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Fatal Attraction?

June 27, 1994
June 27, 1994

Table of Contents
June 27, 1994

Diving
Horse Racing
Poker
Focus
O.J. Simpson
SI 40th Anniversary
Golf
NBA Finals
World Cup
Milers
Perspective
Environment
Multimedia
Point After
  • By William Oscar Johnson

    O.J. Simpson is only one of many men who have gotten off easy for battering women

Photo Credits: POOL/AFP/Getty Images

Fatal Attraction?

O.J. Simpson stands accused of brutally killing two people, one of them the woman he loved

The story was uniquely Californian, beginning with the discovery shortly after midnight on Monday, June 13, of two bodies on a blood-soaked sidewalk in affluent Brentwood and ending surreally four days later with the celebrity suspect traveling slowly along Los Angeles freeways, pointing a gun at his own head, as the police trailed in stately pursuit. Only in California can crime conform so neatly to cinema. As millions watched the drama unfold on television, brought into their homes by an Apocalypse Now formation of news helicopters, images from any number of other movies were evoked. The story started with The Fugitive—a popular and upstanding citizen is accused of savagely murdering his wife—and evolved into The Sugarland Express or Vanishing Point when, during L.A.'s evening rush hour last Friday, thousands of cheering people materialized along freeway barriers and on overpasses, some of them with adoring signs, to celebrate this outlaw in the Ford Bronco, trotting toward his own personal border.

This is an article from the June 27, 1994 issue Original Layout

And then the saga veered into Sunset Boulevard, as one of America's most familiar personalities sat in the Bronco, now parked just outside the door of his Brentwood house, not even a half mile from the real Sunset Boulevard. Camera crews jostled for angles in the waning light as police, including a member of a SWAT team dressed as a bush, drew a bead on him and negotiated his arrest. Then O.J. Simpson, finally ready for his close-up, emerged from the vehicle in which he had been a passenger, leaving the gun behind but carrying two framed family photographs with him into custody.

But even when edited into a whole, the film clips of this startling mix of fame and blood explained little. There was some thing here that didn't play. Between the beginning and the end, two funerals had been held, and police had alleged that two children had been made motherless by their father's knife-wielding hand. When it was all over, a former sports hero, whose colossal likability had fueled a career in TV, movies and endorsements—who had acquired wealth and important friends and who moved through life with an effortless grace—was in jail, charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. "O.J.," said a TV industry source, "made a career out of being a nice guy." Yet there was his mug shot on the evening news, a man staring blankly into the distance, suspected of slashing two other human beings to death.

Last week many of Simpson's friends admitted his faults and acknowledged his indulgences—"He was a rogue when it came to women," said one—but all of them deemed it inconceivable that Simpson could have committed murder. Referring to him as "the single most popular employee we have," an NBC executive said, "We could call him at home at 9:30 p.m. and tell him we needed him to do an interview at 9 a.m. tomorrow, and he'd be on a plane a half hour later. He never complained. Of all the superstars, he was absolutely the freest of pretension. He was genuine."

Interviews acquired the force of eulogies. Simpson was a Heisman Trophy winner at USC, a Hall of Famer with the Buffalo Bills and the San Francisco 49ers, and a durable broadcaster for ABC and NBC, as well as an actor who appeared most recently in three Naked Gun movies and the HBO series First and Ten. He never spiked a ball. He was among the first running backs to bestow gifts and recognition upon his blockers. He once jokingly called himself the Angel of Death for his frequent visits to terminally ill children in Buffalo hospitals. Nobody signed more autographs with as much good humor. Approached in a hotel lobby on the morning of a game by a shy youngster, Simpson would sign and then would carry the autograph book onto the team bus for other players to sign. "The Juice has always left a sweet taste in these parts," says Buffalo News sportswriter Vic Carucci.

But no endorsement from friends, former teammates or broadcasting colleagues could shift the monstrosity of this crime from Simpson's famous name. It was impossible to ignore the ocean of blood on the steps and the pathway outside Nicole Simpson's condominium, the tremendous arterial spray that the killer had produced in his violence. The cruelty of the murders, the fury it must have taken to perform them, was otherworldly. If O.J. Simpson was that killer, a lot of what we think we know about human behavior must be reconsidered.

