Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Backstory on Cameron Brown

This is my opinion and memory from following the first trial.

Around the middle of the last decade, Cameron Brown, itinerant surfer, sailor and hiker, met and dated Sarah Key, and English woman here on a work visa. After dating for a while, Sarah got pregnant. Cameron wanted her to have an abortion; Sarah wanted to keep the baby. They broke up. Cam reported her to INS and did his best to have her deported. Sarah tried to make ends meet on her own, but couldn't, and took Cameron to court for child support. She got married around this time, and her husband was willing to adopt Lauren. Cam was all in favour of that, especially when he found out that his child support payments would be over $900/month, including back payments to cover the time before he began to pay. Giving up his parental rights to a child he had not wanted in the first place seemed an ideal solution. For everyone.

But...Cameron married an older, childless woman, who wanted Lauren. Cameron rescinded his decision to give Lauren up, and tried to increase the time spent with her. If he could have her 50% of the time, then he would only have to pay 50% of her support, and Sarah would have to pay to support Lauren while she was with him. the support might cancel out. Better yet, if he could manage to make abuse charges stick, he could get Lauren full time, be totally off the hook for money, keep his wife happy, screw Sarah over, and get support from her. To Cam, it was a winning situation.

Except that the abuse charges didn't stick, and a four-year-old can be a total PITA, if you're not used to raising children, and there's still that pesky support money, garnisheed from his pay every month. And the plain fact that, no matter what Patty (Cam's wife) wanted, Cam did not want a child. Children slow you down on hikes, sometimes don't take kindly to sailboats, and don't surf worth a hoot, so what good are they?

Never mind the fact that Lauren, gently reared by her mother, had no interest (at three and four) in climbing, hiking, camping and general rough-and-tumble outdoors activities. Cameron Brown probably thought she was a wuss, ignorant as he was about children. Lauren didn't much like him, and hid when he came to pick her up for court ordered visitation. He ignored the most basic rules of child safety, such as those that say a child under a certain age has to ride in the back seat. He tried to pick her up from school once, on a motorbike, without bringing a helmet for her. Are we feeling the love yet?

So, one day in November of 2000, he picked her up from school and took her for a hike on the promontory pictured above. Witnesses who saw them going up said that Lauren was lagging behind, but Cam insisted that Lauren was scampering ahead and that he was having trouble keeping up.

Only Cameron Brown walked down...and he walked down to a nude beach sheltered in one of the coves, and asked to borrow a cell phone to call 911, because Lauren had fallen off the top. The people on the beach didn't quite grasp the urgency of the situation, but someone lent him a phone. In the transcript of the call, you can read that he told the people on the beach that they might want to put some clothes on because the police are on their way (nudge nudge, wink wink). Call transcript here. After that, he went back up to the top and down the other side to where he figured Lauren would have landed. After spotting her body, he stopped to take off his shorts and boots before wading into the water to get her. He showed no emotion to EMT or police. He never called Sarah to tell her, though he did call his wife.

Forensics showed that Lauren's injuries were consistent with having been thrown, as opposed to falling or sliding off the edge. Cameron presented several slightly different scenarios of the "accident," mostly that he was looking the other way while she disappeared over the edge.

It's a circumstantial case, and he was not arrested until (I think) 2004, and the trial took place in 2006. A mistrial was declared when the jury could not agree on the degree. I think eight were in favour of 2nd Degree, and there were two each holding out for 1st Degree and Manslaughter. Nobody seemed inclined to believe it was an accident.

If I'm egregiously off, please let me know, and likewise if I've left out anything vital. It has been a long time. A lot of other cases in the interim. A lot of real life.

We are hoping for justice for little Lauren Sarene Key, the beautiful four-year-old, who would have been a flourishing eighth-grader today.


  1. Ronni,

    IP is such a beautiful place yet I cannot fathom anyone who would take a child up there, let alone sit within 4 feet of the edge and let a child throw rocks.

  2. I know, right? Who does that? A person who does not give a hoot, that's who!

  3. I was completely unfamiiliar with this case.

    Thank you for filling me in.