A California man on Friday was sentenced to life in prison for tossing his 4-year-old daughter off a 120-foot sea cliff to get revenge against the girl's mother and avoid paying child support, prosecutors said.
Cameron Brown was found guilty of first-degree murder in May. The verdict marked the end of a years-long legal saga involving two deadlocked juries dating back to Nov. 8, 2000, when the body of Lauren Sarene Key was retrieved from the bottom of the seaside cliff.
Brown, a 53-year-old former baggage handler, claimed that his daughter tripped and fell as she ran toward the end of Inspiration Point in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Prosecutors, however, argued that the girl could not have been running fast enough to clear outcroppings just beyond the cliff's edge, which meant it could not have been an accidental fall.
In the latest trial, jurors heard much of the same evidence and testimony, except for what prosecutors said was one key difference — a sheriff's detective found a witness who recalled Brown saying it would be "nice to get rid of Lauren" to get out of paying $1,000-a-month child support, the Associated Press reported.
"That witness made a significant difference," the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum, told the AP.
Hum emphasized, however, that he believes Brown was primarily motivated out of hatred for his ex-wife.
The jury of six men and six women took less than two days to reach their verdict.
"It’s a good day for justice,” Hum said, according to the district attorney's office.
In addition to first-degree murder, the jury on Wednesday found the special circumstance allegations of murder for financial gain and lying in wait to be true, prosecutors said. In June, he's expected to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Brown's attorney had argued throughout that the case should have never been prosecuted as a murder, contending that Lauren's death was not intentional.
But the jury's foreman, Greg Apodaca, told the AP that the unanimous verdict was a "relatively simple decision to make."
"The expert witnesses made it pretty clear, and when we did the site visit, it was clear to us, as well, that it didn't seem likely that a 4-year-old girl would be up there of her own volition," Apodaca said.
The verdict was a relief for Lauren's mother, Sarah Key-Marer, who reportedly broke down in tears as it was read by the judge. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, she said she's only ever wanted Brown to take responsibility for what happened that day.
"It's all been really hard," she said. "The pain. We just learned to live with the pain."
Jason Wells is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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