Dad convicted of hurling child off cliff faces life term

Mom of Daughter Thrown Off Cliff: 'You Just Learn to Live with Your Pain'


LOS ANGELES (AP) — She would be a young woman now, but instead Lauren Sarene Key is forever the 4-year-old girl who never returned from a visit to the shore with her father.

Nearly 15 years after the girl plunged to her death from a 120-foot seaside cliff, her father faces a sentence Friday of life in prison without parole for her murder.

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Jurors found Cameron Brown, 53, a former airline baggage handler, guilty of hurling the girl from Inspiration Point in Rancho Palos Verdes in November 2000 amid a bitter custody dispute with her mother.

The first-degree murder conviction in May came about a dozen years after Brown was arrested and followed two previous trials when jurors decided the death was a crime, but they couldn't agree whether it was murder or manslaughter.

Brown told police the girl tripped and fell as she ran toward the cliff.

See photos of Brown and the cliff:

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Cameron Brown, dad convicted of hurling child off cliff
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Dad convicted of hurling child off cliff faces life term
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Cameron John Brown, right, listens to his co-counsel attorney Lara Yeretsian during closing arguments in a murder case in LA Superior Court on September 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Cameron John Brown is on trial for murder in connection with the death of his 4-year-old daughter, Laren Sarene Key, who plunged off a 120-foot cliff in Palos Verdes in 2000. In 2006, a jury deadlocked on whether to convict Brown of murder or manslaughter. Prosecutors accuse Brown, a former baggage handler for American Airlines, of throwing the little girl off the cliff to avoid paying child support to her mother. Brown's defense attorneys have argued that Lauren slipped and fell in a tragic accident. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 13: Cameron John Brown, a 53-year-old former airport baggage handler, right, shows no emotion as bailiffs surround him after the verdict is read in the LA Criminal Courts courtroom on May 13, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Jurors have reached a verdict of guilty in the third trial of the man charged with murdering his 4-year-old daughter by throwing her from a 120-foot cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes nearly 15 years ago. Two previous juries have deadlocked in the case of Cameron John Brown. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 13: Sarah Key-Marer, left, mother of 4-year-old Lauren Sarene Key who was slain in 2000 reacts with her best friend Annette Watling, right, after Cameron John Brown heard a guilty verdict in LA Superior Court on May 13, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Jurors have reached the verdict of guilty in the third trial of the man charged with murdering his 4-year-old daughter by throwing her from a 120-foot cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes nearly 15 years ago. Two previous juries have deadlocked in the case of Cameron John Brown. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 25: Sarah Key-Marer, mother of the victim, takes the witness stand during the third murder trial for Cameron John Brown in Los Angeles Superior Court on March 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Brown is charged with the murder of his 4-year-old daughter, who fell to her death in 2000 from a 120-foot cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes. (Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 25: Cameron John Brown listens during opening statements in his third murder trial in Los Angeles Superior Court on March 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Brown is charged with the murder of his 4-year-old daughter, who fell to her death in 2000 from a 120-foot cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes. (Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).
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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. He asked jurors to convict Brown of manslaughter.

Brown and the girl's mother, Sarah Key-Marer, had a short-lived romance that soured when she got pregnant.

Brown wanted Key-Marer to get an abortion, and he even tried to get her deported to her British homeland, Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum said.

Hatred toward his ex-girlfriend was the key motive, though there was evidence that Brown was also trying to get out of costly child support payments, Hum said.

A witness came forward at the third trial who testified that Brown said it would be "nice to get rid of Lauren" to avoid $1,000-a-month payments.

Because jurors also found Brown killed the girl for financial gain and that he lay in wait, he faces a mandatory term of life without parole.

Key-Marer is expected to show up for the sentencing.

"All I ever wanted was that he would take responsibility for that day," she said after the verdict was announced.

After she left the courtroom that day weeping, however, Brown told the judge he was innocent.

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