Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder Trial of O.J. Simpson

Ordinary People

As Lange and Vannatter had been interviewing Simpson downtown, Fung and his assistant had been collecting evidence at Rockingham Avenue under the supervision of Detective Bert Luper, who had been monitoring the crime scene on behalf of the lead detectives.

Among the items found and tabulated was: "#13 socks, navy blue — recovered from the master bedroom." Like the blanket used to cover Nicole's body, the definition of Simpson as a potential rather than an actual suspect and the vial of blood handed over to Dennis Fung, the discovery of the socks would create yet another item of evidence tampering in the eyes of the Simpson defense team.

The LAPD routinely used video cameras to shoot scenes of premises entered under the service of a search warrant. This covered them against any future claims of impropriety and acted as a damage control moderator. LAPD/SID Photo Unit photographer Willie Ford videotaped Simpson's house, including the master bedroom at 3:00 p.m. Earlier, Fung noticed the socks and bagged and collected them prior to when the video was shot. However, the clock on the camera had not been reset after a long period of inactivity and, as a consequence, the defense team claimed the socks had been planted there by the police. They became important items of evidence because, on analysis, they were found to be contaminated by blood, and a DNA test would show that the odds were one in 7.7 billion that the blood belonged to any one other than Nicole Brown Simpson.

The ring of evidence was closing tighter and tighter around O.J. Simpson for the brutal murder of the two people who had been drawn together on that quiet summer's evening in Brentwood.

Nicole Brown Simpson was 35-years-old when she died. She was born on May 19, 1959 in Germany. She grew into a tall, willowy blonde beauty, almost the epitome of the Southern Californian beach belle. She was, according to a friend, "a very simple, very unsophisticated woman who had never prepared herself to live independently in the world. She had no job skills."

She was working as a waitress in a Beverly Hills nightclub called "The Daisy" when she first came into contact with O.J. Simpson. She was 18; he was 30 and married with a family. Eight years later, he was divorced and on February 2, 1985, he and Nicole were married.

She moved into his palatial home in Brentwood on Rockingham Avenue and lived the good life, or so it seemed, until January 1992, when they parted and she and their children relocated to a rented property on Gretna Green Way, only a few hundred yards from South Bundy Drive. She subsequently filed for divorce, which became final on October 15th of that year.

As their marriage deteriorated, Simpson seemed to resort more and more to physical violence. One incident on New Year's Eve, 1989 resulted in the police being called to the Rockingham Avenue home. Simpson was subsequently charged by the city attorney's office, pleaded "no contest" to a charge of spousal battery, and was sentenced to 120 hours of community-service work and two years probation.

On October 25th, 1993, Nicole made a 911 call asking for police. In the background, the dispatcher could hear a man screaming and yelling, his words unintelligible. When police officers responded to Nicole's home on Gretna Green Way, they found O.J. Simpson on the property. He had kicked in the french doors at the rear of the house. Nicole refused to press charges, but later that night, she told Sergeant Craig Lalley of the LAPD how frightened she was of Simpson and his moods, saying, "When O.J. gets this crazed, I get scared. He gets a very animalistic look in him... His eyes are black. I mean, cold, like an animal."

O.J. Simpson had apparently been abusive to his new wife as early as 1985. Then pregnant with his first child, she had called the police. The responding officer, Mark Fuhrman, found that Simpson had attacked Nicole's car (which he himself owned) with a baseball bat, but no charges were ever made by either Nicole or the police.

In fact, according to a diary that Nicole had kept, Simpson's domestic violence began as early as 1977, and by the time of the murder trial in 1995, the Los Angeles prosecution had compiled a list of his abusive behavior which contained 62 separate incidents of physical and mental mistreatment, in addition to numerous threats and examples of control manipulation he had carried out.

Just why, in the end, the marriage collapsed has never been disclosed. In addition to the abuse, it may have been her distress at his philandering. One of Nicole's friends, Robin Green, said in a police interview that the root of the problem in their marriage was his constant messing about with other women. Nicole apparently worried about his affairs and the fear that he might infect her with AIDS. When she confronted him with this knowledge, it would anger him and he would physically assault her during these arguments.

According to her therapist, Dr. Susan Forward, "Nicole was battered incessantly, regularly, all the time. I'm not saying 24 hours a day, but the incidents of battery were extraordinarily high."

Nicole was no doubt deeply concerned by the level of physical abuse Simpson generated throughout their marriage and how far he might go one day. Her mother, Juditha, reported to the investigating police officers that her daughter had told her a month prior to the murders, Simpson had said, "If I ever see you with another man, I'll kill you." 

It is possible that Nicole may have started to feel deprived of the kind of sexual experimentation many young people have after leaving high school. She had probably been limited by her early relationship with Simpson. After their break up she had a number of affairs, mostly casual.