Last weekend, as he sat alone in a nine-by-seven-foot cell at the Men's Central Jail, a cell stripped of any object that he might be able to use to harm himself, we were forced to ask ourselves what we actually knew about Simpson, a man whose genial blandness was a large part of his appeal. Raised in the tough Potrero Hill district of San Francisco, he had long since buffed his rough edges, a process that began when no less a hero than Willie Mays had stepped in to interrupt Simpson's troubled young life. Arrested for robbing a liquor store, the 14-year-old Simpson spent a weekend in juvenile hall and was greeted upon his release by the San Francisco Giant superstar, who persuaded the youth not to waste his already apparent talent. Remade by athletic success at Galileo High, City College of San Francisco, Southern Cal and then the NFL, Simpson was so self-effacing and eager to please that he was deemed unthreatening to whites and thus became the first black athlete to be embraced as an endorser of products not marketed solely to blacks. Exposed to the good life, he belonged to the best country clubs and moved in the best social circles. He lived a seemingly lucky life.

And yet, as Los Angeles police and prosecutors realigned our bias, there was a need to reconcile the person and his alleged deed. Could Simpson, who declared his innocence at his arraignment on Monday, have committed this horrible crime, one carried out as his and Nicole's two children, Sydney, 8, and Justin, 5, slept in their beds yards away? Well, in 1989, O.J. pleaded no contest to a charge that he beat Nicole in the wee hours of New Year's Day, and there was an undercurrent of rage and obsession that ran through their seven-year marriage, their divorce in 1992 and even their attempt at reconciliation earlier this year. There were hints of a dark side, if you look back, but hardly anything that would prepare you for Simpson's arrest in this case.

For the public that watched him hurtling through airports for Hertz or chatting up NFL players on the sidelines for NBC, the spectacular, weeklong disintegration of this man was inconceivable. Any previous ugliness just never stuck, although maybe it should have. "It was perplexing," says a former NBC Sports employee, a woman. "People at NBC Sports used to always remark about the beating, shaking their heads and saying, 'Here's a man who used to beat his wife, and none of America cares or remembers.' People refused to believe it because they thought he was such a nice guy."

"I knew he beat her," says a prominent agent who was in the same social loop as Simpson. "It was common knowledge. A lot of his friends knew it—not just the 1989 incident, but all the beatings. They all tried to keep it quiet, just like Magic's womanizing. In the small circle these athletes socialized in, people just didn't ever go public with this information. They protected him."

But Donna Estes, a friend of Nicole's, says that many of the couple's friends considered the '89 incident an aberration. If their closest friends had known, Estes says, "no one would have allowed it to go on. We would have helped him get help. We wouldn't have ostracized him or covered it up. If he had been forced to face this, maybe Nicole would be alive."

One of O.J.'s broadcasting colleagues describes Nicole this way: "She was a dramatic person. A person with physical electricity. A dramatic physical presence. If you ask me whether she was beautiful, I'd say no, she was not beautiful. If you ask me whether she was elegant, I'd say not necessarily. She had an electric physical presence. As for her personality, she had some vivacity, some spirit about her that was just there. If you were in a roomful of people, your eye turned to Nicole. There was something unusual about her. She was a willful, spirited person—a party animal. She loved to say, 'I want to go dance all night.' "

Nicole met O.J. shortly after she graduated from Dana Hills High School, in 1977. He was then winding down both his first marriage to Marquerite, whom he had met in high school, and his NFL career, and Nicole apparently eased the transition in both respects. The couple wed in February 1985, and when O.J. was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame six months later, he singled out Nicole in his induction speech for helping him through the athlete's inevitable decline and departure from sports.

By the time they married, O.J. had become a national spokesman for Hertz and several other companies. He not only could afford a lavish lifestyle but also had acquired the social confidence to thoroughly enjoy it. In her 1992 divorce petition, Nicole described the sort of life that two beautiful, popular and wealthy people in West Los Angeles ought to have.

