Hint of physical evidence in Cooper case

Brad Cooper listens to evidence with his attorney Howard Kurtz
March 31, 2011 9:00:00 PM PDT
A Cary police officer testified Friday about straw he observed on a doormat inside Brad Cooper's home and said it was similar to straw he noticed at the scene where Nancy Cooper's body was found.

"It drew my attention because earlier in the morning I was on Fielding Drive and observed what appeared to be the same substance," said Officer David Hazelzet.

Hazelzet told jurors he spotted the straw when he went to the Cooper home just before a search warrant was served on July 15, 2008.

Brad Cooper is on trial for allegedly killing Nancy. Her body was discovered next to a storm water retention pond in an unfinished subdivision July 14, two days after she was reported missing. An autopsy showed she was strangled.

If future testimony shows the straw was collected during the search and it matches straw at the crime scene, it would be the first hint of physical evidence in three weeks of testimony in the trial.

But Cary police detectives had been to the crime scene and visited the Cooper house before Hazelzet spotted the straw, so it's likely the defense will argue the police tracked it into the home themselves.

Cooper's lawyer Howard Kurtz has portrayed the investigation as sloppy since his opening statement. During cross-examination of Cary detective Jim Young earlier this week, Kurtz asked about a picture of another detective during the search that shows the man not wearing protective covers over his shoes.

Other testimony Friday once again focused in the Cooper marriage as much of the testimony has thus far. Prosecutors say Brad murdered Nancy after they returned from a party the night of July 11 because he was angry she planned to divorce him and move with their two daughters back to her native Canada.

On the witness stand Friday, Nancy's friend Susan Crook testified that she contacted domestic violence agency InterAct of Wake County in February 2008 because she was concerned about Brad's behavior. She said he appeared to be depressed and was acting strangely.

"I told InterAct that my friend found upsetting notes from her husband, water was cut off and bank accounts cancelled," said Crook.

On cross-examination she admitted she'd never witnessed Brad hurting Nancy.

Other testimony Friday centered on Brad's infidelity. Pest control exterminator Gary Beard told jurors that Nancy even told him Brad was unfaithful.

Beard said he tried to get Nancy to contact her friend Heather Metour because she owed him money, but Nancy said the two were no longer on speaking terms because Metour had slept with her husband.

Real estate agent Thomas Garrett - who sold the Coopers their home and was contacted about selling it again because of the pending divorce - also testified that Nancy told him about the affair.

The defense has not disputed testimony that Cooper's marriage was troubled and that Brad had an affair, but says that doesn't make him a murderer. Cooper's lawyers claim Nancy's friends convinced police he was the killer from the beginning and they never looked at other suspects.

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