Love Lies: A True Story of Marriage and Murder in the Suburbs

Love Lies: A True Story of Marriage and Murder in the Suburbs

by Amanda Lamb


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A perfect life. A perfect lie.

When Nancy Cooper moved from Canada to Cary, North Carolina with her new husband Brad, their future was bright: living in one of the most picturesque towns in the US, the couple mingled with neighbors, attended parties, and raised two daughters.

Then, on July 14th, 2008, the façade came crashing down when Nancy’s strangled body was found in a storm pond.

Nancy’s husband claimed that she had gone for a jog and never come back. But as the police investigation deepened, and as Brad was brought to trial for murdering his wife, a complex web of affairs and lies was uncovered involving multiple residents of Cary’s idyllic neighborhoods. At the heart of it stood the Coopers’ soured marriage, Nancy’s threat to leave with the children, and her own cold-blooded murder. It would take a mountain of damning evidence before justice was served.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781682301975
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: 09/22/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 366
Sales rank: 431,218
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

By day Amanda is an award-winning television reporter covering the crime beat for WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is a published author of three books. Her second book, Deadly Dose (Berkley/Penguin Putnam, June 2008), a true crime based on a murder case she covered as a journalist, has received excellent reviews and sold more than forty thousand copies. Her third book, another true crime entitled Evil Next Door (Berkley/Penguin Putnam, April 2010), has been very well received. She writes a weekly parenting blog called Go Ask Mom for WRAL.

Read an Excerpt



Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tears are the silent language of grief.


On Saturday, July 12, 2008, Jessica Adam called 911 at 1:50 P.M. to report her close friend Nancy Cooper missing.

"She supposedly went out for a run at seven o'clock this morning in Lochmere, and no one has heard from her," Adam told the dispatcher in a shaky voice.

Adam had been home since 8:00 A.M., waiting for Nancy to show up to help her paint. She tried calling Nancy repeatedly at home and on her cell phone. When she got no response, Adam just knew something was very wrong.

"She was supposed to be at my house at eight, and just because of the situation with the divorce, I'm just wondering if you could help — I don't know what I should do," Adam said with growing agitation in her voice.

Everyone who knew Nancy and her husband, Brad Cooper, knew they were headed for divorce. The couple had made no secret of the fact that they were in the process of going through a legal separation and that Nancy was thinking about moving back to their native Canada with the couple's two young daughters. Isabella Nancy Cooper, nicknamed Bella, was four, and Gabriella Kathryn Cooper, who was called Katie, was almost two.

"Her and her husband were living together, but they were in the middle of a divorce," Adam told the dispatcher with some hesitation.

Adam went on to say that she had spoken with Brad Cooper by phone and that he had told her Nancy had gone out for a jog with a friend around seven that morning and had not yet returned. Adam told the dispatcher she had not been aware that Nancy had made plans to go running with a friend that day.

"According to her husband, when I called this morning around nine o'clock," Adam said, in between several deep breaths, "he said she had left this morning for a run, early, he believed with her friend Carey."

Adam said it was not like Nancy not to show up when she'd made a promise to a friend.

"She would have made contact with me or her other friends by now, who both had expected her today," Adam said, obviously trying hard to keep her emotions in check. "And the fact that her car is still at home and her cell phone is there is a little weird. That would not make sense."

Adam's voice sounded strained. It was as if she knew more than she felt comfortable saying, but hoped that the dispatcher could read between the lines. She stopped on occasion to speak to someone in the background before she answered questions. Adam told the dispatcher that she and Nancy's other close friend, Hannah Prichard, were both growing increasingly concerned about their friend's well-being, especially because Nancy had seemingly disappeared in the middle of having marital problems.

"Her husband, maybe that he's done something, I don't ... I mean God forbid," Adam said, stopping short.

The dispatcher asked Adam if she knew whether or not Brad Cooper had ever physically abused his wife. Adam covered the receiver and consulted with people in the background before answering. Muffled talking could be heard before she uncovered the receiver again and responded.

