Monday, September 14, 2009

Cameron Brown Retrial: Our Trip to Inspiration Point

It was on Friday that I told Mr. Sprocket that if he was able to fix the car on Saturday, we were going to go on a field trip to Portuguese Bend on Sunday and see as many of the areas that we could that the jurors would see on their jury visit to the site on Monday.

We've had problems with the car ever since the beginning of August. Back then, Mr. Sprocket spent about four or five days fixing lots of things and he thought he had solved everything. But two weeks ago, it started running poorly again and I've been housebound without wheels every since August 31st.

Saturday afternoon he finally found the problem that was eluding him. I was totally elated because this meant we could have sort of a day off from house repairs, truck rebuilding repairs and car repairs. Ever since he ruptured his right distal biceps tendon in April, 2008, we have not had anything close to a relaxing day in the mountains or a drive to someplace new. This would be the first time we've had a vacation type day in sixteen months.

I told him I wanted to get a larger computer card for the camera so that I could take several videos at Portuguese Bend. With the car now running great, we go to Fry's Saturday night and get a 16 Gig card. We try to format the card Sunday morning and find out that since our camera is so old, it will only accept a 2 Gig card and won't format the larger card. We are totally bummed.

Sunday morning we get ready to drive down to Ranch Palos Verdes. Mr. Sprocket makes salmon salad lettuce wraps for us to snack on while we are hiking. We decide to stop in at the Manhattan Beach Fry's to see if we can get a 2 Gig card for the camera. No such luck. They did not have the type of card we needed in stock. We will have to rely on the 512 mega bite card already in the camera, which will barely make a five minute video. We return the 16 Gig card at Fry's. As a back-up plan, we brought my iBook to download the video from the camera on so we could continue taking pictures and video along the trail. Mr. Sprocket will carry our lunch, water and laptop in his backpack. All I have to carry is our old Fuji S7000 Fine Pix. It was a great camera when be bought it back in 2003, but there are much smaller cameras that do even more now. Newer technology.

On the drive down, I practice taking a few videos. I have to trash them because Mr. Sprocket kept making inappropriate comments. Here is our first video up on You Tube where we turn into the Abalone Cove parking lot from Palos Verdes Drive South. Mr. Sprocket asks everyone he speaks to if they know about Lauren's death and the murder trial.

I just want to say that we did not follow the exact route that Lauren and Brown took from the Abalone Cove parking lot to Inspiration Point. At some points along the way, I was unsure which way they went, and at other times, Mr. Sprocket decided which way he wanted to go.

After we park, we decide to hit the restroom before we take off on the hike. We get back in the car and go to the other end of the lot where we see a nice trailer that has four very nice porta-potties on it, just like what the studio's use. When Mr. Sprocket tries to use one, there's a guy in a car telling us we can't use them. They are for a film crew that is not filming today, the show MONK on USA. We have to use the old, grungy porta-potty near by.

Afterwards, we head back to the other end of the parking lot. I try to shoot some video walking across the flat picnic bench area towards the trail head but the camera is full. We stop at the picnic benches and have our first snack. We also take out the laptop and download the videos and photos I've taken so far.

The next video I take is from the beginning of the trail down to the beach and tide pool areas. The camera gets full even before we reach the end of the trail. After we get a little ways down this trail, we are over taken by three young children with a female parent. The children handle going down this trail relatively easy. They end up down at the beach at the tide pools.

Down near the wide area near the beach and tide pools, there is this road going up. I'm not positive, but I "think" this is the route up that Brown and Lauren took to Portuguese Point.

After we have come down to the bottom of the trail and walked along a wide area, we stopped at a second set of nice "studio" bathrooms. From this point, I take a zoom shot of the area I believe to be where the playground used to be. At the bathroom trailer, we download the trail video onto the laptop.

Our walk along the rocky shore towards the base of Portuguese Point. This was an uncomfortable, difficult walk along the beach. I didn't want to go this way, but Mr. Sprocket didn't see the route I wanted to take on the map they gave us at the parking lot.

When we get to the tide pools close to the western edge at the bottom of Portuguese Point I take a video while we sit on this low rock wall.

The area directly behind us where we sat watching the surf.

The wall we sat on to shoot the video above the rocky beach area near the tide pools.

Mr. Sprocket deciding on which way to go up to Portuguese Point.

