Suspect Says on Tape He Coached Girl to Take Rap in Slaying

Times Staff Writer

A county computer whiz, accused of masterminding the 1985 murder of his wife, acknowledged to investigators that he told his teen-age daughter to take the blame for the killing because she would face only a minimal sentence, a videotape played in court Tuesday showed.

David A. Brown, 34, also admitted to police during the taped interview after his September arrest that he told his daughter how to write a suicide note and concocted a drug mixture to help her feign suicide after the killing.

But the Anaheim Hills computer programmer denied orchestrating the murder of his wife, maintaining that he never thought his daughter and sister-in-law were serious about their plot to kill Linda Brown in March, 1985.

Final Piece of Evidence


The videotape shown Tuesday of Brown’s statement to police, what could prove to be the most damning evidence against him, was the final piece of evidence offered by prosecutors as Brown’s 3-week preliminary hearing drew to a close in a Westminster courtroom.

This morning, Municipal Judge Floyd H. Schenk is expected to decide whether Brown should stand trial on murder charges. Because of a special allegation that Brown had his wife killed to profit financially from $835,000 in insurance, he could face the death penalty if convicted.

In the interview with police, Brown’s own words seemed to suggest that he had a far greater knowledge--and perhaps a more active participation--in the killing of his wife than Brown had previously acknowledged.

Brown’s attorney, Joel Baruch of Newport Beach, conceded that the videotape could prove incriminating to his client, saying in an interview: “In any criminal case, when a defendant talks to a police officer, and there’s anything but an outright denial, that could pose problems.”

Explanations Wait for Trial

Baruch added: “There are explanations for the things that are said in that tape, but those explanations will have to wait for the trial.”

He declined to elaborate, saying he did not want to reveal his defense to Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeoffrey Robinson.

Brown is accused of persuading his daughter, Cinnamon Brown, then 14, to kill his wife--Cinnamon Brown’s stepmother--so he could collect on the victim’s insurance and marry his wife’s sister.

On the night of the murder, Cinnamon Brown was found in the doghouse of the family’s Garden Grove home, apparently incoherent from an overdose of drugs. She left a suicide note, saying she was sorry for shooting her stepmother to death.

She was convicted in the killing and has spent more than 3 years in the California Youth Authority facility in Camarillo. After remaining silent about the case, she named her father in the plot last fall, which led to his arrest.

She initially told investigators that she had not killed Linda Brown herself, but then admitted that she had pulled the trigger--though only at the prodding of her father.

After the killing, prosecutors allege that Brown collected $835,000 from several of Linda Brown’s life insurance policies and, about 16 months later, married the victim’s teen-age sister, Patty Bailey.

Bailey, living in the Browns’ Garden Grove home, had been having an affair with David Brown while her sister was alive, prosecutors say. Bailey faces separate murder charges stemming from the alleged plot.

Prime Witness Against Father

Bailey is now a prime witness against her husband. She testified earlier during the preliminary hearing that Brown had schemed to kill Linda Brown, although her testimony about the murder contradicted Cinnamon Brown’s on several points.

Brown was interviewed by police Sept. 22 after his arrest on suspicion of murder. He initially maintained in the taped interview that he had loved his wife and had nothing to do with her death. But he later acknowledged, under sharp questioning, some knowledge of the events leading up to her death.

Brown said in the interview that Cinnamon Brown and Bailey had been convinced that Brown’s wife wanted to kill him, and the two teen-agers wanted to stop her before she could carry out the plan. Brown said at some points during the interview that he had not thought that Cinnamon Brown and Bailey were serious about hurting the victim, but he maintained at other times that he had tried to talk them out of the plan.

Would Not Stand for It

“I told (Cinnamon) if something was going to happen to me, let it,” he said. “There’s no way I would stand for anything like” the slaying.

He added: “If I was going to stage something (like the slaying), I would stage something a hell of a lot more sophisticated than this. . . . My imagination is very vivid.”

Nonetheless, Brown said he discussed writing suicide notes with Cinnamon Brown and mixed a combination of aspirin and baking soda for her to take in order to make it seem as if she was trying to kill herself.

And, in a conversation with his daughter in the hospital after the slaying, Brown told her that she should admit to the killing, he said in the interview, because as a juvenile, she would get only a minimal sentence in a youth facility.

Still, Brown insisted in the interview with police that his discussions with his daughter had been purely hypothetical; he did not think she would go through with the plot, he said, terming it “a joke . . . a game.”

‘I Was Shocked’

“I was shocked that Linda was actually shot,” he said.

Yet at another point during the videotaped interview, Brown seemed to contradict that very assertion: “I told (Cinnamon that) if she was going to go through with this thing regardless of what I said, I didn’t want to be there.”

Brown was not in the house when Cinnamon Brown shot her stepmother as she slept, police said.