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Prosecutor: U.S. dad threw child from cliff

/ Source: The Associated Press

A former airline baggage handler threw his 4-year-old daughter off a cliff because he didn't want to pay child support, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday during an impassioned closing argument in the man's murder trial.

Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum urged jurors to find Cameron Brown, 47, guilty of first-degree murder in the November 2000 death of Lauren Sarene Key.

Hum reviewed the evidence for more than two hours, contending it was no accident that Lauren fell 120 feet from Inspiration Point in Rancho Palos Verdes.

"It brings us to one horrifying, inescapable conclusion," Hum said. "This man threw his 4-year-old daughter off a cliff to her death."

Brown is charged with one count of murder and the special circumstance allegations of murder while lying in wait and for financial gain. He has pleaded not guilty and could face life in prison without parole if convicted.

Defense attorney Pat Harris said the child slipped and fell, and that Brown was a loving father who wanted to spend more time with his daughter. He said Brown kept a picture of his daughter by his bedside and continued to pay child support after Lauren's death.

Revenge, financial gain
The motive for killing Lauren was threefold, Hum argued. Brown didn't want to pay about $1,000 a month in child support; sought revenge against the girl's mother, Sarah Key-Marer, whom he despised and never married; and protested his wife's intention to seek custody of Lauren, Hum said.

Hum repeatedly called Brown a liar, saying the defendant had given varying accounts to investigators about what had happened in the moments before Lauren died. Lauren's physical injuries weren't consistent with the defense contention the girl had accidentally fallen, the prosecutor said.

In addition, no children's footprints were found near the edge of the cliff, only adult-sized imprints, Hum said.

"She didn't fall off. She was thrown," Hum said.

Brown was tried three years ago, but a mistrial was declared after a jury deadlocked on the severity of the crime. Some jurors favored a first-degree murder conviction, while others voted for second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Jurors will begin deliberations on Thursday.