A New True Crime Podcast Digs Into the Case of a Beaverton Romance Writer Convicted of Murdering Her Husband

“Happily Never After: Dan and Nancy” host Heidi Joy Tretheway examines the case and shares behind-the-scenes knowledge.

Nancy Crampton Brophy (KATU)

An outstanding murder podcast must have the following components. One: a twisty whodunit crime. Two: a magnetic host to guide the listener through the murder in a way that is compelling yet sensitive to the deceased and their family. Three: a high-profile case with built-in listener interest—and a desire for hot goss.

A new true crime pod with local ties debuted June 3, and it’s particularly long on components 2 and 3. That’s thanks largely to the host, Heidi Joy Tretheway, who has a personal connection to the case and generously shares her behind-the-scenes knowledge.

Happily Never After: Dan and Nancy examines the murder of Dan Brophy, the chef who was shot at the Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland’s Goose Hollow neighborhood on June 2, 2018. Because the crime and salacious 2022 court trial attracted national media attention, it is no spoiler to reveal that the killer turned out to be his wife, Nancy Crampton Brophy, a Beaverton romance novelist who had also written an online essay called “How to Murder Your Husband” seven years before.

That is just one of many forehead-slapping moments in Happily Never After, a production of the podcast platform Wondery and The Oregonian.

While Crampton Brophy’s various blunders—immediately circling the crime scene in her own minivan!—eradicate the suspense of whodunit and how she dunit, the question of why she dunit offers more intrigue. The short answer is a life insurance payout, but what actually motivated a comfortable suburban woman in her late 60s with no criminal record to violently off her husband is a reason to lean in.

Unfortunately, Wondery only made Episodes 1-4 of the six-episode season available to review, so here’s hoping those final two dig into some criminal psychology.

The host, Tretheway, distills the issue neatly at the beginning of Episode 3.

“How did Nancy go from writing about murder to committing one?” she asks. “And if you were going to kill someone, why the hell would you publish an essay about it?”

Tretheway is the podcast’s real ace because she was in the same writing group as Crampton Brophy, the Rose City Romance Writers. She brings a bevy of insights to the series as a fellow romance novelist and acquaintance of Crampton Brophy. The best ones: how Crampton Brophy handed out roses to writers when they finished their novels as if she were on an episode of The Bachelorette; the time Crampton Brophy brutally panned the title and cover image of Tretheway’s new book as Tretheway proudly presented it to the group; an explanation of romance novel subgenres, such as historical, paranormal and Amish. (Yes, Amish.)

In addition to snagging Tretheway, the production team secured interviews with a multitude of local officials, cops and journalists, which makes for a particularly fun listen in two-degrees-of-separation Portland. There’s Multnomah County senior deputy district attorney Shawn Overstreet huddled in the back of a pizza shop, squinting at security footage; deputy district attorney Nicole Hermann reading all of Crampton Brophy’s books while on honeymoon in Croatia; Detectives Darren Posey and Anthony Merrill explaining what raised their suspicions; and Oregonian crime reporter Shane Dixon Kavanaugh digging up the infamous “How to Murder Your Husband” essay, which Crampton Brophy published on a romance writing blog.

“I probably shouldn’t have, but I believe I laughed,” Kavanaugh says. “The connection was, in many ways, too good to be true.”

Happily Never After: Dan and Nancy feels like a victory lap for the whole gang, which is a little eye-rolly but justified. Kavanaugh’s articles went international, and law enforcement ran a tidy investigation and got the criminal behind bars. (Crampton Brophy is serving a life sentence at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.)

The national appetite for true crime content is so intense right now that even though Crampton Brophy was only convicted in 2022, Wondery isn’t even the first or second outlet to get its hands on the case. 2023 saw a Lifetime movie of the crime starring Cybill Shepherd, plus an episode of A&E’s Taking the Stand. America is metabolizing murders as entertainment practically as fast as the bodies can stack up. (As a murderino—the nickname for true crime fanatics—I am aware that I am part of the problem.)

Dan & Nancy is the inaugural season of Happily Never After, which will continue to feature real-life stories of bad romances. Wondery is the company behind other true crime franchises such as Dr. Death and Suspect.

In Episode 3, Tretheway details the two different approaches to romance novel plotting.

“There are ‘plotters’ who plan out every story beat in advance and ‘pantsers’ like Nancy who write by the seat of their pants and just kind of see where the story goes,” Tretheway says.

Even though she was a bit of a “pantser” in committing her actual crime, too, Happily Never After: Dan and Nancy nevertheless delivers an engaging story. Listeners can enjoy sordid details of betrayal and murder while walking their dogs, commuting, or cooking dinner, just as nature intended.

LISTEN: Happily Never After: Dan and Nancy streams on Wondery, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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