a woman he was having an affair with.

“What he did was prevent her from leaving, for among other reasons, because it was going to cost too much,” Cummings said.

Brad Cooper had a work visa, but Nancy Cooper had no independent papers to remain in the U.S.

Prosecutors explained that the financial motive was one of the reasons they sought a second degree murder plea, also Nancy Cooper’s family’s wish for closure, and the financial toll a second trial would take on the community.  As well as the toll on the Cary P.D.  Cummings said the police were “[run] through the mill the likes [of which] I’ve never seen.”

When asked by the media if justice had been served, Cummings responded, “It depends on how you measure justice…The justice would have been if it could have been prevented.”

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