Cinnamon Brown, whose sensational murder of her stepmother at her father’s urging in 1985 was the subject of two books and a made-for-TV miniseries, is free after serving eight years in a California Youth Authority facility.
Brown, 21, was quietly paroled last week in a 2-1 vote by the CYA review board.
Authorities said she is living in Orange County and preparing to take a clerical job. While at the Ventura School in Camarillo, she earned a high school diploma and completed an associate of arts degree.
Brown, at age 14, was convicted of shooting to death her stepmother, Linda Brown, 23, a crime for which the young defendant took sole responsibility. For her role in the murder, she could have been committed to the CYA until age 25.
After Brown’s incarceration, her father, David Brown, collected $835,000 on Linda Brown’s life insurance policy. She was his fifth wife. For the next four years, he lived in opulence with his next wife--the victim’s teen-age sister, Patti Bailey, in Anaheim Hills.
But in 1988, Cinnamon Brown told authorities that the slaying had been masterminded by her father. She said her father and Bailey had plotted for months to kill Linda Brown, whom David Brown accused of plotting to take his business.
One night in March, 1985, she was awakened by her father and told to shoot her stepmother, Cinnamon Brown told prosecutors. David Brown then gave her medication to feign suicide--in a dosage sufficiently lethal, prosecutors said later, that the only reason Cinnamon Brown survived was because she vomited.
In 1990, with the aid of taped conversations between Cinnamon and David Brown, as well as her testimony, the elder Brown was convicted of orchestrating his wife’s murder. Bailey was also convicted for her role in the murder and committed to the CYA.
Assistant Dist. Atty. Jeoffrey L. S. Robinson, who prosecuted David Brown, said Friday that “had Cinnamon Brown not decided . . . to come forward, we would still be wondering why David Brown is still out and flourishing. But for Cinnamon Brown’s courageous decision, David Brown would still be a leech on society.”
When he sentenced David Brown to life in prison without parole in September, 1990, Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin called him a “master manipulator” and compared him to Charles Manson.
“You’re a scary person,” McCartin told him, adding that Brown was lucky that the district attorney’s office had not asked for the death penalty.
The case was the subject of two books, “A Killing in the Family” and “If You Really Loved Me,” plus the TV miniseries “Love, Lives and Murder.”
In his dissent to Cinnamon Brown’s release, CYA parole board member Victor Wisehart Jr. acknowledged that while she “has made great progress in her program, her reasons for the well-planned, coldblooded killing of her victim are not to be believed.”
Brown, Wisehart wrote, “was able to conceal the truth and show no emotion or remorse for several years before she saw the light and pointed out her father as the person behind the crime. . . . (She) has not explored all the reasons she was able to twice shoot her victim.”
But for Robinson, who supported an earlier parole bid by Brown, “the real story is the courage of this kid who was abandoned by her family; a 14-year-old kid who was completely brainwashed for a number of years by her father; who herself has been the victim of terrible crimes and has now paid her debt to society, maybe even more of a debt than she should have.
“Yet her battle will be a very, very tough one,” he said, “because her case is of such a high profile, a girl who has been earmarked as a killer for the rest of her life.”
The prosecutor maintained that Brown has already “lost her adolescence, in that she was incarcerated from the age of 14 to 21. So it will be a somewhat difficult transition for her to now come back to society, but I believe that she is of the character that can and will do it.”