Most came carrying fresh flowers, a few had written poems, some prayed. But more than anything else there were tears as more than 100 people descended on the hilltop grave of Nicole Brown Simpson in Orange County to share their sadness and anger at the verdicts.
Within minutes after the announcement Tuesday that O.J. Simpson had been acquitted of murdering Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman, strangers streamed into Ascension Cemetery in Lake Forest.
There, they stood before the simple stone grave, which was quickly covered with flowers, teddy bears and wooden crosses. It did not matter to them that Nicole Simpson's family was not present; as they gathered around the grave, they simply wanted to grieve and vent anger at what many thought was an unjust verdict.
"Justice was not served, I'm sorry," said one of the cards on the grave, a tone reflected in other messages. "It's enough to make you really wonder about the system," said 37-year-old Becky Arnold, as she knelt next to the grave. "I guess Nicole was right. She said he was going to kill her and that he was going to get away with it and he did."
Most of the visitors were women; some said that, like Nicole, they were victims of domestic violence. O.J. Simpson pleaded no contest to spousal abuse charges in 1989.
A 44-year-old woman who said she was a battered wife stood by the grave, weeping. "I didn't think anyone else would be here," she said quietly. "I wanted to come here and tell her that she was right, that he would get off. It's so sad. That could have been me."
People laid carnations, sunflowers and red roses on the grave, mingling with several reporters and photographers in the afternoon sun.
Some brought their children as if on an outing; others drove by, gawking. But for most it was a time for quiet reflection, regardless of the outcome of the trial.
Ophelia Vargas and her daughter, Magda, differed in their opinions of Simpson's guilt or innocence, but both came to pay respect to Nicole Simpson.
"I think he's innocent but I'm here because of the Brown family and I'm very proud of the way they acted today," said Ophelia, 70, as she knelt in prayer.
Her daughter, kneeling next to her, said, "My mother is crying from happiness but I'm crying from sadness. Nicole was battered, and as a woman that touches me."
Lori Flask, 40, said the verdict was "like torture." But she found solace in visiting the grave.
"I'm not an angry person," Flask said. "You pay your respects to someone who has suffered."
Charlie Judas, 70, arrived with his wife, Marie, carrying congratulatory red roses--they had anticipated a guilty verdict.
Said Charlie Judas: "There will be a higher authority [O.J. Simpson] will have to answer to."
Nearby was Cheryl Moore, 33, sitting next to the grave for several minutes with her head buried in her hands. The San Juan Capistrano woman said she knew Nicole Brown from their days at Dana Hills High School.
"I remember the football game when she was a homecoming princess," Moore said. "I remember it so well. I can't believe it's come to this. I'm really distraught today over what happened with the verdict. It should have never been this way."
Others said they weren't sure what drew them to the grave.
"I just feel like I should be here," said Liliana Yerington, 36, of Lake Forest. "I don't really know why. I think it was because she was a mother like me."
Pamela Tarzian, 47, and her 22-year-old son, Ryan, said they were hesitant to come to the cemetery but did anyway, carrying a giant sunflower and a poem.
"We thought we might be disturbing family or close friends," Pamela Tarzian said. "But it makes us feel good to be here. [Nicole] needs an outpouring of love."