Brad Cooper, the man charged with the 2008 murder of his wife Nancy, will spend life in prison after a jury found him guilty of first degree murder Thursday.
The jury of 10 females and two males delivered their decision Thursday afternoon after two days of deliberations, totaling more than 10 hours.
The trial had carried on for eight weeks and nearly 100 witnesses took the stand, making it one of the longest murder trials in Wake County not involving the death penalty.
"I appreciate your patience, this has been a tragedy ... There is no doubt that your decisions here will weigh heavily on you in the days to come," Judge Paul Gessner said to the jury.
When the long awaited verdict was read, Nancy Cooper's family was seen crying and hugging the prosecution team. The Cooper family said the verdict is a relief but overall, called it a "tragedy in more than one way."
Nancy's family, from Edmonton, Canada, sat through every day of the lengthy trial.
"I have lost my sister but at least this is vindication for my sister … It is bitter sweet," Krista Lister, Nancy Cooper's twin sister who will now take custody of the Cooper's two daughters, said. "I am looking forward to returning home and continuing Nancy's legacy and being a mom to her girls."
In a written statement, defense attorneys Howard Kurtz and Robert Trenkle said they were disappointed with the jury's decision and are planning to appeal the verdict.
"We feel that, had the jury been permitted to hear the testimony of our computer experts, the verdict likely would have been different," the statement read.
"It is our belief that the appellate issues are strong and we hope to have another chance to exonerate our client in the future."
On July 12, 2008, Brad reported Nancy missing after he said she did not return home after she went jogging. Her body was found two days later about three miles from the Cooper's home in Cary.
Brad was arrested in October 2008, accused of strangling his wife and leaving her in a construction site in Cary.
The prosecution aimed to prove that, contrary to Brad's statements, Nancy never went jogging the morning of her disappearance. Lead prosecutor Howard Cummings responded Thursday to the lack of blood or bodily fluids linking Brad to Nancy's death.
"The reason we didn't have any blood or any bodily fluids is because [Brad] had been cleaning up for hours," Cummings said.
Since the beginning of the trial, defense attorneys contended there was a lack of hard evidence linking Brad to Nancy's murder.
"The footprints inches from Nancy's body, never cast, never photographed in detail ... because they did not match Brad's size-13 feet, so there was no point," Kurtz said during Tuesday's closing arguments.
However the prosecution focused on computer records that indicated Brad Cooper's questionable behavior.
"This is a case about facts," prosecution attorney Boz Zellinger said in his closing argument. "Fact: the defendant Googled where he was going to place his wife's body. Fact: the shoes the defendant's wife was wearing that morning are now missing."
Cummings said the Google map found on Brad's computer was as close as they came to a "smoking gun."
"The maps created a clear picture of what happened and it was a picture that everyone on the jury understood," Cummings said.
In his closing argument Wednesday, Zellinger asked the jury to stand up to domestic violence and find Brad guilty of murder.
"One day society will stand up to domestic violence. Today is that day and you are that jury. Brad Cooper is guilty of murder, find him so," Zellinger said.
Following Thursday's verdict, Zellinger said, "People might say that you never saw any physical violence in [Brad and Nancy's] relationship, but in today's day and age, we are so far past that… It was all about control and I think every member of the jury understood that."
Nancy's friend Diana Duncan said Thursday's verdict is a "relief" and a "tragedy."
"After the tragedy of losing Nancy, the second tragedy was that those two little girls lost both their parents," Duncan said during a telephone interview.
Duncan pointed out that Nancy and Brad's daughters have new parents and "now they have a certain future with those parents."
Statement from Benjamin T. Shivar, Cary Town Manager:
“Throughout this tragic incident --from the moment Nancy Cooper was reported missing all the way through to the jury’s verdict – Chief Bazemore and her team have brought every resource to bear on appropriately solving the case. They worked tirelessly, professionally, and with unimpeachable integrity – just as they’ve done throughout my 17 years with the Town of Cary." Click here to read his full statement.
Statement from Pat Bazemore, Town of Cary Police Department:
“Today’s verdict brings a terrible chapter in our community to a close. Nancy’s family and friends as well as our citizens at large can move ahead with confidence that justice has been served." Click here to read the rest of her statement.
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