Set among traditional, shingle-roofed ranch houses, the oversized, contemporary home on Mandalay Drive has stood out ever since it was built. But residents of the 16000 block of that secluded street in the Santa Monica Mountains say they had little hint of the role it would play in the O. J. Simpson drama.
Sometime Friday morning, the celebrity ex-athlete slipped out of the house with his college roommate and fellow football player Allen G. Cowlings--baffling police, his attorney and friends, and setting in motion the manhunt and bizarre freeway chase that ended with Simpson's arrest at his Brentwood home Friday night.
Simpson, charged Friday morning with the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ronald L. Goldman, was supposed to have surrendered to Los Angeles police at the Encino home, but instead he disappeared.
"All we know is, we were told he'd be there; we went, he was not," said Lt. John Dunkin, an LAPD spokesman. "How he left, when he left, we don't know."
Dunkin said Simpson was originally supposed to turn himself in at LAPD headquarters Downtown under an agreement reached with his defense attorney, Robert Shapiro. But Shapiro phoned Friday morning to ask that police instead take Simpson into custody at the Encino residence of his close friend, Robert G. Kardashian, who had offered his home to Simpson as a refuge from reporters, Dunkin said.
In a dramatic news conference Friday, both Shapiro and Kardashian described how Simpson had managed to elude not only them but several physicians who had come to the home to examine Simpson for depression.
The entourage retired to an upstairs conference room to discuss Simpson's condition. When they returned, he had left, apparently in the vehicle of his longtime pal, Cowlings, they said.
Simpson's presence at the house and the fact that he spent the night there came as a surprise to neighbors, who watched all day Friday as carloads of police officers came and went, offering no more explanation than that they were "conducting an investigation."
"When my husband came home just now he said, 'What's going on? Is O. J. Simpson up here?' And I said, 'Are you kidding?' " neighbor Pia Jackson, who lives across the street, said, laughing.
"There are lots of cops," said another neighbor, Ted Tepelidis.
"It's about O. J.?"
Kardashian--who described himself Friday as one of Simpson's closest friends--moved into the house about a month ago after its owners and builders failed to sell it, neighbors said. "We were amazed at how many moving trucks came," Jackson recalled.
Jackson said Kardashian, a composer, and his girlfriend waved to Jackson's husband as he left for work Friday morning, giving no indication that the celebrity murder suspect was staying with them.