From the place we took a break, shot a video and listened to the waves crashing on the rocks there is this wide road up towards Portuguese Point. Mr. Sprocket doesn't want to take this route. He wants to take a more "direct" route.

This is the steep trail we climb up the west side of Portuguese Point. I wanted to take the road, but Mr. Sprocket saw that this was more of a direct route. It was steep and I had to grab onto branches to steady myself up the cliff.

This view is looking back down the trail we just came up.

Looking towards Palos Verdes Drive South, down the road away from the western entrance to Portuguese Point. I believe (but I'm not positive) this is the road that Brown and Lauren came up to Portuguese Point.

The view westward from the west entry road on Portuguese Point.

The rock wall on the western side of the knoll on the west entrance to Portuguese Point.

The beginning of the road on the Western edge of Portuguese Point.

The top of the steep hillside we just climbed. To the right is the entrance to the western side of Portuguese Point.

Just a few steps onto the western road entry to Portuguese Point.

On the western edge entrance to Portuguese Point, off in the very far distance you can see Inspiration Point. Can you see anything on Inspiration Point?

Just beyond the western road entrance to Portuguese Point, looking out across the wide open space. You can see in the far distance a few trees. Those are on the farthest eastern edge of the point. (We have a second snack under those trees.)

Looking back towards Palos Verdes Drive South, you can see where there was a recent fire on the upper hillside.

Western side of Portuguese Point, looking towards the eastern side.

This is a shot of Portuguese Point across the large open space area.

On the far eastern edge of Portuguese Point, there are a few trees that are shading this rock memorial. This is where we had our second snack of salmon salad and did our last download from the camera.

This is Inspiration Point. The photo is taken from the farthest eastern edge of Portuguese Point. Do you think you could see what's happening on Inspiration Point from here?

This is a zoom in shot of western side of Inspiration Point from the same area as above. In the zoom shot it appears closer than it really is.

A view of Sacred Cove from the eastern edge of Portuguese Point.

This is a zoom shot from Portuguese Point looking at the base of Inspiration Point where a trail down meets Sacred Cove.

A view out towards the ocean from the farthest, eastern edge of Portuguese Point.

Eastside view of Portuguese Point down to the water.

A look down Portuguese Point on the eastern side near the ocean end of the point.

Here is the rock wall of the eastern edge of Portuguese Point nearest the road, Palos Verdes Drive South.

We are just around the back of the knoll above Portuguese Point and have taken the first steep part of a trail down the eastern side. Mr. Sprocket goes ahead to see if the trail is passable or if it's too steep. He decides we are going down towards that cement block area in the center of the photo because the trail up from that point looks fairly easy.

The steep trail down the east side of Portuguese Point near the eastern rock wall.

Another shot of this steep trail we take.

The trail we take down the east side of Portuguese Point. I wanted to go around to the path I believe Brown and Lauren took but Mr. Sprocket wants to get to Inspiration Point, quicker, so we take this route. We take care with our steps, walking with our feet sideways down the trail until the ground is we can't walk that way anymore. The trail is steep most of the way and some parts we have to slide down on our butts.

The east side of Portuguese Point from the gully to the east we just climbed down.

Looking back at the direction we just came, the eastern side of Portuguese Point.

There's a hand glider in this image in the very center.

Looking back up at Portuguese Point and the hillside we just climbed down.

At the cement block area and drainage pipe, looking back at the step incline we just climbed down.

On Palos Verdes Drive South, we pass Peppertree Lane.

A view out towards Inspiration Point from the beginning of the trail head on Palos Verdes Drive South.

The trail we take from Palos Verdes Drive South onto Inspiration point. I take a short video right at the trail head before we head down. This trail head is partway from where we ended up on Palos Verdes Drive South and the next trail, which is directly in line with Inspiration Point. It goes down into a gulley and comes up the side of Inspiration point at the new fence.

I zoom in on Inspiration Point ahead of us.

Mr. Sprocket heads down the trail ahead of me.

Another picture of Inspiration Point along the trail we take. This trail joins up with Inspiration Point right at the added fence area.

The new fence area on Inspiration Point that was not there in 2000. This shot is looking back up towards Palos Verdes Drive South.

At the fence area, I look over to the west to take a photo of Portuguese Point from Inspiration Point.