"We moved into a $5 million residence in the exclusive area of Brentwood," she said in the court document. "We had a full staff to assist us. The house was extensively remodeled a few years ago, and no expense was spared.... We also spent our summers at a $1.9 million Laguna Beach house, which is situated on the sand. This house was never rented but only kept for our own enjoyment during the summer and at other times during the year. [O.J.] and I maintained a bicoastal lifestyle. We have an apartment in New York, which I used several times each year, sometimes for as long as one month at a time.... Whenever we traveled on commercial airlines, we flew first class. However, it was not unusual to travel by private jet, such as on trips to Las Vegas."

She described annual trips to Hawaii, Vail or Aspen, and Mexico. She spoke of receiving an allowance of $6,000 a month in "spending money" and owning "Ferrari automobiles and other vehicles." She said, "The lifestyle that [O.J.] and I shared was truly substantial."

The social whirl was pleasant as well. Acquaintances have described celebrity-filled parties at the Simpsons', where guests played pool and tennis and participated in scavenger hunts. The couple's two children completed this seemingly perfect tableau.

But behind locked gates it was another story. It has been widely reported that there were numerous calls to 911 that, as one source puts it, "were never converted to the police blotter." But the one that made it there was chilling enough. At 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1989, police were called to the Simpson home. According to the police report of that incident, Nicole rushed across the lawn, wearing a bra and sweatpants, and collapsed against the gate-release button. "He's going to kill me, he's going to kill me," she yelled, running to the police officers who responded to the call. "You never do anything about him; you talk to him and then leave."

According to the report, O.J. appeared from the house wearing a bathrobe and screamed at the police, "I don't want that woman sleeping in my bed anymore. I got two women, and I don't want that woman in my bed anymore."

Told he was going to be arrested, he yelled, "The police have been out here eight times before, and now you're going to arrest me for this? This is a family matter. Why do you want to make a big deal of it? We can handle it."

Although O.J. later pleaded no contest to spousal battery, both he and friends have tried to put a different spin on the event. He has intimated that he and Nicole had been drinking, that they had been "wrestling" and that his decision to accept blame was a form of gallantry, to stem the flow of bad publicity for him and his wife. A current NFL player who stars in the same social galaxy as O.J. says that Nicole was no young innocent and that she certainly knew which buttons to push. "When this all comes out, you'll see that she wasn't Little Miss Suzy Homemaker," says the player. "She had an alcohol problem. She'd get drunk and say and do things you normally wouldn't do. I don't want to tear down her character, but I don't want you to think this is a one-sided thing. The lights were screaming matches. She knew how to set him off."

In any case Nicole was treated for a swollen and blackened left eye and cheek and a cut lip at St. John's Hospital in nearby Santa Monica. O.J. received a sentence of two years probation, was required to pay $970 and was required to perform 120 hours of community service and attend counseling sessions twice a week for three months. The ugly episode receded from public view. By 1992 the couple had reached an amicable divorce settlement, although in his court filings O.J. complained that his fortunes were declining. Though he put his anticipated income for that year at $700,000, even after a $100,000 cut in pay from NBC, his financial prospects were less than rosy. The Los Angeles riots had destroyed his profitable Pioneer Chicken franchise, which necessitated the closing of an unprofitable one. The California recession had forced the closure of three of his eight Honey Baked Ham stores. He had appeared in only two movies in the previous seven years. Gifts, bad loans to relatives and an unwise stock purchase had further diminished his cash flow.

Still, the judge, determining that O.J.'s estate was valued at $10 million and that his gross income had averaged $1.1 million over the previous five years, awarded Nicole alimony of $9,000 a month and monthly child support of $15,000. She moved into a $700,000 townhouse less than two miles from the large house on North Rockingham Avenue she had shared with O.J. and kept one of the Ferraris. Their beautiful lives were allowed to proceed independently.

