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Former Simpson Home Razed by New Owners

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Mezzaluna restaurant has been closed, Nicole Brown Simpson’s townhouse has been sold and re-landscaped, and on Wednesday, the final landmark of L.A.'s notorious double murder--O.J. Simpson’s former Brentwood estate--went down in a heap of rubble and dust.

The Rockingham Avenue home--the place where the infamous Bronco chase ended, where Kato Kaelin heard mysterious thumps, where Det. Mark Fuhrman scaled the wall and later said he found a bloody glove--will be replaced by a new home that neighbors hope will help wash away four years of news crews and looky-loos.

“It’s really a quiet neighborhood with lots of people who work really hard,” said longtime resident Stella Kleinrock. “We are tired of the constant noise and confusion on the street.”

The new owner of the $3.95-million Rockingham Avenue site--identified in property records as investment banker Kenneth Abdalla--hired a demolition crew to raze the house and level the property to make way for a new mansion.

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To the dismay of neighbors, the demolition prompted another media invasion.

As bulldozers ripped at the walls of the house, two news helicopters buzzed overhead and no fewer than 11 television crews and five photographers documented the event. A half-dozen police officers in squad cars and motorcycles barricaded the streets to keep reporters and others at bay.

A woman who described herself as “the artist known as Elf” paced around the scene holding a blowup photo of Simpson bearing a name tag that read: “Hello. My name is Killer.”

Tourists such as Robert and Traci Beck and their teenage son, Denver, from Florida, joined the onlookers after hearing about the demolition on the news.

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“We are just being typical tourists,” Traci Beck said.

Much to the displeasure of Ted Alger, a 45-year resident of Brentwood.

“It’s annoying,” he said as he walked past the crowd.

So upset were many of Alger’s neighbors that they refused to speak to reporters. Those who did made it clear that the attention was unwelcome.

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“I think the news crews should get away from here and go report on Lewinsky,” said one angry neighbor, referring to White House intern Monica Lewinsky--whose visits to her father’s Brentwood home have caused recent media swarms.

The most joyful observer appeared to be Denise Brown, the sister of Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, who was murdered along with her friend, Ronald Lyle Goldman, in June 1994. O.J. Simpson was acquitted of their murders. A civil court jury subsequently found him liable for the deaths, however, and ordered him to pay the families of the survivors $33.5 million--a ruling that forced Simpson to eventually sell the home at auction.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy in a long time,” said Denise Brown, adding that she was in the area meeting her attorney when she decided to witness the razing of the home of the man she blames for her sister’s death. “Simpson is slowly but surely being demolished. This was his pride and joy. No one was ever going to take it away. Now I see it in shreds and pieces and I’m like, ‘Yes!’ Someone did take it from him.”

Simpson, who was not present, professed to be unmoved. “It’s not my house and I could care less,” he told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. “I am a sentimental guy, but there’s things you’ve got to compartmentalize.”

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His former neighbors may be disappointed if they expect gawkers and tourists to stay away. The Rockingham property is listed on dozens of tour books and maps to the stars’ homes.

“I think people will still want to see it,” said Greg Smith, owner of Grave Line Tours, which specializes in tours of notorious murder and suicide locations. “It’s a part of history.”

The lavish estate was the site of Simpson’s 1985 wedding to Nicole Brown. But it became a key crime scene after she and Goldman were stabbed to death outside of Brown’s nearby townhouse.

Kaelin lived in the Simpson guest house when he heard the mysterious thuds on his bedroom wall. Nearby, Det. Fuhrman found the glove that police believed was used in the crime--but that a skeptical jury rejected as evidence of Simpson’s guilt.

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Over the years, the landmark structures associated with the murders have been transformed or shut down, making it easier for Brentwood residents to return to normalcy.

Last year, the new owners of Nicole Brown Simpson’s townhouse completely re-landscaped the shrubbery where her and Goldman’s bodies were found, making the murder site virtually unrecognizable. Last July, Mezzaluna, the trendy eatery where Goldman worked as a waiter and where Nicole Brown Simpson ate her last meal, closed, in part because of the Simpson frenzy.

Simpson was forced to sell his five-bedroom, six-bathroom home last September to comply with the civil court judgment.

By Wednesday night, the mansion was a heap of broken boards and twisted metal.

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During the demolition, Weber Madgwick, the company hired to raze the home, encircled the property with a chain-link fence and a green tarp barrier to discourage onlookers and souvenir hunters. The property is also protected by 24-hour security.

“We are trying to minimize the media sensation,” said Mike Weber, president of the company. He added that the new owner plans to build “a home that will fit into the neighborhood.”

Weber estimated that the entire property would be cleared and leveled in less than two weeks.

He could not resist joking about the still-undiscovered murder weapon.

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“We haven’t found the knife yet,” he said.

Property records list the house as the community property of Abdalla and Kay Stoneburner. Abdalla is a director of Jerry’s Famous Deli Inc. and is the managing member of Waterton Management LLC. He could not be reached for comment.

Fred Sands, whose real estate firm represented the bank that owned the home after Simpson moved out, said Abdalla had planned to remodel the second floor of the home to expand and improve the master bedroom. But, according to Sands, Abdalla found that rebuilding the second floor would be just as expensive as razing and rebuilding the entire house, which he decided to do.

“I think it will work out for him,” Sands said. “The lot itself is worth what he paid for the house.”

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But many observers suspect the tourists and gawkers will return.

“I still think it will be a famous landmark,” said real estate agent Elaine Young, who sold Simpson the house in 1977 for $650,000. “I don’t think tearing it down will make a difference.”

Young noted that tourists still drive by the Cielo Drive site where Charles Manson’s cult followers murdered actress Sharon Tate in 1969, even though the home where the bloody killing occurred has been torn down and replaced by a $9-million estate.

“When Manson is up for parole, the camera crews are always there,” she said.

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Grave Line Tours’ Smith said tourists are still directed to see the Los Feliz home where the Manson family killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca even though that home, too, has been demolished and replaced by a new building.

“These places still definitely draw a crowd,” he said.

Times correspondent Sue McAllister and staff photographer Ken Lubas contributed to this story.

Photos of the interior of O.J. Simpson’s former Brentwood home and video of its razing are on The Times’ Web site. Go to: https://www.latimes.com/simpson

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