This is a shot of the fencing looking back at a path that we did not take. I believe the path in this direction towards Palos Verdes Drive South is the path that Brown and Lauren took to get to this point. September 15th, 2009: Note: It appears from closing arguments that the path we took to IP from Palos Verdes Dr. South IS the route Brown took with Lauren. Sprocket.

This is a zoom shot of the end of Inspiration Point from just beyond the new fence area.

We are past the fencing on the trail atop Inspiration Point. This is before the overgrown bushes in the next photo.

Here, we are passing through an area of bushes that are overgrown, almost like they the limbs are making an arch over the path. The path is very narrow through these bushes.

As we come along the trail on Inspiration Point past the overgrown trees, the trail comes very close to the eastern edge. At times, it's no more than 6 inches from the east side of the cliff. I stop and took a photo of the archery range. From what I'm remembering of photos in court, this area had much more vegetation in 2000 than it does now.

This is a view of Portuguese Point for the eastern side of Inspiraton Point. Can you see people or what's happening on Portuguese Point?

This is the same shot I took using the zoom feature. It appears closer than it really is and it looks like you can see more than you really can. When I first arrived on Portuguese Point and looked out towards Inspiration Point, I instantly knew the photos on the "Support Cam Brown" web site were misleading and were most likely "zoom" shots.

Looking back up the hillside over Inspiration Point, you can see the fire area a bit better in this view.

This photo was taken down towards the water along the eastern side of Inspiration Point a short ways before we got to the end of the point.

We come to the very eastern end of Inspiration Point. I want to go down on the horse shoe shaped sloped area but Mr. Sprocket insists that we scoot down on our butts. We get to about the middle of the sloped area and Mr. Sprocket says we are not going any farther. The first thing I realize when I got to this point was how small it was. The photos I saw of this area in court made it look much bigger. When I took this photo, we are sitting on the "horse shoe" shaped sloped area of Inspiration Point.

Another photo of the same area.

While sitting on the horse shoe area, I shoot a short video. While we are sitting there, Mr. Sprocket tells me what he thinks happened. It should be noted that according to testimony by the detectives and first responders, Brown retrieved Lauren's body from the eastern inlet that goes under Inspiration Point. For Lauren's body to have ended in this spot, (from everything I've heard in court) it seems most likely to me that Lauren went off the cliff on the eastern, horse shoe shaped area. Brown first went down the western side of Inspiration Point to borrow a cell phone to call 911. Then then went back up and over Inspiration Point to the eastern side to retrieve her body. Ergo, she must have fallen on the eastern side. She could not have fallen from the flat end of Inspiration Point or the western edge of the point and ended up on the eastern side.

A different view of the "horse shoe" area on the eastern edge of Inspiration Point. I'm standing on the western edge taking the photo.

Western area of Inspiration Point where I stood to take photos of the horse shoe area in the photo above. I believe this is also the area where the defense bio-mechanical expert placed their still camera to shoot the video of dropping the water rescue dummy. The defense expert stood on the sloped area to drop the dummy.

This is a view of Portuguese Point from the western tip edge of Inspiration Point. I did not use the zoom feature on this photo. Do you think you could clearly observe something going on Portuguese Point from Inspiration Point?

From the middle section at the end of Inspiration Point there were some dolphins playing. Unfortunately, I did not get any good photos or video where you could see more than just their fins sticking up.

This series of three photos is the east side of Inspiration Point from the archery range area to the path leading down to the rocks.

A look back at Inspiration Point from Palos Verdes Drive South. I believe this is at the trail head that is a more direct route onto the point. This is how we exited off the point, the same trail I believe Brown and Lauren used to get onto the point. September 15th, 2009: See my note above. Sprocket

Another shot, same view.

On the walk along Palos Verdes Drive South, there are these huge water line pipes on the ocean side of the street.

Every so often there are these huge valves to control the water.

Lauren's memorial on the knoll above Inspiration Point.

Inspiration Point from the Knoll.

Up on the Knoll where Lauren's memorial is, I take one last shot of Portuguese Point.

Afterwords, we take Palos Verdes Drive South all the way back to the Abalone Cove parking lot and head home. We are both exhausted from the hike.

Denise Nix of the Daily Breeze covered the jury visit.


ritanita said...


I'm in tears looking at your videos and your pictures of Inspiration Point. No human being in his or her right mind would bring a 4-year-old here. The views might be awe-inspiring; they are not a playground for a tired child. It's a place only to sacrifice a little life for one's own selfish desires.