"I don't know that he's been physically violent, but I know there's been a lot of tension. So I wouldn't be surprised," Adam replied to the dispatcher's question. "I hate to say it, but I'm just not sure what to do."

Adam told the dispatcher that Nancy was an avid runner who had been training for a marathon. She said Nancy sometimes ran the trails through the woods that surrounded the neighborhood but usually never strayed too far from public areas, winding back and forth off the main drag, Lochmere Drive. Adam wondered out loud if maybe something had gone wrong with her friend's health; yet she had already called the local hospital emergency room, and there was no one there who fit Nancy's description.

Adam reiterated her concerns to the dispatcher. "As of right now, I think basically the information we have is that she left the house at seven o'clock, assuming her husband is telling the truth, and she's not returned, which wouldn't make sense."

Jessica Adam wanted to know what the Cary Police Department could do to help them find Nancy. She asked if there was a certain amount of time Nancy needed to be missing before they could file a report, and if it had to be Brad who filed the report instead of Nancy's friends.

Suddenly, another dispatcher broke in on the line, telling Adam that they would have an officer go by the Cooper home to speak with Brad about the situation. She said they would check on Nancy's whereabouts and needed a good description of her in order to begin the search.

"Tall, slender, very pretty, blond brownish hair," Adam said with hopefulness in her voice for the first time in the conversation.

The dispatcher then told Adam there was no time limit they had to wait to file a missing persons report, but that Nancy's husband would have to be the one to officially file it.

"I don't know how he's going to react to this either," Adam said, hesitating.

"You know what, it's okay, it's better to be safe than sorry," the new dispatcher said in a soothing voice. "If you're concerned about her, this is what I would want my true friend to do."

Family Ties

At 3:00 P.M. on Saturday, July 12, 2008, Clea Morwick, another friend and neighbor, called Krista Lister, Nancy Cooper's identical twin sister, to tell her about Nancy's disappearance. Krista was at a baseball game in Toronto with her husband at the time.

"Nancy's missing, have you heard from her?" Morwick asked Krista.

Krista hadn't and was immediately worried. As is the case with many sets of identical twins, Krista and Nancy had a unique bond. Even though Nancy lived in North Carolina and Krista lived in Ontario, Canada, the two kept in close contact, talking by phone several times a day.

While the sisters were identical, they still had many differences. Krista was the quieter, more reserved sister. Nancy was the more outgoing one. One thing they did share, however, was a love for children. But Krista, unfortunately, was unable to have children of her own after a medical condition that led to a hysterectomy. As a result, she bonded deeply with her nieces. It was the closest she would ever come to having her own children. Bella called her "Krista-Mum." The twins were so close that Nancy had even talked at one point about being a surrogate for Krista and carrying a child for her.

So when she got the call from Morwick about Nancy's disappearance, Krista knew something was seriously amiss. "She was gone. She'd never leave her kids. So I knew that she was in danger, and I couldn't feel her anymore ... I knew something was really wrong," Krista recalled later.

Immediately, Krista hung up with Morwick and called her sister's husband, Brad Cooper. Krista had never really liked Brad or understood her sister's attraction to him. She found him to be insufferably antisocial and dark compared to Nancy who was always so full of life. Lately, the couple had been going through a messy separation while still living in their Cary, North Carolina, home together. Krista decided to cut to the chase with her brother-in-law.

"Where's Nancy?" Krista asked him.

"I don't know, Kris. She went for a run, and she hasn't come back," Brad replied.

"What happened?" Krista demanded.

"I don't know. She hasn't come back from a run," he said again.

"That's not like Nancy, so where is she?" Krista asked, this time in an accusatory tone.

"She went for a run. I don't know," he answered calmly for the third time. Then she asked him an accusatory question — what have you done to her? Brad hung up on her.

