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An Almost Perfect Murder : David Brown Finally Will Pay for His Fatal Manipulation of Others


"I got a bum deal. The truth is, I loved (Linda Brown), quite a bit, more than I ever thought it was possible to love a woman," Brown said in a jailhouse interview a few weeks after his conviction. "Those prosecutors would rather have actual murderers on the loose than me. But they're the ones that have to live with it, because I guarantee you, they (Cinnamon and Patti) will kill again."

But Brown's own words, tape-recorded by authorities before and after his arrest, tell a different story--one of family betrayal, violence, greed and passion.

Perhaps most damaging was his elaborate jailhouse plot, discovered by authorities after a tip from another inmate, to pay a hit man at least $22,700 to kill Patti and two members of the district attorney's office, all in a desperate attempt to thwart his prosecution.

The plot, tape-recorded in early 1989, offers firsthand insight into Brown's methods. In one conversation, the incarcerated Brown told a woman he believed to be a jail inmate that she should come forth after Patti's planned murder and tell authorities that Patti had admitted that her whole testimony against Brown was a lie.

"I'll make it worth your while," Brown promised the woman, an undercover police officer. "I take care of people; that's how I managed to get ahead."

The Brown family saga opens in a modest one-story home on Randolph Street in a lower middle-class section of Riverside.

There, in the mid-1970s, lived David Arnold Brown, son of a transplanted Midwest mechanic. A pock-marked face and a gut notwithstanding, he was a smooth talker, managing to woo Cinnamon's mother with love poems and such. The eighth-grade dropout was just beginning to back up the words with some money through his knack for computers, learned at a trade school.

Although Brown's second marriage was then on the skids, there was hope just two doors down the road. There in a crowded house lived Ethel Bailey, a single mother who struggled to raise 11 children on welfare payments.

Brown's introduction to the family was a desperate plea: Then his mid-20s, Brown claimed he was suffering from colon cancer and had just six months to live. Could the girls he had seen walking to school spare time to help clean the place?

Ethel Bailey obliged. "How do you say no to a dying man?" she asked. "I had no reason to doubt him--then."

Soon, Brown was dating Pam Bailey, a teen-ager and nearly a decade Brown's junior; then in rapid succession, Linda, her younger sister, a kid of 13. In 1979, they were married in Las Vegas. Just 17, Linda had to get her mom's signature to wed her 27-year-old suitor.

"David was always a guy who liked having younger girls, little girls," says Alan Bailey, the twin brother of Linda Brown, a friend and employee of Brown's in later years, and now one of his harshest critics. "That and money was what he was always after."

There were early signs, small but memorable, that Brown had a dishonest, even malicious streak, some family members would later recall.

In the back streets of Riverside, Brown liked to coax some of the Bailey girls and others into stealing tools from the back of pickup trucks--just for kicks, it seemed. And as reported later to police, he managed to get into a slew of car accidents around the Southland--17 by one tally--in just a few years, often exaggerating the damage to reap the insurance and buy fancy new cars, according to Bailey family members and authorities.

By late 1984, all the pieces were in place for what would prove the eccentric Brown's greatest crime, a crime that authorities would later describe as nearly "the perfect murder."

By then, David and Linda--divorced shortly after their 1979 union, only to remarry after another marriage in the interim for Brown--had moved into a quiet home on Ocean Breeze in Garden Grove. They had a newborn girl in the house. There, too, were Cinnamon Brown, who had shuffled in and out of her mother's home in Anaheim before moving in with her father and Linda; and Patti Bailey, Linda's kid sister, who had done likewise a few years before at age 11.

If Brown's murder scheme hinged on his ability to find pawns devoted to him, he found two likely candidates in Cinnamon and Patti.

Both had troubled family lives. Both grew up strapped for money; McDonald's was a rare, high-class treat. And in David Brown, with his computer business then on the rise, both saw a chance not only for nice clothes, meals and financial security, but also for family stability and attention, family members and investigators say.

Patti in particular was jealous of older sister Linda, according to family members.

Indeed, Bailey, who testified she had been molested by a relative while growing up, told her mother in a 1989 letter that she had "always felt like the black sheep." Living with the Browns, she wrote, "I felt like I had a family."

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