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O.J. Simpson’s Ex-Wife, Man Found Slain

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Football great O. J. Simpson’s former wife and a 25-year-old man were found apparently stabbed to death outside her Brentwood townhouse early Monday morning.

Los Angeles police said they were not ruling out anyone’s possible involvement in the Sunday night slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and Ronald Lyle Goldman, a waiter at a trendy Brentwood restaurant. Sources close to the case, who asked not to be named, said the football star was considered a suspect.

However, Simpson’s attorney, Howard Weitzman, insisted that his client is innocent.

“He had nothing to do with this tragedy,” Weitzman told reporters. “He is in shock.”

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Although police refused to identify any suspect, a knowledgeable source said a blood-soaked glove believed used during the killings was found at O. J. Simpson’s house in Brentwood.

Weitzman confirmed that search warrants had been served at two residences belonging to Simpson--the house in Brentwood and an unspecified condominium. To obtain such warrants, police must provide a judge with probable cause to justify the action.

Police took the former football star into custody at his house Monday afternoon--handcuffing him briefly--before transporting him Downtown to the Police Department’s Parker Center headquarters for questioning. Two hours later he was released, and Weitzman said Simpson would spend the night at the home of a friend.

“No one has said to me that he is a suspect,” Weitzman said. “No one has said to me that he could be or would be charged with a crime. . . . I don’t believe that O. J. would even contemplate doing something like this, to Nicole or any other person.”

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One source close to the case said Simpson’s release was “a temporary thing.” The source said an arrest was being delayed until forensic tests are completed.

Police said little about the crime, declining to offer a possible motive or to say exactly when the attack is believed to have occurred. Officers said only that there were signs of a struggle and that there was no evidence that the attack occurred during a robbery or a burglary.

“Obviously, we’re not going to rule anyone out (as a suspect),” Police Cmdr. David Gascon said during a news conference Monday night. “We will pursue whoever we need to pursue until we bring the party to justice.”

Shortly after a passerby found the bodies of Nicole Simpson and Goldman, police began looking for O. J. Simpson, learning a few hours later that he was in Chicago.

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When Simpson had gone to Chicago was not clear, although Weitzman said his client took a “red-eye” flight sometime in the “late evening” on Sunday.

Pete Phillips, general manager of the O’Hare Plaza Hotel near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, said Simpson checked into the hotel at 6:15 a.m. CDT, which meant he could have taken any of at least three flights that left Los Angeles after 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

Phillips said Simpson had made a reservation three to five days earlier, and he showed up “just about the time” his reservation had indicated.

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The hotel manager said Simpson told him that Hertz, the auto-rental company for which the former football player has long been a spokesman, was holding “a function” in Chicago. “He was in here to talk to the people and play a little golf,” Phillips said.

Los Angeles police said they telephoned Simpson Monday morning and asked him to return home. “He was in Chicago when we contacted him,” Lt. John Dunkin said. “Where he was last night is something we don’t know.”

Simpson checked out of the hotel about 8:30 a.m. CDT.

“He asked the desk clerk to get him a taxi,” Phillips said. “He was in a hurry to get to the airport.”

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The manager said Simpson was so upset that he cut into a line of other guests waiting to check out and demanded service.

“He wanted to go right now,” Phillips said.

Chicago police arrived about an hour later and searched Simpson’s room, taking unspecified hotel property with them when they left.

Meanwhile, Simpson took a late-morning flight back to Los Angeles. Shortly after he reached his luxury home in Brentwood, police went to the house.

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Yellow police tape was spread across the driveway gate of Simpson’s estate, about two miles from the townhouse where the killings took place. Police placed pieces of cardboard on Simpson’s driveway, marking small reddish-brown stains leading up the driveway to a point about 50 feet from the garage. Simpson’s black Rolls-Royce was parked in the driveway.

Sources said the bloodstained glove was found inside the elegant home. Weitzman said that at his request, Simpson’s handcuffs were removed. The football hero--grim-faced, wearing slacks and a polo shirt--was driven to police headquarters.

“We have brought him in to conduct a follow-up investigation and to question him as a potential witness,” Officer Rigo Romero said.

After about two hours, Simpson left police headquarters and was driven away.

