Murder, They Wrote : The David Brown Case


S uperior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin’s eighth-floor courtroom in downtown Santa Ana has a peculiar notoriety: Two of the nation’s most sensational trials played out there with shocking, oftentimes gruesome, revelations.

In 1989, McCartin sentenced Long Beach serial killer Randy Kraft to death for the mutilation murders of 16 young men.

And, in 1990, McCartin ordered computer entrepreneur David Brown to spend the rest of his life in prison for masterminding the murder of his fifth wife, 23-year-old Linda Bailey Brown, so Brown could collect nearly $1 million in insurance money and marry his teen-age sister-in-law, Patti Bailey. It’s a crime for which Brown’s teen-age daughter, Cinnamon, was convicted five years earlier.


Given the sensational ingredients of each case--drugs and sexual obsession, murder and manipulation--it’s not surprising that, seated among the reporters covering the trials, were book authors quietly taking notes.

This week, the results of their research began hitting bookstores.

“Angel of Darkness” (Warner Books; $19.95), by Los Angeles Times reporter Dennis McDougal, chronicles the life and crimes of Randy Kraft, whose trail of victims, prosecutors believe, may actually number as many as 67. The victims--many of them Marines, most of them hitchhikers--were believed to be drugged by Kraft, who then tortured and strangled them. Their bodies, many of which were sexually mutilated, usually were dumped along freeway ramps or in remote areas.

“If You Really Loved Me: A True Story of Desire and Murder” (Simon & Schuster; $22.95), by best-selling true-crime writer Ann Rule, tells the gripping tale of David Brown, “the ultimate sociopath,” who would “use ‘love,’ sexual enslavement, lies, money and mind manipulation to turn those who trusted him into puppets who would do his bidding.”

Ann Rule first heard of David Brown on Sept. 23, 1988, when she read a short story in her Seattle newspaper about the arrest of Brown and Patti Bailey in their new Anaheim home.

What caught Rule’s attention was the headline: “Teen-Ager Goes To Prison to Protect Father in Murder Case.”

Only hours after Linda Bailey Brown’s murder in 1985, Cinnamon Brown had been found in a doghouse behind their previous home in Garden Grove. Near-comatose from a drug overdose and clutching an apparent confession note (“Dear God, please forgive me. I didn’t mean to hurt her.”), the 14-year-old later admitted shooting her sleeping step-mother.

But after 3 1/2 years in the California Youth Authority, Cinnamon Brown told authorities that her father orchestrated the scheme with Patti Bailey’s involvement.

For Rule, “it seemed fascinating and I put it in a box I keep that’s marked ‘possibles’ on the side.”

As the months passed, “it kept coming to the top,” said Rule, 54.

At the time, Rule, who first gained national prominence a decade ago for her book on serial murderer Ted Bundy (“The Stranger Beside Me”), had a new $3.2-million, two-book contract with Simon & Schuster.

The more she learned about the Brown case, the more Rule realized it had all the elements “of what might very well be a bestseller in the true-crime genre.”

“I’m always looking,” she said, “for a central figure who seems to have everything going for him, who is intelligent, who is successful, who is charismatic, who is wealthy: Someone who, had he stayed on the right side of the law should have had what most of the rest of us consider the good life and then, for whatever compulsive or obsessive reasons, chooses to throw it all away.”

Beyond that, Rule said, “this was a case where it appeared that a father had used his own daughter as an instrument for murder. This seemed so bizarre to me because we like to believe that fathers are most protective of their young.”

David Brown, Rule said, “appeared to be motivated by lust and greed--not only sacrificing his daughter but also the wife who had just borne him a child. For a time he succeeded, collecting almost $1 million in insurance and secretly marrying the object of his lust, his 17-year-old sister-in-law, Patti Bailey.”

As someone who has written five books on serial murders and who has lectured extensively on the subject, Rule said that, “Family murder, I think, is more interesting because it goes against the grain of what we’re all taught to believe. And this seemed to be the most intricately intertwined family murder even going in--when I didn’t know what was to come.”

Rule’s researching for the Brown book followed her usual modus operandi: She attends the trial, from jury selection to sentencing, then afterwards interviews detectives, prosecutors, convicted parties, family members and friends.

Among those interviewed was Richard Steinhard, the would-be hit man hired by David Brown in one of the most intriguing twists of the case. While in the Orange County Jail, Brown instructed his fellow prisoner Steinhard to kill Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeoffrey Robinson, D.A. investigator Jay Newell and Patti Bailey, who had become one of the key witnesses against Brown.

It was only after a jail-house snitch informed the District Attorney’s Office of the plot that Steinhard agreed to cooperate with authorities in trapping Brown.

Rule began writing last September. With a speed gained by turning out two 5,000-word true-crime magazine stories per week earlier in her career, she completed the 490-page book in only four months.

Rule describes writing the book as a “tremendous challenge in that the shooter was also the victim.

“I consider David Brown the killer and next to him I consider Patti Bailey right in there. They planned that murder for more than three years and within the last two months Cinnamon, 14 years old at the time, was drawn into it.”

David Brown and Patti Bailey, Rule said, manipulated Cinnamon into murdering her step-mother by convincing her that Linda Bailey Brown was actually trying to kill David Brown in order to take over his lucrative data retrieval computer business. Playing on Cinnamon’s love for him, David Brown convinced his daughter that the only way to keep the family together was to kill Linda. “If you really loved me, you’ll kill her for me--so we can always be together,” he told her.

The challenge, Rule said, “was to bring the reader along with my dawning realization that this little girl who quite cold-bloodedly admitted this shooting was a victim too. She was brainwashed.” In writing her book, Rule said, she came to understand David Brown, a man Judge McCartin described in sentencing him as a “master manipulator.”

“David Brown was fascinating to me because he is one more link in the chain of anti-social personalities I have written about in the last 23 years,” she said. “The anti-social personality thinks only of himself and he has no empathy at all for another living creatures’s pain.”

Rule, who interviewed David Brown for three hours in the Orange County Jail after the trial, believes Brown, who is serving his sentence in New Folsom Prison, is still “extremely dangerous as long as he has money or can convince someone else he has money.”

Patti Bailey, who pleaded guilty to murder and conspiracy, was sentenced to the California Youth Authority where, like Cinnamon, she must remain until her 25th birthday.

Rule is negotiating with several feature film companies to co-produce a movie version of “If You Really Loved Me.” A two-part TV movie on the Brown case by independent producers, which aired earlier this year, was criticized by Rule for giving a generally sympathetic depiction of Patti Bailey, who was the scriptwriters’ main source.

Rule, however, remains sympathetic toward Cinnamon Brown, now almost 21.

“She is amazingly unbitter,” said Rule, “and yet time has been taken away from her that she’ll never get back and worst of all is that awful memory.”