Thank you and Mr. Sprocket for bringing us close to what the jury saw today.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Ritanita! Even if he did not intentionally murder her, he is guilty of child endangerment. Any reasonable person would know that this is too dangerous for a 4 year old! Heck! It looks too dangerous for you and Mr.Sprcket!


Susan said...

Why in the world would anyone think to take a 4 year old to the narrowest of the two points?! Portuguese Point has a wider, flat top area to walk and was closer to the parking lot! Well, of course, I'm being facetious .. I think we all already know why Mr. Brown took Lauren there. I felt sick to my stomach viewing these photos. The day Lauren was there was a chilly November day .. not a lovely, sunny day as when you and Mr. Sprocket had ventured out. Poor child. Thank you, Sprocket, for your incredible coverage of this case and for going as far as to post these exceptional photos. You can only imagine what the jury had thought when they saw IP and imagined a grown man leading a tiny child through winding, weedy, dusty trails to a narrow, steep area. Thanks again.

Janet said...

You are absolutely fabulous.
Thank you so much for this. You can see so little on Google Earth!

Sprocket said...

Thank you everyone. Ever since this trial started I wanted to experience Inspiration Point. I'm fortunate to have a husband who is willing to indulge me in my trial watching passion, to the extent of taking this hike with me. I could not have done it without him.

The three photos of Lauren Brown had taken at the playground area show that it was sunny on November 8th, 2000. It wasn't overcast. I do not know what the temperature was at the beach on that date.

Anonymous said...

I walked from the parking lot to the death scene in 20 minutes. Your report implies it is a difficult walk which it is not. It is not steep at any point and not taxing at all if you follow the easy path. Part of the last 60 yards or so the trail is next to a steep cliff...... as is the whole end of the point. Only a foolish man or a killer would take a child there.

Sprocket said...

I made it clear from the beginning of my narrative that I did not follow the same path Brown supposedly took.

This was the trip we took to take videos and photograph the area. My husband chose most of the route.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate seeing the photos. It gives me a feel for the area I did not have. I agree that you should never take a 4 year old on a hike like this. I was also struck by how lonely it seemed to be in the photos. Thanks again for your work.

David From TN

Karen said...

Didn't Brown lead her over to Portuguese Point first, though (or at least to the head of it), not taking a direct route to IP from the parking lot?

As for where she was launched from (or more likely heaved, IMO, like luggage), that would HAVE to be from somewhere almost directly above wherever it is she landed- she didn't go down in a diagonal line). The investigators found a rock down there that had blood and tissue on it- was that established as the landing point, or where Brown laid her so he could get himself dressed? Thank you, brave Sprocket, and what a marvel Mr. is!

Omama said...

There's no way she went anywhere near the edge of that cliff on her own. Granted I'm afraid of heights but it made me sick to even look at those photos let alone experience it first hand.
I only hope the jury will see what we all believe to be the truth.

Thanks Sprocket and Mr. Sprocket.

Anonymous said...

Sprocket there is nothing more frustrating than chronic car problems......I remember one day while in CA being discharged from a job AND car failure on the way home!! I actually had 3 auto-club memberships concurently to handle all the tows I needed on a yearly average. My problems abated when I moved out of the state AND got a Toyota.....

I never made to Inspiration Pt. but know the view from the Swedenborgen (glass) Chapel from across the road, having been there several times in the 70's and 80's. ONCE again, I hope this defendant gets his due. Thank you again for being there for us!
Wes J.

Karen said...

A question for Sprocket- well, seagull or small child's scream? Could Mr. Omar have heard a scream from where he was, if I remember correctly, on PP under those trees (where you two had lunch)? He was supposedly looking over towards the West; unless he had binoculars with him looking East (down to Sacred Cove), he wouldn't have been able to see much anyway. I'm thinking that sounds might carry in the air better in November than at other times of the year. I don't think it matters too much for the prosecution's case one way or the other, as much as it does for the defense, that the sound Mr. Omar heard must be a seagull, and not what he originally thought he heard- a small child screaming. It was a quiet, clear day, he hears a scream, he is quite some distance from there- what do you think?

Sprocket said...

Seagull or child scream, what did Omar hear?

I don't know. We heard birds, but did we hear a bird that might have been on Portuguese Point while we were on IP? I honestly can't say.