During her stay at the Gretna Green house, she rented out a spare room to a young man she had met in Aspen, Colorado, called Brian Jerrad Kaelin, nicknamed 'Kato.' An aspiring actor, he functioned as an unpaid housekeeper and child minder. When Nicole bought the condominium on South Bundy and moved there in December 1993, she had offered Kaelin a room. Simpson, apparently concerned that Nicole was having a young man living at her new property, offered Kaelin a guest bungalow at his Rockingham estate.

On the afternoon of the murders, Nicole and her children, accompanied by the Brown family and some friends, had gone to a dance recital for Sydney at the Paul Revere Middle School in Brentwood. O.J. Simpson also attended, but sat apart and did not get involved with the other group.

Afterwards, Nicole and her party went at about 7:00 p.m. to the Mezzaluna Trattoria, a trendy Italian restaurant on San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood. There Nicole introduced her group to a waiter called Ronald Goldman, a young man who modeled on the side and had dreams of being an actor someday. He would never realize this or any of the other goals he had set himself. A true victim of  fate, he would find himself later in the evening in a murderous cul-de-sac from which there was no escape.

Born in Chicago in July 1968, he moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1987. There he blossomed from a shy young man into a happy extrovert who lived and loved the California lifestyle, excelling at tennis, surfing, playing volleyball and baseball with his friends, and training at the gym. He worked for a time taking care of cerebral palsy patients A close friend described him as, "One of the most loving, giving people that I have ever known." His sister Kimberly said of him "My brother was a big-hearted, down-to-earth, hard working, goal-oriented person who wanted to get married, have a family and be successful."

He was 20-years-old when he moved out of the family home, eventually winding up in Brentwood, where he loved the friendly atmosphere. In February 1994, to help pay the bills, he got a job at the trendy Mezzaluna as a waiter.

A few months before he died, he met Nicole and she let him drive her around in her white Ferrari, an experience he related to friends as "the coolest high" he had ever had. They had both been members of the Mark Steven's Gym on San Vicente Boulevard, not far from the Mezzaluna restaurant, and although they were obviously good friends, it has never been suggested that they were more than that.

He had lots of friends, he loved his family; he was one of those people who was always there for others, and he ultimately died in that kind of role.

The Brown party finished dinner and left the restaurant at about 9:00 p.m. Nicole and her two children and another little girl friend of Sydney's went across the street to a Ben and Jerry's ice cream parlor. As Nicole was walking away, her mother, Juditha, remembered watching her go. "They were going across the street. I stopped for some reason and looked back at her again. I was thinking 'What a gorgeous girl; what great legs.' Those were my thoughts. That's the last time I saw her alive."

About 40 minutes later, Nicole's mother rang the manager of the restaurant to say that she had misplaced a pair of eyeglasses. They were not in the dining room, but an employee found them outside in the gutter. After Juditha had contacted her at her home, Nicole then rang the Mezzaluna and spoke to Goldman. He agreed to drop around after he completed his shift and deliver the glasses to Nicole. Finishing work, he went to his apartment to change from his working clothes, and then drove down to Nicole's condominium in a borrowed car, parking it on Dorothy Street, a few yards from the South Bundy address. It was found there, the next day.

And so Ronald Goldman became a statistic of fate. The odds against him dying the way he did were probably higher than him being struck by lightning. He was over six feet in height, fit and strong, an exponent of martial arts, and yet he was tossed around like a rag doll and eliminated by a killer possessed of more than just brute force. The man who slashed and stabbed Ronald Goldman to death and then calmly executed Nicole Brown was empowered with more than just physical strength. He was possessed by, and bursting with, adrenaline-fuelled rage, or some kind of anti-social madness that made him omnipotent.

The third key player in this drama, Orenthal James Simpson, was born on July 9th, 1947, at Stanford University Hospital near San Francisco, the son of Jimmie and Eunice Durden Simpson. He was two years old when he contracted rickets and had to wear braces on his legs until he reached five. At 13 he was a street gang member of the Persian Warriors and, in 1962 when he was 15, he spent time in custody at the San Francisco Youth Guidance Center. His father left his mother for another man and died of AIDS in 1986.

Simpson married at the age of eighteen his Galileo High School sweetheart, Marguerite White, and their first child, Aaron, was born on December 1968. Their second child, Arnelle, was born on April 21, 1970.

He became an All-American during both of his varsity seasons at USC and set a number of NCAA running records, closing out his undergraduate days by collecting the Heisman Trophy. He became a top class professional football player, spending most of his career with the Buffalo Bills, although he finished his professional career with the San Francisco 49ers.

He retired from professional football in 1979 and made a cameo appearance at the 1984 Olympic Games. In 1985 he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, crediting his mother with his success. She apparently responded, "I didn't really think he'd turn out the way he did, but he always said you'd read about him in the papers someday and my oldest daughter would always say, 'In the police reports.'"

Ten years later, he was doing both, with a vengeance.

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