Man Accused of Throwing Girl Off Cliff Faces Retrial

A proseuctor said a man threw his 4-year-old  daughter off a 120-foot cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes to avoid paying child support.

A defense attorney countered that the girl accidentally fell to her death.

The conflicting arguments came in opening statements Monday in the retrial of Cameron Brown, who was arrested and charged with murder three years after his daughter, Lauren Sarene Key, died Nov. 8, 2000, off Inspiration Point.

The first jury deadlocked on Aug. 14, 2006, in Torrance Superior Court,  with eight jurors favoring a second-degree murder conviction and two jurors each lobbying for first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

Brown's retrial is being heard in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

The prosecution contends that Brown, now 47, murdered his out-of-wedlock  daughter to avoid child support, which he had recently been ordered to begin  paying, and to retaliate against the girl's mother, who became pregnant soon  after they began dating and refused to give up the child.

"This man hurled the child he never wanted over the cliff and into the ocean below," Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum told the 10-man, two-woman  panel.

But defense attorney Pat Harris maintained that Brown was actually  maturing into a loving and caring father who would never have done anything to  harm his daughter.

The prosecution case "is a one-way street (of) good against evil," Harris said.

"He was a warm, loving father," the lawyer told the jury. "Not only  did Cam Brown not murder his daughter, but he loved her very much."

Brown -- who has been jailed without bail since his arrest six years ago  --  is facing life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree  murder and the special circumstance allegations of murder while lying in wait  and murder for financial gain.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor has decided that jurors  in the current trial, like those in the first, will take a field trip to  Inspiration Point to view the spot from which the girl was killed.

Brown, a former baggage handler for American Airlines, met Lauren's  mother in Newport Beach in 1995, Hum told the panel.

The two had dated only a few weeks when the British immigrant now known  as Sarah Key-Marer, a British immigrant who was in the United States on a visa,  told Brown she was pregnant, the prosecutor said.

When the woman would not have an abortion, Brown tried to have her  deported and fired from her job, Hum told the jury. Brown did not seek  visitation until his daughter was 3 years old, the prosecutor said, and saw her  14 times before she died.

Brown's goal in finally deciding to see her, Hum told the jury, was to  reduce his $1,000-a-month child support payments. His goal in throwing her off  the isolated top of Inspiration Point, Hum alleged, was to end the payments  entirely.

Harris, though, said prosecutors are "accusing (Brown) of being a  monster" because "they've got to -- the evidence isn't there."

The defense attorney said the child's death was a tragic accident that  took place at a time when both parents were "trying to work out the situation,  as parents all over the country do every day."

Brown, Harris said, may have been immature at first and "something of a  risk-taker" in terms of outdoor activities, but the relationship between  father and daughter had become "loving and genuine" at the time of her death.

He loved spending time outdoors with his daughter, Harris said of his  client.

"He couldn't wait to take her swimming," the lawyer said. "He even  bought her a little wetsuit."

The girl's mother was called as the prosecution's first witness. She  testified that she learned she was pregnant soon after a condom broke while  they were having sex.

Sarah Key-Marer testified that she thought Brown took the news of her  pregnancy "quite well," but he later suggested she have an abortion -- an  option she said she didn't want to consider.

She said the two stopped dating after she called him to take him up on  his offer of loaning her money to buy a car and he threw the phone on the floor  of his boat.

Key-Marer testified that she called Brown later in her pregnancy to  inform him she was having a girl, and he replied that it didn't matter because  he had informed immigration officials that she had overstayed her visitor's  visa and given them information to deport her.

The woman said she initially contacted the Orange County District  Attorney's Office in April 1997 to arrange for Brown to make child support  payments because she was a single mother who was ``struggling financially'' and  hoped to keep the door open for him to have contact with their daughter.

Brown contested paternity and his wages were garnished by the Orange  County District Attorney's Office to collect the child support payments, Key- Marer said.

In July 1999 -- nearly three years after the girl was born -- Brown  sought joint legal custody, visitation about one-third of the time and a  reduction in child support without ever having met his daughter, her mother  testified.

The initial visits went well, but the girl's demeanor changed after  unsupervised visits with her father, Key-Marer said.

"She didn't want to go with him on the visits," the witness testified. "I always encouraged Lauren that she was going to have a great time with  Papa Cameron."

Key-Marer testified that communications between her and Brown  deteriorated, and their daughter said "that I was the wrong mother or (my  husband) was the wrong father'' and asked why she was ``stealing money from  Papa Cameron."

She said she tried to console her daughter the day of her last visit  with her father on the last day she saw her alive. She testified that she tried  unsuccessfully to get back to the school to collect her daughter before Brown  arrived because "it wasn't worth any court order to leave her there," but that he got there early to pick her up.

When Brown -- who had also since married -- didn't bring the girl back  at 7 p.m. that night as scheduled, Key-Marer said she and her husband grew  worried that "maybe he'd kidnapped her."

"I just had this bad feeling," she said, noting that her husband was  told to pull off the freeway and go to the nearest police station while he was  trying to get a police escort to Brown's apartment to see if he and the girl  were there.

"We were panicked, frantic ... We just had a bad gut feeling that  obviously something was horribly wrong," the girl's mother testified, noting  that she was confused when she saw a police officer's pouch with the word "homicide."

"I remember how she told us. I remember hearing the words -- cliff,  Lauren is dead. I couldn't believe it," she said, growing emotional as she  recounted hearing about her daughter's death. "I was in denial. I just  couldn't believe it."

Key-Marer is expected to continue testifying on Tuesday. The trial is  expected to last through mid-September.

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