She jogged, worked out, shopped and dined. She was a fixture in Brentwood Gardens, the town square for a certain affluent population, although one shopkeeper thought that she was somewhat "out of her element" among the young actors and actresses who frequented the boutiques. She was, after all, 35. She tanned herself at a salon called Le Beach Club and worked out regularly at a Brentwood fitness center called simply The Gym, and on Thursday nights she danced until 2 a.m. at Renaissance, a club in Santa Monica.

For O.J. as well there was no appearance of psychic damage. Friends and colleagues say he enjoyed whatever came his way. "He hit on everything that walked," says the prominent agent. "He was not a very discriminating person." A broadcasting colleague says Simpson was a rascal, "but, as you know, he's charming and he's in that athletic world that winks at that."

But Simpson, at the age of 46, did appear to have a serious relationship with Paula Barbieri, a 25-year-old model and actress who, he liked to brag, looked like Julia Roberts. But that relationship went fallow toward the end of 1993. When a friend of Simpson's ran into Barbieri on a plane, he says she made a "sarcastic joke about ex-wives and said, 'I'm out of it, I'm leaving him alone. I have elected to let him find whatever he needs to find.' "

By last December, O.J. was desperately trying to resurrect his marriage with Nicole. At Theodore's, an upscale boutique in Brentwood Gardens, where all the players in this drama seemed to gather independently of one another in their strangely parallel lives, O.J. sat on the settee and told the shopgirls that he aimed to get back together with Nicole and that whatever had happened between them had been his fault. It is odd and coincidental that a young waiter named Ronald Goldman, unknown to O.J. but a very good friend to Nicole, would also plop down on that settee and dish with the girls. But apparently everybody came to Theodore's, a clubhouse for the young and restless, a kind of cracker barrel for those who liked to inhale the trailing fumes of celebrity.

The Simpsons appeared to be fashioning a reconciliation. Friends went out to dinner with the couple. Sometime shortly after the Super Bowl in January, O.J., Nicole and their children chartered a yacht in Florida called Miss Turnberry and luxuriated for two days at $10,000 a day.

A broadcasting colleague remembers going out with O.J. and Nicole and other friends during Super Bowl week. "It was really lovely," he says. "I thought they were getting along well. I didn't get any impression other than that they were still in love, that they wanted to get back together. I got that impression from her as well as him. They were putting the marriage back together, and the vision in O.J.'s mind was that they were going to remarry. He had even recently stopped seeing other women, which for O.J. was a sign of real commitment." Citing the wife-beating incident and the divorce, the colleague found it amazing that O.J. would pursue Nicole again: "That's powerful. Powerful. You've got to be very, very attracted to that person. He put himself on the line."

But there may have been additional aspects to their courtship. There have been reports of neighbors overhearing fighting at Nicole's condo. Given the couple's history, it's natural to wonder if their arguments had again become violent. After all, unless treated, spousal abuse often continues unchecked. Alana Bowman, who helped prosecute Simpson's 1989 case, was bitter last week over the court's failure to prescribe treatment for him. "The judge didn't feel he should go to jail," she says, "and sentenced him to three months of counseling, by phone to accommodate the traveling he had to do for work, and it wasn't therapy in domestic violence."

More chilling was an interview given a day after the discovery of the bodies by therapist Susan Forward to a TV reporter. Forward, who was subsequently scolded by the California Board of Behavioral Science Examiners for breaching doctor-patient privilege, said that Nicole, "a classic battered wife," had seen her twice after the separation and had complained that O.J. was stalking her and appearing in windows and that he had "threatened Nicole's life repeatedly." According to Forward, O.J. had said things like, "If I can't have you, nobody can."

This behavior may have continued as the romance renewed. But Simpson eventually appeared to give up. Recently he began seeing Barbieri again, and the night before the murders he escorted her to a black-tie fund-raiser in Beverly Hills.

