A Garden Grove computer whiz talked his 14-year-old-daughter into shooting and killing his wife because he himself "didn't have the stomach for it," the daughter asserted in court Monday.
More than three years after she was convicted of murdering her stepmother and sent to prison, Cinnamon Brown, now 18, broke her silence about the killing that prosecutors now claim was orchestrated by her father, 35-year-old David A. Brown.
David Brown has pleaded not guilty to charges that he plotted the elaborate murder of his wife, Linda M. Brown, 23, in order to collect $835,000 in insurance money, and then set up his daughter, Cinnamon, to take the fall for the crime.
Brown's preliminary hearing on the charges began Monday in Municipal Court in Westminster. After the hearing, which is expected to last several weeks, Municipal Court Judge Floyd H. Schenk will decide whether Brown should stand trial for murder.
An alleged accomplice in the plot--Patricia A. Bailey, 20, the sister of the dead woman--faces a separate preliminary hearing of murder charges at a later date.
To the surprise of some relatives, it was disclosed in court Monday that David Brown and Patricia Bailey were secretly married about 16 months after they allegedly conspired to kill Linda Brown.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeoffrey Robinson pointed in court to David Brown's romantic liaison with Patricia Bailey as one motive in his wife's murder.
But defense attorney Joel Baruch, seeking to refute the conspiracy theory behind Linda Brown's death, portrayed Cinnamon Brown's new story of the killing as her last-ditch attempt to avoid serving the remainder of a prison sentence of 27 years to life.
And, Baruch asserted, the district attorney's office fell for Cinnamon Brown's ploy "hook, line and sinker."
When Baruch cross-examines Cinnamon Brown today, he is likely to focus on changes in her new story about what happened on March 19, 1985.
Breaking Her Silence
Talking to investigators for the first time last year, Cinnamon Brown initially said she had not killed Linda Brown. But she acknowledged later and again in court Monday that she had lied out of "shame" and that she, in fact, was the one who had shot her stepmother twice as the woman slept in their Garden Grove home.
Cinnamon Brown told the court that she remained silent about her father's alleged role in the murder "because I loved him."
But after spending more than 3 years imprisoned in a California Youth Authority institution in Camarillo, Cinnamon Brown said, she finally decided to recant her confession because "I felt that (David Brown and Patricia Bailey) should take responsibility as well, and not only I should be punished for it."
Sobbing occasionally, she described Monday how her father and Patricia Bailey allegedly told her that Linda Brown was plotting to kill David Brown and that the trio would have to stop Linda Brown before she could carry out the plan.
Cinnamon Brown testified that her father proposed several different means of doing away with his wife--shoving her out of a van, throwing an electrical appliance into the bathtub, or hitting her over the head with a blunt instrument. Finally, Cinnamon Brown said, he decided on shooting her.
David Brown convinced his daughter that she would have to do the job, she testified, in part because the sometimes sickly Brown "didn't have the stomach" to handle the killing.
The daughter asserted that her father gave her specific instructions on carrying out the killing, drugging herself and leaving a note of remorse to make the crime appear to be a murder and attempted suicide.
"He said (court officials) would just send me to a psychiatrist," Cinnamon Brown testified, recounting the plans that led up to the killing. "He said I couldn't get in trouble because of my age. I'd come home sooner or later and we'd just be a family."
In a childlike voice, Cinnamon Brown testified that when her father first mentioned the idea of killing his wife, she thought he was joking. She testified that when she realized he was serious, she became confused, but added: "I always looked up to him, and never found any reason not to believe what he said."
She quoted her father as telling her before the killing: "If you loved me, you would do it."
As Linda Brown's family looked on, Cinnamon Brown recounted for the court her killing of her stepmother. She said her father woke her up that night, and that Patricia Bailey gave her the gun to use.
"I was scared and I was shaking, and I went into Linda's room . . . and I fired the gun," she said. She said she left after firing one shot. But, after hearing the victim groan, she returned to the room and fired a second shot, this one fatal, she testified.
Cinnamon Brown was found by police several hours later in a doghouse in the back yard, lying in her own vomit and overdosed on anti-pain medication. She left an apparent suicide note, saying she was sorry for the killing.