One of the biggest contributing factors to wrongful convictions is police tunnel vision. This occurs in a fairly high percentage of the cases that have been studied – post DNA exonerations. It occurs when police narrow in on a suspect from the very beginning and then fail to consider other possibilities, suspects or scenarios. They ignore evidence that points away from their suspect and they proceed to shape or even manufacture evidence that supports their theory. There is no doubt in my mind that this happened in this case and one person – Jessica Adam shaped the investigation from the very beginning. Police never considered that what she was telling them may not be truthful, but we learned throughout the trial that she was untruthful about all of the state’s key evidence.
Even knowing that everything was based on lies, the State still began their opening arguments with Jessica’s story, her story about Nancy’s plans to paint her house that day. We would learn from the trial that the story wasn’t supported by anyone and it didn’t make sense because it became evident that Nancy agreed to watch the children that morning as Brad had verified plans to play tennis.
Much of what Jessica (and others) shared with police was likely used by the State to get an indictment since they were classified as “inconsistencies”. Unfortunately we aren’t able to see what the grand jury was shown but they must have presented something convincing and it had to have been based on very questionable evidence. The following is a list of items that the witnesses provided to the police that later turned out to be false.
1) The 911 call
Jessica placed a 911 call to police to report Nancy missing. After that she raced to the Cooper home and stood outside yelling to all the neighbors that Brad must have done something. This set things in motion in the case against Brad. It was probably the single biggest thing that harmed him, that convinced police that he was involved in Nancy’s disappearance, yet there was no basis to it – Brad never harmed Nancy. Nancy wasn’t afraid of Brad but the State tried hard to prove that she was but in my opinion they failed to do so.
We may never understand why Jessica felt a need to make that call and why she didn’t first talk to Brad about contacting the police to report Nancy missing. She had been on the phone with him several times that morning and she easily could have asked him “Should we call police?” I still feel like there’s something to this, that maybe she was covering for someone.
2) All Detergent – False
During the investigation, police asked Jessica Adam what type of detergent the Coopers used. Jessica told them that she believed they used ALL. This was important because Brad purchased Tide detergent the morning of Nancy’s disappearance and the police were searching hard for inconsistencies in his story.
She also testified that they used ALL at trial but the defense asked her to review the Cooper’s store records for detergent purchases from the entire year prior to Nancy’s death and they showed that the Coopers had purchased 30 bottles of Tide, only one bottle of ALL. Nonetheless, Detective Daniels, the lead detective in this case considered Brad’s purchase of Tide that morning a red flag – simply because of what Jessica told police about the Coopers using ALL.
2) Jessica made painting plans with Nancy on Friday 7/11/08 – likely False
When Jessica reported Nancy missing, she told police that Nancy was expected at her house by 9AM to paint. Jessica later told police that the painting plans were arranged by phone on Friday, 7/11. When police obtained her phone records, no record of that call existed. She then changed her story. This time she said that she was at the Cooper’s home on Friday when the plans were made. It is my opinion, based on the following and including the changed statement about how and when the plans were made, that it’s unlikely there ever were painting plans scheduled for that morning.
- Nancy didn’t tell anyone at the party on Friday that she had plans to paint the following morning.
- Nancy told 3 people at the party she planned to jog the following morning.
- Nancy had recently told several friends and her sister that she was tired of painting.
- According to Jessica, the painting was to be a swap – Jessica would help Nancy organize the house and in return Nancy would help paint her dining room. Nancy wasn’t even going to profit from this work.
- No additional paint was purchased for the dining room.
- Nancy was aware that Brad had tennis plans with a friend that morning at 9:30 and she would have to watch the kids.
- Jessica didn’t have it written on her calendar, but she did have activities planned with her kids late that morning.
If there were no painting plans scheduled for Saturday, it’s a bit puzzling why Jessica was so hysterical on Saturday morning and pointing the finger at Brad while Nancy was still missing. The police really needed to investigate this, but they were too busy buying into everything she fed them. With three people testifying that Nancy had plans to jog the next morning, and then 16 people contacting them to report that they believed they saw Nancy jogging that morning, why were they so quick to dismiss Brad’s statement – that she went jogging that morning – and instead chose to believe the “painting plan” story, even though there were a lot of holes in it? That is exactly what they did – tunnel vision.
3) Missing Ducks and sticks – False
The police took photos of the Cooper home on Saturday, July 12th and later showed them to Jessica since she said was at their home the previous day. They asked her if she noticed anything different about the house. She said there were decorative ducks and sticks missing from the foyer area. The Cary police ran with this and even testified that this was “evidence of a struggle”. During the trial, it was revealed that the ducks were in a box in the Cooper’s living room all along. The police never bothered to even search for the ducks and sticks. They just took Jessica’s word for it and made it part of their “evidence” – tunnel vision and shoddy police work.
4) Nancy never removed her diamond pendant necklace. – False
Jessica signed a sworn statement that Nancy never removed her necklace. She even included information that she saw Nancy before the party and that she was wearing the necklace, yet she couldn’t remember what clothing she was wearing.
The significance of the necklace is that Nancy wasn’t wearing it when she was found but all of the “friends” stated that she never took it off so this implied that the killer must have removed it. The necklace was found by police in a jewelry box in the Cooper home shortly after Brad was arrested. During the trial the investigator working for the Defense testified about a video that showed Nancy the day before she disappeared and she was not wearing the necklace. It was a myth of the trial that she “never took it off” and again another piece of manufactured evidence against Brad.
