Crime

Paso Robles man pleads no contest to murder in death of toddler

Herbert Brown III and his attorney, Matt Guerrero, appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Brown began to cry when a detective described the last hours of his 2-year-old daughter's treatment before she died.
Herbert Brown III and his attorney, Matt Guerrero, appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Brown began to cry when a detective described the last hours of his 2-year-old daughter's treatment before she died. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A Paso Robles man charged in the 2013 death of his 22-month-old daughter pleaded no contest in a San Luis Obispo courtroom Thursday to second-degree murder.

Under the plea, Herbert David Brown III, 32, faces a minimum of 15 years to life in state prison, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office said in a news release.

On Feb. 18, 2013, Brown called 911 to report that his daughter, Lily Sommer-Brown, was not breathing. When emergency crews responded, Brown was acting erratically, at one point reaching into a paramedic's bag, later claiming he was trying to help the child.

The girl had bruises on her forehead, eyelids, torso, legs and arms, and a fracture on the back of her skull as severe as an injury from “falling from a two-story building,” a Paso Robles police detective testified at a May 2013 preliminary hearing.

In interviews with police, Brown initially blamed the girl's injuries on the family's border collie, saying his daughter grabbed the dog's leash and was dragged and hit her head on a doorway.

The girl was taken to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, where a doctor reported suspected child abuse. The doctor concluded the child had been shaken and the fracture suggested her head was slammed against an object.

She was later declared brain dead and taken off life support Feb. 19.

When confronted with details of his daughter's injuries, a District Attorney’s Office investigator testified, Brown said he had accidentally dropped his daughter in the shower and began shaking her in an effort to get a response.

At one point during his interview with officers, the investigator testified, Brown said he could do more good outside of prison talking with parents about his mistakes.

Brown is due back in court for sentencing Oct. 27.

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