The shopkeepers at Brentwood Gardens noticed the change too. "It seemed all of a sudden that Nicole was out there, really out there," says one. Goldman, a blithe spirit, had been "out there" all along. He was 25 and good-looking enough to attempt a modeling career. His ambitions were vague and various—tennis pro, model, paramedic, restaurateur—but his charm was certain. He was one of those lucky men: People just wanted to be around him. "It was a bad day when Ron didn't come by," says Leslie LeTellier, the manager of Theodore's. "He just made people feel good."

For a while Goldman was a waiter at the California Pizza Kitchen in Brentwood Gardens. An older woman—"older, older," says LeTellier—told LeTellier that she was sad when Goldman left because he was such a flirt and he made her feel so pretty. But Goldman, who had once appeared on the TV show Studs, had simply moved his act several blocks up San Vicente Boulevard, to a restaurant called Mezzaluna. His easy charm persisted there, as it did wherever he went.

Goldman's friends at Theodore's and at Mezzaluna doubt that he and Nicole Simpson were involved in a sexual relationship. "He would have told us," says Jodi Kahn, a salesperson at Theodore's, laughing softly. "My god, the things he told us anyway." Nicole would have been a remarkable conquest. "You have to understand, these young guys are in awe of a woman like Nicole," Kahn says. "It was just enough to be near her."

But theirs was certainly more than a casual acquaintance. Neighbors remember seeing Goldman at Nicole's playing with the children, and he was often seen driving Nicole's Ferrari. One male shopkeeper whistled at that report. "Small town, man," he says. "O.J.'s car? O.J.'s around here a lot, too, you know. Not cool."

Los Angeles police believe that Simpson's and Goldman's lives intersected tragically on the night of June 12. Yet, for all the details that connected them, nobody is sure that the June 12 meeting, if it happened, was anything but coincidental.

The chronology of that Sunday evening was truly tragic, although the day seems to have begun benignly. O.J. played golf early in the day at the Riviera Country Club, and in the afternoon he and Nicole attended Sydney's dance recital at Paul Revere Junior High, though they did not sit together. Afterward Nicole went to Mezzaluna with the children and friends for dinner. O.J.'s whereabouts at that time are not known for certain, though one of his lawyers said that later, at the time of the murders, he was at home preparing for a red-eye flight to Chicago, where he was to do promotional work for Hertz.

After Nicole went home she phoned Mezzaluna to say she had left a pair of sunglasses behind. Goldman told the restaurant manager that he would be glad to return them when he got off work. He clocked out at 9:33 p.m.. had a beer at the restaurant's bar and then walked to Nicole's home several blocks away.

There are no known witnesses to what happened between then and 12:10 a.m. behind the locked gate just outside Nicole's door on a pleasant stretch of South Bundy Drive. But at that time, just as O.J.'s American Airlines flight was leaving Los Angeles airspace, the bodies of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were found. Two days later the crime scene was still available in all its gore to gawkers. In the Hollywood tradition of celebrity death, floral bouquets appeared at the gate, but until somebody hosed the sidewalk down on Tuesday, people mostly came to examine the dried blood.

O.J. had been in his room at the O'Hare Plaza Hotel for less than an hour when, at 7 a.m. Chicago time, a Los Angeles police officer phoned to tell him that Nicole had been murdered. O.J. then made about 10 calls from the room, including at least one to a woman believed to be Barbieri. According to witnesses at the hotel, O.J. was frantic as he checked out and rushed to a Hertz car for the ride back to the airport.

The moment he returned to his house on Monday morning, Simpson was greeted by police and handcuffed. Attorney Howard Weitzman, who had represented Simpson in the spousal-abuse case, arrived and prevailed on the police to un-cuff him. But speculation thereafter zeroed in on his involvement.

Los Angeles, which hasn't enjoyed a celebrity scandal of this magnitude for decades. was seized by the grim entertainment value of this affair. Here was a man, in his prime a remarkable athlete, whose remaining talents were minor except for the ability to make people like him. He had distilled the essence of affability and somehow marketed it. And suddenly police were leaking details, a steady stream of them, which allowed much of the public to build its own case of murder against Simpson. Enough camera crews staked out Simpson's house—called the Simpson mansion in all the news reports but actually modest by L.A. celeb standards—that catering trucks parked on Rockingham Avenue and did a nourishing business in tuna melts and burritos. Any civilian who walked his dog along South Bundy Drive was considered to be trolling for reporters; mutts sniffed aimlessly at their owners' ankles while TV reporters did their stand-ups.

