False Witness Statements Led To Instant Tunnel Vision For Investigators

images-65One 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

JAJessica 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 DetergentFalse

0007261345054_500X5002During 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.

paint22) Jessica made painting plans with Nancy on Friday 7/11/08likely 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.

  1. Nancy didn’t tell anyone at the party on Friday that she had plans to paint the following morning.
  2. Nancy told 3 people at the party she planned to jog the following morning.
  3. Nancy had recently told several friends and her sister that she was tired of painting.
  4. 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.
  5. No additional paint was purchased for the dining room.
  6. Nancy was aware that Brad had tennis plans with a friend that morning at 9:30 and she would have to watch the kids.
  7. 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.

ducks3) Missing Ducks and sticksFalse

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 JessicaFalse

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 juiceFalse

green-machineThis 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 phoneFalse

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.

Hannah Prichard:

1) Necklace lies –

8045276_600x338Hannah 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 - no necklace

“Nancy never removed the necklace” – False

2) Screw-back earringsFalse

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.

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12 thoughts on “False Witness Statements Led To Instant Tunnel Vision For Investigators

  1. Tunnel vision is one polite way of putting it. Actually, as I listened to the lead detective, I almost felt like he acted like one of of the characters in Bugs Bunny where he stands right in front of them and directs them in the wrong direction looking for the rabbit. The only difference is, those characters usually figured out after a while that they’re a sucker, but I the detective never figured out he had been led down a path going the wrong direction.

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  2. Wow! A GREAT step by step dissection of the root tunnel vision which led to Brads wrongful conviction. I wish you would consider putting together a book about this corruption once Brad is granted a re-trial and found innocent of all charges. Maybe it would wake up others to the ongoing corruption in the Wake County DA’s office. Great job once again Lynne!!

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  3. Horrible!!! How does this happen? Don’t people realize that not only have they lost a friend and convicted the wrong guy… But the lies have set the real killer free to kill again. **FREE CHAD EVANS**

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  4. Bravo once again, Lynne!

    If I remember correctly, the 911 tape was released to the public shortly after it happened – by shortly I mean maybe a week. I listened to it, and although I’m not in law enforcement, I heard the BS immediately:

    First, why on earth would someone state that a MISSING person was killed by their spouse when they are only MISSING? It hadn’t even been that long since Nancy went running – less than 4 – 5 hours, right?

    Second, who calls the police when the spouse is around to do it themselves? Even the operator asked if the husband was there and seemed as perplexed as we are on this site that Jessica called instead of Brad.

    I actually wondered if Jessica killed Nancy immediately after listening to the 911 tape. Isn’t there an affidavit out there that states Nancy received a text message from her ex-fiance, Brett, who has the same name as Jessica’s husband, Jessica saw it, and got really upset with Nancy because she though it was from her husband? I even got the impression during the trial that Jessica and Nancy really weren’t extremely good friends to begin with…

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    • Yes, there was a text message from Brett Wilson and someone jokingly said (in front of Jessica) that it was from HER Brett and I guess she flipped out about it.

      I got the impression that she was jealous of Nancy – a couple of things from the trial that made me think that – the way she talked about the ducks and how she bought ones just like them after seeing Nancy’s and the way she pretended she was going to steal her dress the day before when she was supposedly at the Cooper’s house.

      If I had been in her situation, even if I didn’t like the husband, I certainly would have said “I’m beginning to get worried. Should we call the police?” I would have never done it on my own and I found it very odd too. Then the way she raced over to their house after calling police and she told others not to talk to the police. Why did she go over there at all? I would have never done that either. I may have instead went out to look for my friend, drove around the areas where she normally jogged.

      One more thing too – on the 911 call she said “Her phone and purse are in the car”, so she had already been to the Cooper’s house when she made the call?! And the phone wasn’t in the car, it was in the house. Something’s up with her. She is either involved or she knows something about what happened to Nancy.

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  5. Sounds a little “Single White Female”, huh? I agree the whole 911 conversation was twisted. Too bad the operator couldn’t have been involved in the investigation because she seemed really confused with this random person calling about a missing, married person. Brad didn’t call because he was out looking for Nancy, unlike Jessica What a shady character…

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    • Yes, it does remind me of “Single white female”. The prosecutors, the media,Amanda Lamb, the faux friends – all of them made Brad sound so heartless that he didn’t call police, but few people would in that situation as it had only been a few hours. Most people do go by the 24 hour rule to report someone missing.

      Jessica *knew* something bad had happened to Nancy. How did she know? How foolish she would have looked if Nancy came home, apologized for worrying everyone but said she ran into a friend and went for coffee or something. She was hysterical. She even felt a need to make up the paint plan story to try to explain her panic.

      We know that Nancy received a phone call that night at around 10PM from Brett’s cell phone (Jessica’s husband). Jessica said it was her making the call, but maybe it wasn’t. Assuming it was her though, maybe she called to ask Nancy to meet her somewhere the next morning and something bad happened.

      At the trial, I noticed that Jessica and Brett had different stories about the timing and what they claimed occurred that morning preparing for Nancy to arrive to paint. That was a red flag to me too.

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  6. This case is unusual in that it gives a complete roadmap as to how and how early the tunnel vision occurred and how it led to a complete shambles of an investigation. The first warning of tunnel vision occurred with Chief Bazemore who said they believe ” it is not a random crime” ( thus the spouse) and she failed to deny the bleach rumour. This was very soon after Nancy’s disappearance. ALL the witnesses who sighted Nancy were ignored for months and certainly no attempt was made to get effective testimony from little Bella. The usually important forensics were completely ignored such as tire tracks and footprints leading up to the body. Larvae died in the lab, computer was left unprotected, cell phone wiped clean etc. once Bazemore made that statement, it became a snowball rolling over Brad Cooper, simple as that. One need examine only what actually occurred. Police did not properly interview EYEwitnesses and ignored forensics and forensics protocols. Instead they relied on confirmation bias to support the lies and innuendoes of some pretty wacky neighbours. Not how I want crimes to be solved for sure.

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