Krista was baffled. "He sounded sad. He wasn't defensive. He wasn't anything. You know, just answered my questions like normal Brad," she later recalled.

Krista called the rest of the close-knit family — her parents; younger sister, Jill; and older brother, Jeff, who all still lived on the western side of Canada in Edmonton, Alberta, where they had grown up — to fill them in on what was going on down in North Carolina.

Her parents, Donna and Garry Rentz, were in church attending a funeral that day, but Garry's phone kept vibrating, so he finally excused himself and went outside to listen to the message. He returned to the sanctuary and brought his wife back outside to tell her what had happened. Donna was the more sensitive half of the couple, and he expected her reaction would be highly emotional.

"We knew that afternoon this was not going to have a happy ending," Garry said.

"Garry was a little more certain than I was," Donna clarified. She'd clung to the hope that maybe her daughter's disappearance was a misunderstanding, a mix-up, or a mistake.

The Rentzes started making plans to head to North Carolina to help in the search for their daughter. But even as they were getting ready to head to the United States, they never heard a word from their son-in-law, Brad. This bothered them intensely, as they were very close to Brad and had accepted him lovingly into their large nurturing family.

"He did not call us to tell us she was missing," Donna recalled sadly.

Jill Dean, the youngest of the Rentz children, was out furniture shopping with her husband, Chad, when Krista called to tell her about Nancy's disappearance. Jill received three calls from Krista in a row that went to voice mail because she was distracted. When she finally picked up, Jill was sitting on a couch in the middle of a store when Krista told her the news.

"Something bad has happened to Nancy. She went jogging and no one can find her, and I'm really scared," Krista told her hysterically.

Even though Jill was the youngest, she was considered the most rational, least emotional, of the three sisters, able to look at situations logically — a trait she inherited from her father, Garry.

"My immediate response was to try to figure it out," Jill said. "Maybe she went jogging, and maybe she really did go for coffee because she wanted to get away." But even for Jill, this explanation was a stretch. She knew how devoted her big sister was to her two little girls, Bella and Katie. She also knew that her sister and her husband, Brad, were having serious problems.

"She would never have left her kids with Brad in the morning like that," Jill said. "She was just not like that. She would call for sure. She would never leave her kids. She would never leave and not tell us where she was going. Immediately, something did not add up."

Nine years younger than her twin sisters, Jill had always felt as though she had two extra mothers. But with Nancy, it was more than just having an older sister to look out for her; Nancy represented everything Jill wanted to be when she grew up. When Nancy moved from Edmonton to Calgary after college, Jill, a teenager at the time, had visited her every weekend.

"She was my entire life growing up. I wanted to be Nancy, I wanted to do everything with her," Jill said. "She was just that girl who not only guys but everyone wanted to be around. My friends wanted her to be their sister. Everybody loved her. She was just perfection to me."

As they grew up, Jill could see that Nancy was an imperfect human being like herself. In a way, it was like finding out Santa Claus wasn't real. It was a letdown for Jill, a death of the fantasy she had had about Nancy.

"We fought a lot. We're exactly alike. We're really strong-willed," Jill said.

While this reality made their relationship more complicated, it also changed the balance of power. Instead of blindly worshipping her older sister, Jill became a source of steady advice and calm strength for Nancy as she faced adversity in her adult life.

The oldest sibling and only brother, Jeff Rentz, also got a call from Krista that afternoon saying that Nancy was missing. Jeff, a police officer, was eighteen months older than Nancy and Krista and naturally protective of all of his little sisters. Yet he, too, had a special bond with Nancy.

"She was just that person to me. She was always the person that was there when you needed her," Jeff said.

Nancy was the one there for Jeff when he and his wife, Shannon, had a miscarriage and when they had their first child. She was always the first one to call and the one who would stay on the line as long as he needed to talk.

"I always thought the world of her," Jeff said of his little sister. "The years I was closest with her and did the most with her were some of the best years of my life."