I can't remember..... I'd have to read back. Did Omar (or a defense witness) testify that it was a "quiet" day?

Karen said...

Looking back at Mr. Omar's testimony- he describes the PP as a "quiet place", for visiting and reading on his days off. "Beautiful" and "clear" day. He couldn't see the tip of IP from where he was sitting- he would have to get up, go to the East side of PP (he was over on the LAX or West side, under the tree(s)), and look.

We know it was noisier down below at the beach because of the surf. Brown has to raise his voice to Simmons when he asks to borrow the cell phone, in order to make himself heard. Simmons clarifies that it was to make himself heard- not a frantic or urgent kind of thing at all, to his mind. When Brown tells him his daughter fell down the cliff, Simmons takes it that his daughter was INJURED, but still up there, due to the lack of urgency on Brown's part. But up above, away from the surf, I'm just wondering if the sound of a child's scream (and Omar specifies he heard a little girl scream) would actually be able to carry over to PP. He had only once before tried to visit IP, but he got scared- too narrow and dangerous! And from your pics I can certainly see why. Was there a lot of breeze? It looks in the pics that your jackets aren't really moving around a lot, like luffing, as though the air there was more still than not.... so maybe he did hear that scream.

Another question- I wonder how torn up were Lauren's clothes when shown as evidence? I can't recall much of a description anywhere- but I'm thinking they should've been shredded if she fell/slid/tumbled down, as the defense would have it. Thanks!

Karen said...

Yeah, I meant to write "shirt", and looking at the video work, hardly anything is moving around up there, it looks very still, just some of the tall grass moving a little- I'm thinking "child's scream"!

Sprocket said...

There was not much of a wind at all, but I do not know the conditions on November 8th, 2000.

I know that sound does travel up.

I do not know if Omar heard a child's scream or not. He thought he might have.

Supposedly, the tide was out at that day and time, and not high tide, when we visited. We did not go down to Sacred Cove, so I can't give an impression as to how sound was in that area.

Omama said...

Sprocket - Did you attend closing arguments? If so, I am so very interested in hearing your impressions of how each side performed.

Pepper said...

Here's hoping for a quick and just verdict.

Sprocket said...

Yes I attended the closings. I am working on catching up on some sewing projects and other real life chores. I hope to get to writing up the closings later today.

Here is a small portion of Hum's rebuttal argument. Lauren had been crying most of the day at school. Hum reminded the jurors that crying is a physically exhausting activity.

He also reminded the jurors Lauren did not eat all of her lunch. She only had her peanut butter sandwich, something she didn't even like that much. The rest of her lunch was not touched.

Then DDA Hum reminded the jurors what it was they wanted once they finished the site visit and got back to the vehicles.

It was water.

He told the jurors that Lauren did not have any water while she was out on that hike. This realization hit me very profoundly since I can't imagine taking the hike I did Sunday without water.

DDA Hum also reminded the jurors that even after Inspiration Point, Lauren would still have had a 1 mile hike back up Palos Verdes Drive to get back to the car. It should be noted that most of this 1 mile is a steady and very noticalbe incline up.

Omama said...

Very interesting. Thanks Sprocket. Looking forward to your post.

Stephen & Amy said...

I grew up in Palos Verdes Estates, and my dad would go surfing around Abalone Cove frequently. He would NEVER allow me to go out on the point like that. He would sooner drive me and my friends to the beach in Redondo than allow us to hike around those cliffs. I can't possibly imagine taking a child there. There are plenty of safer places to go with a 4 year old.

Underage Girl said...

what did the defense have to say (in a nutshell)? I couldn't afford to miss school to attend.

Underage Girl said...

By the way, I never said it. You're blog is awesome. It's the only way I've been keeping up with the trial since school started. So thank you.

Omama said...


Do you know anything about this? If so, can you give us some details? Is this the defense witness that changed his/her story?

•A defense witness said he saw Brown guiding Lauren up the trail as she struggled on all fours to get to Inspriation Point. "She didn't want to go up there. He directed her up there." The witness said "something's not right" to himself.

Sprocket said...

I believe the witness they are referring to is a defense witness, "Terry Pope" (sp?). I did not see this witness testify but it's my understanding that Hum was able to counter his testimony in court with his interview with Detectives.

Underage Girl: I missed most of the defense case. I did get to see a few witnesses and will try to put up those notes after I put up my notes on the defense closing and prosecution rebuttal.