Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder Trial of O.J. Simpson

Things That Go Bump in the Night

At 5:00 a.m., the four detectives set off in two separate cars and made their way up Bundy, north to Sunset Boulevard, west to Rockingham Avenue and north to the intersection of Ashford Street. Here on this right hand corner, number 360, sat the home of O.J. Simpson. Parked outside the gated estate in Rockingham Avenue, facing north, was a 1994 white Ford Bronco, its front wheels on the curb and the back sticking out into the narrow street. 

The detectives turned right into Ashford and parked head to tail in the dark street. Their journey had taken less than five minutes. Making their way across to the intercom buzzer situated next to the gate, they tried repeatedly to arouse the occupants without success. As the men were deciding on their next move, Fuhrman wandered around into Rockingham Avenue and ran the beam of his flashlight over the Ford Bronco.

Although it was assumed that Simpson owned the vehicle because there were packages inside clearly identified as "Orenthal Products" and the detectives knew that Orenthal was the "O" in O.J., they nevertheless ran a license check on the plate number through their car radio. Information came back that the Bronco was owned by Hertz Corporation, who was using Simpson as an advertising spokesperson.

Det. Mark Fuhrman
Det. Mark Fuhrman

As the check was going on, Fuhrman called Lange back to the Bronco and pointed out with his flashlight what appeared to be a blood spot on the body panel near the driver's door handle. By this time the detectives had ascertained the house telephone number and called it repeatedly with their mobile phone, but had received no answer.

After discussing their options, the detectives decided to enter the property. There were cars parked inside and outside the gates. Lights were visible inside the house; nobody answered their repeated buzzing and telephone calls; there were possible blood stains on a vehicle operated by O.J. Simpson, and his wife lay brutally murdered only two miles away. In their opinion, the detectives were justified in entering into the house. A potential emergency might exist and under such urgent circumstances, real or perceived, the police were permitted to enter a property without a search warrant.

A Westec private security guard had arrived as the detectives were trying to arouse someone and confirmed that Simpson and a live-in maid should be on the property. Concerned that they might be just outside another major murder scene, Fuhrman volunteered to climb over the five-foot-high stone wall and unlock the gate from the inside.

At approximately 5:45 a.m., the four detectives walked up to the front door, rang the bell, and started knocking on its wooden panels. Getting no response, the men walked around the side of the property to a row of three bungalows. At the first one, after pounding on the door, a man appeared who identified himself as Kato Kaelin, a friend and house guest of  Simpson. At the next bungalow they aroused an attractive young woman who identified herself as Arnelle Simpson, O.J.'s daughter. Leaving Fuhrman with Kaelin, the other three detectives accompanied Arnelle Simpson into the house to check on the security of the occupants. Finding the house empty they sat down and interviewed Kaelin.

He told the detectives that he and Simpson had gone the previous night to a McDonald's in Santa Monica, returning to the house later in the evening. He went to his guest bungalow and Simpson had disappeared into the main house. At about 10:45 p.m., while he was talking to his girlfriend on the telephone, he had heard three loud banging noises coming from the rear of the building near the air-conditioning unit. The sound and vibrations were so intense he thought at first it was an earthquake hitting the area, and he grabbed a flashlight and went outside to check for damage.

Outside, he saw a vehicle parked at the gate on Ashford. Simpson had ordered a limousine to take him to the LA airport to catch a "red-eye" flight to Chicago later in the evening. A few minutes later, Simpson left the house and Kaelin and Allan Park, the limousine driver, loaded luggage into the trunk of the car, except for a small black bag which Simpson held. Park then drove off for the airport.

Kato Kaelin
Kato Kaelin

The detectives questioned Arnelle Simpson who did not know the whereabouts of her father, but on contacting his personal assistant, Cathy Randa, she was able to furnish his address at the Chicago O'Hare Plaza Hotel. Hearing that her stepmother had been murdered, Arnelle immediately telephoned Al Cowlings, her father's lifelong friend who had played football with Simpson throughout his professional career.

As she was doing this, Phillips placed a call to Chicago and spoke to Simpson, telling him his wife had been killed. Although apparently distraught at the news, and concerned about the welfare of his children, at no time did he seek any details from the detective regarding the death of his ex-wife. He told Phillips that he would catch the first available flight back to Los Angeles.

Tom Lange knew that once the media got their hands on the murder story it would be headline news on both radio and television, and so decided to ring Nicole Brown's family and break the news himself before they heard it any other way. At 6:21 a.m., he reached their home at Dana Point in Orange County and spoke to Lou Brown, Nicole's father. As he sadly passed on the information, in the background, he heard a woman's voice screaming and wailing "O.J did it! O.J killed her! I knew that son of a bitch was going to kill her!" It was Denise,  Nicole's sister.

A few moments later, Detective Fuhrman returned to the house after an absence of ten or fifteen minutes to tell Vannatter of a discovery in the garden. Leading the way, he walked down past the swimming pool and behind the guest bungalows to the rear of the one occupied by Kato Kaelin. There on the leaf-covered walkway, illustrated by the beam from Fuhrman's flashlight, the two men looked down on a bloodstained leather glove, which seemed to be a right-hand match to the one still lying in the garden back at South Bundy Drive.

Leaving the glove untouched for processing by a police criminalist, Phillips and Fuhrman headed back to South Bundy, leaving Lange and Vannatter to determine if the Rockingham estate was potentially another crime scene, connected to the first. Lange eventually left Vannatter and went by patrol car back to South Bundy to the condominium and the two bodies still awaiting investigation and inspection by coroner's investigators and other criminalist teams.

Left on his own, Vannatter spotted what appeared to be blood drops near a Bentley and a Saab parked in the driveway. They led out of the west gate onto Rockingham Avenue and then to the rear of the white Ford Bronco. Inside, he saw other red spots on the driver's door and on the console near the passenger's side of the vehicle. Walking back into the garden, he noticed that the red spots led up to the front door of the house.

At 7:00 a.m., Mark Fuhrman returned with his partner and a police photographer who had been shooting at the South Bundy crime scene. As photographs of the brown leather glove were taken, it seemed certain it was a match for the one found near the two bodies there. The photographer also snapped the apparent blood spots noted by Vannatter. As these blood spots and the glove were found in "plain view," it was certified as evidence that could be collected without a search warrant.

By now, Vannatter had decided that the Rockingham address qualified as another linked crime scene in the two murders they were investigating and had the entire area sealed off and quarantined. At 7:10 a.m., Dennis Fung, a LAPD criminalist, and his assistant, Andrea Mazzola, a SID trainee, arrived to begin the collection and documentation of evidence under Vannatter's supervision. They were instructed to catalogue all the blood spots and the glove and then to arrange for the Ford Bronco to be towed to the police garage for further examination.

Leaving Fuhrman to maintain the crime scene, Vannatter then left for South Bundy, joining his partner, Tom Lange there at about 7:30 a.m. He then left and traveled to the West Los Angeles Station to prepare a search warrant in order to enter, search and seize any relevant evidence at the home of O.J. Simpson.

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