5) Nancy wouldn’t schedule a run without telling Jessica – False
Jessica wrote in her affidavit that Nancy wouldn’t have scheduled a run with Carey Clark without including her. For starters, Jessica had never even met Carey at that point. She stated in her affidavit, “we discussed any/all runs we did or intended to make.” During the trial witnesses testified that Nancy ran alone and also ran with other people that Jessica was unaware of.
6) Bella didn’t drink Green juice – False
This was another item that Brad purchased that morning at the store. He told police that Nancy called him while he was on his way to the store and asked him to buy Green Juice for Bella, their 4 year old daughter. Again, police red flagged this because Jessica and Hannah told them that Bella didn’t drink that type of juice.
We learned at the trial that Bella did in fact drink it. The witnesses testified that “Yes she does drink it if it’s offered to her, but Bella never asked for it”. In fact, Detective Young testified that while Nancy was on vacation with the girls and her family, Bella pointed out the Green Juice in the store because she wanted it.
7) Nancy always ran with her keys and cell phone – False
Jessica told police early on in the investigation that Nancy couldn’t have been jogging that morning because she always ran with her keys and cell phone. Again, this was red flagged by police because Nancy’s phone and keys were found on a table inside the Cooper’s home. Several witnesses testified that Nancy in fact did not run with these items.
8) Affidavits filled with lies -
Jessica coordinated and met with others about the affidavits to make sure that everyone had their stories straight. If you read the affidavits, they all tell the same story and much of it was refuted in Brad’s rebuttal affidavits. The affidavits were written before the custody hearing and were written in a way that made Brad sound like a bad father so that Nancy’s family would gain custody of the girls. Even though it was filled with lies, Brad did indeed lose custody of his two girls. It never should have happened.
1) Necklace lies -
Hannah sent an email to Jennifer Fetteroff requesting photos of Nancy between October ’07 and July ’08 and specifically requested only photos of Nancy wearing the diamond pendant necklace. Detective Dismukes was copied on the email so obviously the Cary police were aware of this and likely requested that she seek photos of Nancy specifically wearing the necklace (that’s how it appeared to me). This would help bolster their case against Brad.
A grocery store surveillance video was found by the Defense – from the Friday afternoon before she disappeared. She was not wearing the diamond necklace. Hannah testified that Nancy was wearing the necklace at the pool that morning. Clearly she was not since the video shows Nancy at the store shortly after leaving the pool. This didn’t stop ADA Cummings from trying to negate this in closing arguments – asserting that the video was too grainy (it was not).
“Nancy never removed the necklace” – False
2) Screw-back earrings – False
Hannah made it a point to update her affidavit because she felt she needed to include the fact that Nancy’s diamond earrings were screw-back. To her, this would explain why Nancy was found wearing the diamond earrings but not the necklace. I think Hannah theorized that it would have been too time consuming for the killer to remove the earrings, while the necklace would be easy to remove. The problem is, the earrings were not screw back. The Defense showed them during her testimony at trial. She was wrong.
3) Hannah called the Cooper home on Saturday morning wanting to speak to Nancy. Hannah told police that she was aware of Nancy’s painting plans with Jessica that morning. If this is true, why did she call the house? Why didn’t she try to reach Nancy on her cell phone since she allegedly expected her to be at Jessica’s?
Hannah told police the same things as Jessica regarding Bella and the Green juice. This pack of faux friends of Nancy’s were out to get Brad. They crossed the line of being helpful when they intentionally chose to lie to help the police build their case. They also became rather close to the investigators and were on a first name basis with them.
Ricardo Lopez -
Lopez told police in a recorded interview that while at the Duncan’s party on Friday, Nancy told him that she had plans to jog the following morning. He described vivid details of the conversation he had with her. Detective Dismukes kept asking him if he was certain and he responded “yes”. At the end of the interview, the detective told Mr. Lopez that he would need to speak with Donna (Lopez’s wife) to make sure they had all the facts straight. The next morning Mr. Lopez called the police and asked if he could come in and change his story for the record. In a second recorded interview he stated that he wasn’t actually sure that Nancy told him she had planned to jog in the morning. He also stated that he didn’t want to jeopardize the investigation. Both recorded interviews can be found here. Here’s the video of Ricardo Lopez’s testimony that includes both police recorded interviews (edited for time).
If Cary police detectives were competent and ethical in investigating the case based on factual evidence, they would have quickly recognized the lies or inaccurate information and they would have tried to understand the basis for the lies but instead it appears that they worked closely with these witnesses to build the case against Brad, hoping that no one would notice the lies.
I’m sure that as time went on in the investigation, police began to notice that many of these things from the witnesses weren’t true, but they never stopped and considered that maybe they had it wrong or maybe they did but they felt pressured to stay on course in building a case against Brad. Why did they feel pressured? Did it come from above? Will we ever know? Maybe they felt that they were in too deep by then. Maybe they had even gone so far as to manipulate the computer evidence, thus framing Brad for the murder. If that were true, it would be too late to backtrack and consider other suspects or follow new leads. So they forged ahead. But those of us who watched the trial saw how piece by piece Jessica’s story and all of her helpful “assistance” and all of her tips completely fell apart. Police let lying witnesses drive the entire investigation and were praised at the end of the trial for doing an excellent job – praised by the police chief, mayor and town manager. I hope they understand that people know the truth about the way the investigation was conducted and will not forget about it.