LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A father was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for throwing his four-year-old daughter off a cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes nearly 15 years ago.
Cameron Brown, 54, insisted that Lauren Sarene Key accidentally fell off Inspiration Point on Nov. 8, 2000 amid a bitter custody battle with the child’s mother, Sarah Key-Marer. He told police his daughter tripped and fell as she ran toward the 120-foot cliff.
A six-man, six-woman jury deliberated about one and a half days before convicting Brown on May 13 of first-degree murder.
The former airline baggage handler kept staring straight and showed no emotions during his sentencing proceeding even when the mother of his daughter told him that she forgave him. “I have learned that the way to heal is to forgive,” said Key-Marer.
The conviction came about a dozen years after Brown was arrested and followed two previous trials in which jurors decided the death was a crime but couldn’t agree whether it was murder or manslaughter.
The sentencing hearing, presided by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli, was so emotional one detective, who worked on the case, wiped away tears. And a prosecutor could not hold back his anger.
“I’ll miss the warmth of her skin, her crystal blue eyes, her gentleness,” said the girl’s mother.
“I beat myself up for many years that God had taken her and not me,” said the girl’s stepbrother, Joshua Marer. “I couldn’t believe God would have a plan for me and allow Lauren’s life to be cut short.”
“I miss tickling her tummy and watch her giggle so hard that her tears of laughter would run down her cheeks,” said Key-Marer. “I miss her nuzzling her face against mine and whispering softly in my ear: ‘I love you mommy.’”
Defense lawyer Aron Laub said Brown was a bad father, but not a murderer. Laub disputed testimony by a prosecution expert that showed a girl her age wouldn’t have been able to run fast enough to land where she did in the rocky ocean below.
Brown and the girl’s mother had a short-lived romance that soured when she got pregnant. He wanted Key-Marer to get an abortion and even tried to get her deported back to Britain, Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum said.
The prosecutor said hatred toward his ex-girlfriend was the key motive, and there was also evidence that Brown was trying to get out of paying child support.