SANTA ANA — A millionaire computer entrepreneur who prosecutors claim persuaded his 14-year-old daughter to kill his wife and then take sole responsibility for it was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder for financial gain.
Cinnamon Brown served nearly four years at the California Youth Authority before telling authorities that her father, David A. Brown, 37, owner of Anaheim-based Data Recovery, had persuaded her to kill her stepmother, 24-year-old Linda Marie Brown, because as a juvenile she would probably get off without going to jail.
Since then the Brown case has taken other incredible turns.
Brown married the victim's sister, Patty Bailey, who has since admitted involvement in the murder plot. And while Brown was in the Orange County Jail awaiting trial, law enforcement authorities secretly recorded a plot in which he tried to arrange to murder three other people: Patty Bailey, who was by then a star witness against him, and the chief investigator and the lead prosecutor on his case.
"Amazingly bizarre," said David Miller of Garden Grove, one of the jurors. "I sat there, and I just couldn't believe all that I was hearing."
The jurors deliberated just seven hours, an unusually short time in a murder trial. But during five weeks of testimony, they had listened for several days to secretly taped conversations of Brown. In one of them, while Brown was visiting Cinnamon in prison, he told his daughter that if she ever told the truth "then we'd all go to jail."
"They key evidence against David Brown was not his daughter, or his (current) wife, but his own words," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeoffrey L. Robinson, who was one of Brown's targets.
The jurors' finding that Brown ordered his wife's death to gain $835,000 in life insurance automatically elevates his possible sentence from one of 25 years to life, the standard for first-degree murder, to life in prison without parole.
Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin set formal sentencing for Aug. 22.
Brown, in a dress shirt and tie but without a jacket, showed no reaction to the verdict. When the proceedings ended, he took a drink of water and walked swiftly as he was escorted to an adjoining waiting cell.
His attorney, Gary M. Pohlson, said he and co-counsel Richard Schwartzberg had told Brown that he would probably be found guilty.
"We were faced with three days of tapes we had no defense to," Pohlson said.
Brown's daughter, Cinnamon, is still serving a sentence at the California Youth Authority for the March 19, 1985, shooting death of Linda Marie Brown, the defendant's wife at the time. Also in prison after pleading guilty to involvement in the murder is Patty Bailey, the victim's sister, who married David Brown after the shooting. She was 17 at the time of the shooting and is also at the Youth Authority.
Although prosecutors say neither woman got "a deal" to testify, Pohlson predicted that they will both be out of prison "within minutes after this is all over."