After Nancy married Brad Cooper and moved to North Carolina, Jeff only saw her when she came home to Canada for visits, but they still maintained a close relationship over the phone. When he got the call from Krista about Nancy's disappearance, his heart sank into a dark place.

"When I first heard, I knew it wasn't going to be good. People just don't go missing," Jeff said, calling on his experience as a police officer.

Jeff knew that his sister and her husband were having issues, but he couldn't imagine mild-mannered, reserved Brad having had anything to do with Nancy's disappearance.

"That wasn't my first impression just because of the Brad I'd gotten to know when he lived here. I didn't think that he had had anything like that in him at all," Jeff said sincerely.

For the next several hours, the Rentz family exchanged calls, sharing their concerns and their thoughts about what they should do. Jill elected to stay behind in Edmonton and run the family business, a job placement company, so that her parents, Garry and Donna, could head to North Carolina.

While they wanted to be hopeful, everyone except Donna had low expectations that Nancy would be all right. Krista and Jill told each other to be strong but at the same time shared their fears.

"Within half an hour, Krista and I were saying to each other on the phone, 'This is not good. She's not coming back,'" Jill recalled.

Sunday morning, July 13, 2008, Krista woke up and called Brad again. Nancy was still missing. She immediately booked a flight to North Carolina, but a storm had grounded all of the planes in nearby Buffalo, New York, so Krista decided to rent a car and drive the seven hundred miles by herself.

The twelve-hour drive gave her plenty of time to think. To keep herself awake, she called friends, like Nancy's friend Hannah Prichard, and talked on the phone while she drove.

"They'll find her," Krista's friend Dominick tried to reassure her.

"She's not here anymore. I can't feel her anymore. She's gone. I know she's gone," Krista replied.

True Friends

By Sunday, everyone in the neighborhood had heard the devastating news. One of their own was missing, and they were determined to find her. The normally quiet subdivision was a frenzy of activity as a small army of people fanned out in every direction, posting yellow fliers with Nancy's picture on every possible space available — street signs, utility poles, even trees. A National Guard helicopter circled overhead as a police boat hugged the edge of Lochmere Lake.

The Cary police were managing the search, but dozens of citizens had joined their efforts. A small shopping center at the entrance to the subdivision had been transformed into a command post. Ironically, the effort was staged directly in front of Java Jive, Nancy's favorite coffee shop. Volunteer searchers met there to get maps and discuss routes. They were combing the trails and the neighborhood golf course on foot and on bikes. Many of the searchers were Nancy's friends and neighbors, but just as many were strangers who had heard the news and felt compelled to help.

Police released a description of Nancy Cooper as a thirty-four-year-old white woman, five feet nine inches tall, weighing about 120 pounds, with hazel eyes and shoulder-length brown hair. According to her husband, she had been wearing a T-shirt, running shorts, and blue sneakers.

Nancy had last been seen in public at a neighborhood dinner party two days earlier, on Friday night, July 11, 2008. The party had been hosted by friends who lived directly across the street, Diana and Craig Duncan. Brad had reportedly left the party early, around eight o'clock, to return home with the children and put them to bed, but Nancy had stayed at the neighbors' house until around midnight.

"She has two beautiful little girls who I love so much," Diana Duncan told WRAL-TV. "We love her so much; we all do. We just have to keep looking."

Day Three

Monday, July 14, 2008, dawned with no new developments in the case. It was clear that even in suburbia there were plenty of places to hide. Lochmere had nineteen hundred homes and was known for its heavily wooded lots and winding nature trails.

"I knew for sure that it was just a matter of finding her. I knew that we weren't going to find her alive. It was just a matter of finding her body," Jeff Rentz, Nancy's brother said.


Excerpted from "Love Lies"
by .
Copyright © 2011 Amanda Lamb.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Love Lies: A True Story of Marriage and Murder in the Suburbs 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Detailed story with real personalities and insight into how trials are influenced.