Cooper warrants to remain sealed until September

RALEIGH In the days and weeks following Nancy Cooper's murder investigators searched the house she and her husband Brad lived in with their two children. They searched the family's cars, Brad Cooper's office at Cisco in RTP. And they took blood and saliva samples from Brad Cooper as well.

But what they hauled away and why exactly they conducted those searches will remain unknown for now. Monday afternoon, lawyers representing a couple of media organizations asked Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens to unseal three search warrants in the Cooper investigation. They claim the information contained in the warrants belongs in the public domain.

"The burden is on the state to show why this case is somehow different from the ordinary case, why in this case do we have to seal these documents?" Amanda Martin, a media attorney, argued before Stephens.

The District Attorney's office refrained from specifics in its answers, arguing that the release of the information in the three warrants could hurt ongoing police work and the state's ability to successfully prosecute its case.

"We are interested only in protecting this investigation," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Amy Fitzhugh argued.

Prosecutors also worry release of the information in the warrants could negatively affect people who haven't been charged in the case, to which Martin had a response: "If they're trying to protect an unnamed defendant against heresay that might be reported in the newspaper, I have to ask myself, are they here to say these should remain in effect until the trial is concluded?"

Fitzhugh assured Judge Stephens that wasn't the case. "We are not asking that these items be sealed forever more," she said. The DA's office hoped to get the warrants sealed for an additional 30 days. Stephens split the difference, as it were, and ruled the warrants will be unsealed two weeks from tomorrow, on September 2nd at 1 p.m.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby was asked after the proceeding whether the investigation would be jeopardized by the release of the information on that day.

"Well I don't know," Willoughby said. "It's kinda hard to know what they weather's going to be like on September 2nd. I don't know, we'll just have to wait and see when we get there."

Willoughby told reporters progress is being made in the investigation and said the SBI crime lab is still conducting tests, the results of which could be valuable to the investigation. When specifically asked whether he was confident an arrest would be made in Nancy Cooper's death, Willoughby didn't offer a definitive 'yes' or 'no'.

"I'm confident we're gonna work this case and do the best we can," Willoughby said. "Most of the homicides here ultimately result in arrests. Some of them happen immediately. Some of them take a little longer."

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