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Police said they had been called to the townhouse in the 800 block of South Bundy Drive several times in the recent past to deal with domestic dispute between Simpson and his former wife. “It’s an ongoing problem,” one officer said.

Simpson, 46, and his former wife--who has worked as a waitress, sales clerk and interior decorator--divorced in 1992, three years after he pleaded no contest to a spousal battery charge filed after he allegedly hit her, kicked her and told her, “I’ll kill you.”

Friends said the couple had been attempting to get back together in recent months, but the reconciliation attempt came to an end several weeks ago.

Goldman’s co-workers at Mezzaluna, the trattoria in Brentwood, said the waiter--a trim and handsome man who had once modeled in a print advertisement for Giorgio Armani--was acquainted with Nicole Simpson.

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They said the two worked out at the same gym and saw each other often at the restaurant, but it was unclear whether they had a close relationship.

Karim Souki, one of the owners of the restaurant, said Nicole Simpson--whose townhouse is about four blocks from the restaurant--had been a regular for years.

Stewart Tanner, a bartender at the restaurant, said that although authorities listed Goldman’s home as in the Agoura area, the waiter had been living somewhere in Brentwood and walked to work each day.

Souki said Simpson had been to the restaurant Sunday night with her children as part of a party of 10. Later, Souki said, she telephoned to inquire about her prescription glasses.

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“She said she had misplaced them, and then we found them,” Souki said.

Goldman’s relatives in Ventura County said he apparently was just dropping the glasses off after his shift ended.

“He obviously got caught up in something that he wasn’t involved in,” said his stepbrother, Mike Glass, 16.

Detectives said the Simpsons’ two children--Sidney Brooke, 9, and Justin, 6--were asleep in the Mediterranean-style townhouse on Bundy when the slayings occurred Sunday night.

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Police said a passerby found Nicole Simpson’s body sprawled on the steps of a walkway in front of the townhouse shortly after midnight. Goldman’s body was found a few feet away, in shrubbery.

“Sharp-force injuries,” such as stab wounds, appear to have played a part in the deaths, but other causes have not been ruled out, said Scott Carrier, a spokesman for the county coroner’s office.

The bodies were discovered by a man walking along the sidewalk who glanced up the walkway in front of the townhouse. Police were called and the area was cordoned off.

As dawn broke, neighbors and passersby gathered outside the crime scene.

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Denise Pilnak, a jogger who lives nearby, remembered hearing dogs barking shortly before midnight.

“It was nonstop barking,” she said. “It made me think something was going on with the neighbors.”

Pauli Orchon, 35, a marketing director who lives in the neighborhood, said she was there Monday morning when officials removed the sheet they had been using to cover Nicole Simpson’s body.

“She was lying on her side, just crumpled down,” Orchon said. “I could see some abrasion to the side of her face. . . . There was a lot of blood on both bodies.”

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Orchon said she had often seen Nicole Simpson walking her dog in the neighborhood in recent weeks, and she theorized that the woman might have been doing that when the attack occurred. Orchon said passersby found a dog with a leash wandering through the neighborhood Monday morning, “and everyone says it’s her dog.”

Amy Goodfriend, 25, a music publisher who stopped by to see what was going on Monday, said she had been a friend of Nicole Simpson’s for several years.

“She’s blonde, she’s tanned, she’s absolutely beautiful,” Goodfriend said. “I’m in shock. I can’t believe this.”

O. J. Simpson--best known in recent years for his Hertz commercials, his work as a football analyst on NBC and his roles in “The Naked Gun” series and other movies--was one of the game’s most popular stars.

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During his two years at USC, Orenthal James Simpson equaled or bettered dozens of records, culminating his collegiate career with the Heisman Trophy--awarded to the nation’s best college football player--in 1968.

After he was drafted in the first round by Buffalo in 1969, he went on to establish a National Football League single-season rushing record of 2,003 yards in 1973. He finished his 11-year pro career with the San Francisco 49ers as the second-leading rusher in NFL history, and in 1985, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Simpson has two adult children by his first marriage, which also ended in divorce.

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Contributing to this story were Times staff writers Tina Daunt, David Ferrell, Carla Hall, Shawn Hubler, Peter H. King, Jim Newton and correspondent Scott Collins in Los Angeles; staff writer Steve Braun in Chicago and correspondent Matthew Mosk in Ventura.


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