A father who threw his 4-year-old daughter off a cliff to her death in 2000 has been sentenced to life in prison.
About 15 years after Lauren Sarene Key was thrown off a 120-foot cliff to her death, her father Cameron Brown has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In November 2000, Brown took Key to Inspiration Point in Ranchos Palos Verdes, California, a trip she would tragically never return from.
Brown and Sarah Key-Marer were briefly romantically involved when Key-Marer became pregnant. Brown tried to convince her to get an abortion and even tried to get her deported to Britain, but Key-Marer kept Key and remained in the United States.
Brown initially wasn't involved in Key's life. He sought custody of his daughter when he learned that it would reduce the size of his child support payments.
Key-Marer said that the dispute over the child support sucked the joy out of the 4-year-old.
"We watched her sparkle fade in the last months of her life," the mother said. "Her smiles diminished more quickly every time she witnessed the conflict … The funny, happy girl we all knew was fading."
In a trial, a witness testified that at one point Brown said it would be "nice to get rid of Lauren" to get out of paying $1,000-a-month payments.
Key's stepbrother, Josh Marer, remembered playing a board game with Key the night before she was killed. She became upset and kicked game pieces over before running into her room in tears.
"'I think I'm going to die tomorrow,'" she told Marer.
Marer, who was 10 years old at the time, said that his stepsister's death derailed his life. He became addicted to drugs and attempted suicide several times before seeking recovery.
When the incident occurred, Brown told police that they were at Inspiration Point when Key ran ahead of him, tripped, and fell off the cliff.
A prosecution expert showed that a girl of Key's age would not have been able to run fast enough to land where she landed below and that he had to have hurled her from the cliff. He said that Brown should be convicted of manslaughter.
About a dozen years ago, Brown was arrested after jurors in two trials indicated that the death was a crime, but couldn't decide if it was manslaughter or murder. In May, he was convicted of first-degree murder.
Outside the courtroom, Brown's wife, Patricia Brown, claimed that Key's death was an accident and that her husband loved her. She said he misses the girl more than anybody else.
"You know as well as anybody that it wasn't a homicide," Patricia said to Key-Marer.
Patricia still hopes that her husband will be freed, despite his life sentence.