Girl Told on Tape to Withhold ‘Whole Truth’ in Murder
In a conversation secretly recorded by authorities just weeks before he was arrested on murder charges last fall, Anaheim computer entrepreneur David A. Brown told his imprisoned daughter that she must not tell investigators “the whole truth” about the killing of his wife because “we’d all go to jail.”
“Instead of just one person being punished for (the murder),” the 36-year-old Brown implored, “we’d all be punished for it.”
Brown’s daughter, 18-year-old Cinnamon Brown, has been imprisoned for more than 3 years for the murder of her stepmother. She now admits to the killing in the family’s Garden Grove home but says the plan was masterminded by her strong-willed father with the knowledge and participation of several other family members.
With her cooperation, authorities secretly recorded two conversations last summer between Cinnamon and her father at the California Youth Authority in Camarillo in a bid to reveal Brown’s role in the alleged plot.
Copies of the tapes were obtained by The Times Orange County.
Prosecutors plan to use the more than 3 hours of taped conversations at Brown’s murder trial. They called the tapes one of the most incriminating weapons they have in their effort to prove that he masterminded the 1985 shooting death of his wife months in advance and let his own teen-age daughter take the blame for the crime.
Brown, the prosecutors maintain, wanted his wife out of the way for both money and love: He collected $835,000 from several of her insurance policies, and he later married the victim’s sister, Patricia Bailey, 20.
Bailey has also been charged with murder but has agreed to testify against her husband.
The secretly taped conversations between Brown and his daughter are incriminating but do not offer prosecutors “a smoking gun,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeoffrey Robinson conceded.
Defense attorney Joel Baruch maintained in an interview that the tapes “exonerate my client.”
In the visits, Brown repeatedly denied under tough questioning from his daughter that he had specifically directed anyone to kill 24-year-old Linda Brown, who was his wife and Cinnamon’s stepmother.
In a separate interview with police after his arrest, Brown maintained that he was only joking when, before the killing, he discussed with Cinnamon some details of the murder plot--such as a note that Cinnamon wrote to feign suicide on the night of the murder. Brown never thought Cinnamon was serious about the plot, he insisted to police.
In an Aug. 13, 1988, tape-recorded conversation at the youth facility, Brown disputed his daughter’s recollection of his role in the killing. He told her: “I didn’t want it to happen. You should remember that. I told you guys (Cinnamon and her Bailey), ‘I don’t want any part of this.’ ”
Nonetheless, Brown did acknowledge substantial knowledge of--and responsibility for--the events leading up to the killing during several key exchanges in the visits.
At one point, Cinnamon told her father: “I feel stupid because I was so young and I loved you so much that I was gullible enough to do it.”
Brown responded that she was not gullible at all. “Grandpa was going to do it if you didn’t,” he said.
Prosecutors have found no evidence to implicate either of Brown’s parents in the alleged plot, with the exception of one conversation that his father may have heard in which Linda Brown’s murder was allegedly discussed.
‘Always Lying to Me’
Elsewhere on the tape, Cinnamon accused her father of “always lying to me” and said she was frustrated with being kept in custody, with no end in sight.
Brown told her that he would have Bailey--who, unknown to Cinnamon at the time, was by then Brown’s wife--confess to the killing.
“She’ll take your place,” he told his daughter on the tape.
But he cautioned Cinnamon that she would have to keep telling police that she could not remember what happened the night of Linda Brown’s death. If she told the truth, Brown himself, both his parents and Bailey would all be implicated by their knowledge of the plot, he warned on the tape.
He asked Cinnamon: “Do you see any reason for five people’s lives to be ruined? . . . I can’t survive in jail. . . . I would kill myself before I’d let myself die a slow and painful death in a cell.”
Filled With Memory Lapses
The taped conversations--filled with lapses of memory by Cinnamon, her father and Bailey, who took part in the second tape-recorded visit on Aug. 27, 1988--still leave significant doubt over what exactly happened in the family’s home on March 19, 1985.
At some points in the visits, Cinnamon seemed to acknowledge that she had shot her stepmother. But at other times, she denied this to her father, as she had with police at that time.
By the end of her first visit with her father in August, Cinnamon appeared to have convinced her father that it was Bailey--not Cinnamon--who shot Linda Brown.
At the second meeting just 2 weeks later, however, Bailey also denied having killed Linda Brown and the three--she, Cinnamon and Brown--all seemed to agree that it must have been an outsider who did the shooting.
View of Prosecutors
But prosecutors now assert that it was Cinnamon, despite her claims of innocence just months ago, who shot Linda Brown to death--though only at the prodding of her father.
Cinnamon says her father persuaded her to kill her mother because Linda Brown had Mafia connections and planned to kill Brown to gain control of his lucrative computer data retrieval business.
Cinnamon maintains that Brown told her that she would serve little time in prison because of her age.
But Cinnamon said she felt confused and betrayed by her father after spending 3 years behind bars, so she finally agreed to cooperate with the authorities.
Investigators, suspicious about the incident even at the time of Cinnamon’s murder conviction, had tried since 1985 to get her to tell all she knows about the killing.
Wired for Recording
And so, wired with a recording device set up by investigators, Cinnamon had her father come for an Aug. 13 visit at the youth facility. After exchanging small talk, Cinnamon quickly brought up the subject of Linda Brown’s killing.
Cinnamon told her father that she was “confused, very confused” about her continued imprisonment in the youth facility on a 27-year-to-life sentence. “Why did you tell me I’d only be here for a little bit, and then they’d let me go home?” she asked on the tape.
Later, without ever saying what did happen the night of the murder, Cinnamon asked her father why she could not finally tell police the truth about the murder.
Her father’s taped answer was firm and immediate: “I’ll tell you why. . . . You can tell the truth, if you don’t tell the whole truth, because if there was knowledge--if me, grandma, grandpa, Patty, everyone--had knowledge in advance of what was going to happen, then we’d all go to jail, everyone.”
Defense View of Tape
Baruch, defense attorney for Brown, maintained that Brown’s response indicates only that he knew about the plot, not that he encouraged it. Explaining Brown’s reference to imprisonment, Baruch said: “He doesn’t know the law. Knowledge isn’t enough for murder.”
Police investigators saw it differently: Five weeks after that conversation was surreptitiously recorded, police arrested Brown and Bailey on charges of murder and conspiracy.
Brown, ordered last week to stand trial on murder charges, is to be arraigned Feb. 2 in Orange County Superior Court. Bailey’s case is pending, but she is expected to be helped in court by her cooperation in the prosecution of her husband.