Dateline NBC aired “The day she disappeared” last Friday. My final comments in Friday’s post before it aired were, “As you watch Dateline tonight, remember that things aren’t necessarily as they appear. Luckily we have all the trial video to prove it.” At the beginning of the segment, Keith Morrison mentioned reports of mysterious van sightings in the area around the time that Nancy disappeared. Detective Daniels was quoted, “We’re not walking away from anything at this point. Everything becomes important.”
In reality, police ignored sixteen witnesses who contacted them in the days following Nancy Cooper’s disappearance. Witnesses contacted police after seeing the “missing” flyers and some were very confident that it was her. Rosemary Zednick was certain she saw Nancy that morning and was very concerned about her. Concerned enough that she contacted police several times to inform them but after months went by and police neglected to follow up with her, she contacted the defense because she felt it was important that someone had this information. Her affidavit describes this and the trial video shows defense questioning the lead detective and his hesitance to discuss his interview with Rosemary. It also shows an example of the police/ADA/judge connection and the bias that was so obvious throughout the trial.
In addition to the many reported sightings of Nancy, a few witnesses also told police that they saw a strange van in the area. One man reported that the van did a u-turn and appeared to follow the jogger that he later identified as Nancy Cooper and he was 90% certain it was her. Another man who lived in the Coopers neighborhood contacted Cary police the night before Nancy disappeared to report a break-in attempt at his home and to request extra patrols of the area. When he went outside to investigate, he saw a van speeding away with its lights out. And another woman who lived near the area where Nancy’s body was found remembered seeing two women joggers that morning and later, a strange van parked in the neighborhood that didn’t belong there. Police did not make this part of their investigation. They ignored this. The video of their testimony can be viewed here.
Just imagine if police had immediately followed up with these witnesses and taken notes on the details about the van and descriptions of the people driving it and issued an APB and then had the media broadcast the details to the public. Imagine if they were able to locate the van and the owner so they could question him, compare the tires to tracks left at the scene and search the inside of the van. We have no way of knowing if they would have found anything, but it’s important to point out that this could have had a completely different outcome. Police DID ignore this information because they were exclusively focused on Brad Cooper to the point of ignoring relevant information that could have been crucial to solving this case.
The police and prosecutors continue to state that they did follow-up with everyone. It’s true that they eventually got in touch with some of them, but not one person was contacted in those early days of the investigation. The only contact police had with ANY of the witnesses occurred 3 months after Nancy’s murder and that is inexcusable. What was the point of even posting the flyers if they were just going to ignore the information received? Police assert that no one who knew Nancy Cooper reported seeing her that morning so that justifies ignoring the 16 people who contacted them….because they didn’t know her personally. In fact one of their own officers believed they saw a jogger matching her description that morning! How is it logical or acceptable to ignore 16 sightings simply because the people didn’t know her?! If that were the case, why post flyers at all?
A final thing worth noting about the witnesses’ reports is the clothing description of the jogger. Several of them described seeing a woman jogging in a light shirt and dark shorts. Although this didn’t make it into the court room, Brad and Nancy’s daughter, Bella told a neighbor that afternoon that she saw her mother in black shorts and a white t-shirt that morning. The neighbor shared this information with one of the detectives. The defense never received any further details about follow up questioning of Bella, of the outcome or even if they questioned the child at all. And if they didn’t, why didn’t they? They filed a motion to compel on this issue and others, but the judge refused to order prosecutors to turn this information over to the defense. The jury never got to hear about this and it clearly supported Brad’s story that Nancy went jogging that morning. Everything that supported Brad’s story was hidden, ignored or explained away….the “spoofed” phone call that they never proved, the fact that Nancy told 3 people at the party that she planned to jog the next morning, Bella seeing her mother that morning, and 16 witnesses reportedly seeing a jogger matching her description. Amazing that this was even possible.
Here is a video highlighting how the witnesses were ignored by police investigators.