More details of the investigation were leaked to the media, nearly all of them tightening the net on Simpson, whom police nevertheless initially refused to name as a suspect: A bloody glove found at the crime scene matched one found at Simpson's house; some of the blood spilled at the crime scene, where Goldman was said to have put up a "fierce struggle," matched Simpson's type; there was blood found on his clothes, possibly in a washing machine O.J. might not have known how to operate. Such details, if accurate, suggest this was far from a perfect crime.

Then the police, who to that point had been methodical in their handling of the case, bungled Simpson's arrest. With one of crime history's most highly visible suspects in their sights, the police lost track of him for all of a night and most of a day.

O.J., who had been sequestered in his house for much of the week, went to Nicole's funeral last Thursday morning and, to all appearances, returned that afternoon under heavy security. To the watching media he was apparently the man shielded from reporters by a long coat as he entered his front door between a pair of other men. However, police later learned that the man being shielded was a decoy—and that an off-duty L.A. officer, who was earning side money working on Simpson's security detail, was one of those carrying out the ruse. This only compounded the police's embarrassment: a cop helping to hide a man about to be named in two murder warrants whom the rest of the force would not be able to find.

Robert Shapiro, who became Simpson's attorney after Weitzman, citing his friendship with Simpson and pleading a heavy workload, gave up the case, would later say that on Thursday night and early Friday morning, Simpson was at the house of a friend in Encino in the San Fernando Valley. Told on Friday morning that warrants had been issued for Simpson's arrest, Shapiro arranged for a surrender at police headquarters. At that time, in addition to Shapiro and Simpson's lifelong friend, Al Cowlings, a former journeyman NFL defensive lineman (page 27), there were two doctors tending Simpson at the Encino home, one for the depression Shapiro said Simpson was suffering from. But Simpson missed the deadlines set by the police for his surrender. Their patience exhausted, the police dispatched a car to the address in Encino that Shapiro had given them. However, according to Shapiro, when two officers arrived to make the arrest, Shapiro discovered that Simpson and Cowlings had disappeared while he had been in an upstairs room conferring with the two doctors.

In an angry press conference, a police spokesman, Comdr. David Gascon, declared Simpson a fugitive, and all of Southern California went on red alert, with airport officials and border patrols advised to watch for him. Shapiro then held a press conference to say that Simpson, in addition to being a fugitive, was suicidal. He said that Simpson had drafted two codicils to his will and had written three letters, one to his mother, another to his children and a third to the public. A man identified as a Simpson friend, Robert Kardashian, then went before the microphones to read the letter addressed to the public. In it Simpson began by saying, "First, everyone understand I had nothing to do with Nicole's murder." He ended by saying, "Don't feel sorry for me. I've had a great life, great friends. Please think of the real O.J. and not this lost person. Thanks for making my life special. I hope I helped yours." In the letter Simpson singled out golfing buddies, former teammates and other friends and offered a special message to Barbieri that said, "Paula, what can I say? You are special. I'm sorry, I'm not going to have, we're not going to have our chance. God brought you to me, I now see. As I leave, you'll be in my thoughts."

Less than an hour later a motorist reported to police that he had spotted a white Bronco in Orange County, 60 miles south of Simpson's Brentwood house, and officers from several police agencies began pursuit. After Cowlings, who was driving, warned police over his cellular phone that Simpson had a gun to his own head, the authorities ushered the Bronco along freeways and surface streets.

Bystanders flocked to the freeways on which the Bronco was traveling, hanging signs that said GO O.J., among other cheerful greetings. Drivers honked horns in a celebratory manner. Pedestrians, driven mindless by so much history at hand, ran onto the freeways. Friends of the accused, some of them in tears, went on TV and radio and pleaded with Simpson to surrender peacefully. It was a strange procession, this run up the middle, black-and-whites following behind, the armada of helicopters tracking the suspect. Simpson and Cowlings motored on at a polite pace, reaching Simpson's house shortly before 8 p.m. There, after a 50-minute standoff during which Cowlings could be seen gesturing furiously, Simpson left the car and entered his house. He was allowed to use the bathroom, call his mother and drink a glass of orange juice, and then he was taken into custody—arrested for the double murder of his ex-wife and her friend. Cowlings was arrested, too, for allegedly aiding and abetting a fugitive, and then released on $250,000 bond.

And there the story collapses of its own terrible weight. In the comparative calm that followed Simpson's arrest, friends groped for anecdotes that might begin to explain how such an admired man could possibly become an accused killer. "He charmed his way out of any situation," says the former NBC Sports employee. "Two years ago, after the AFC Championship Game in Buffalo, the plane was loaded and sitting at the gate when word came over the speaker: 'We'll be leaving momentarily, but we have to wait because O.J. Simpson is running a little late.' " Who could be mad at him?

Assigned a story on Buffalo nightlife the week of that game, Simpson amazed his colleague by becoming part of it in a most demonstrative way: "There he was in the back of a white limousine, in the parking lot of a bar, doing it with some woman. I couldn't believe it! Right in the middle of the parking lot.... He was always in the bars, in the clubs. He loved the limelight, the highlife."

But another coworker remembers how gracious he was with fans. "Idiots would walk up to him in Buffalo, and he'd be drinking beer and eating wings," he says. "His hands would be greasy and his mouth would be full, and they'd ask him to sign something.... O.J. Simpson was Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan."

In short, he suffered everybody, more likely enjoyed them, in his fortunate life. He never lost his temper....

If we are to believe that the right man has been charged, we must then assign some extraordinary motive to the killings. We must make sense of it. And it's nearly impossible. Could O.J. have been in such financial trouble that the $24,000 monthly alimony and support had become, if not a motive for murder, a flashpoint in his relationship with Nicole? Was he anxious about his $400,000-a-year contract with NBC, which was to come up for renewal in 1995, or his $550,000-a-year deal with Hertz, which was to expire in 1997?

Sources say the arguments with Nicole were, in fact, often about money. And within the last year O.J. had told a close friend and coworker that he hoped Nicole would marry again so that he could be relieved of the alimony. But would he murder for money?

And if he wouldn't murder for money, would he do so out of some sense of aggrievement? What if this product of the San Francisco projects, part of whose charm was his lack of bitterness, saw a handsome young man tooling about in a white Ferrari, a car he had bought for his former wife? Would he succumb to a tremendous feeling of unfairness that until now he had been careful to damp? Would he murder then?

It's a tangle of suppositions, confounded by public knowledge of a man so upbeat that he signed his "suicide" note with "Peace and love" and put a smiley face inside the O of O.J. And the case against Simpson becomes even unlikelier when we consider that some of the reported evidence—the glove allegedly found at the scene, for example—could indicate premeditation. Could Simpson have plotted one or both of these murders, climbed into a plane and played out an alibi that had been arranged days before? And then could he have returned home, assumed a dissociative state and attended a visitation for the woman he murdered and then, with his children by his side, her funeral? Could he have done that? Could anyone?

Whatever circumstantial evidence the state has arrayed to prove that Simpson enacted this violence cannot possibly explain why these victims were murdered so brutally. Short of a confession, no reason can be assigned. To solve the why of it we must impute some enormous passion to the killer. To satisfy the state's case we must impute it to a man who not only seemed just like us but also seemed better—richer, more handsome, more popular, an overwhelming success who somehow entered a final, life-ruining rage.

That's a troubling idea. It might mean this could happen to anyone. Or at least to someone who loved a woman so much or so badly. The movie industry unreels on just such ideas. This will be the state's case, as articulated by the NFL player and friend who meant only to support Simpson, and it is the synopsis of many a poor plot: "He was obsessed with her. He loved her to death."