Lead Story West Edition

Knife story shows O.J. fixation remains for many

LOS ANGELES — More than two decades after the “trial of the 20th century,” O.J. Simpson is still grabbing headlines.

This time it was the news that the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating a knife allegedly found on the site of Simpson’s now demolished Rockingham Avenue home in the Brentwood section of L.A.

Simpson’s former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death there in 1994. The murder weapon has never been located.

Friends and family members of the deceased and media reacted immediately to the LAPD’s announcement about the knife March 4, but members of the public are skeptical. Many people say they believe the knife story could be a hoax. LAPD officials acknowledged as much in a recent press conference March 4.

“Los Angeles police … investigators are looking into a knife … although they warned that the story could be ‘bogus,’” LAPD Capt. Andrew Neiman said.

O.J. Simpson
O.J. Simpson

Simpson, a Hall of Fame running back for the Buffalo Bills who won the Heisman Trophy while at USC before becoming an actor and celebrity, was prosecuted and acquitted in the 1995 trial, chronicled by a months-long media frenzy, that was watched daily by millions of people.

The recent knife story fizzled in comparison. It broke March 4 but was pretty much an afterthought a few days later.

L.A. native and lifelong resident Chin Thammasaengsri — an avid media producer and consumer — said he tuned in to the intense media coverage of Simpson’s trial, “but it is dubious … finding this knife and the announcement at the same time the FX mini-series is running. I think the LAPD is going to find that this particular knife is a whole lot of nothing … a big fish story.”

FX cable network premiered “The People Versus O.J. Simpson: An American Crime Story” in February. According to Newsweek Magazine, prior to LAPD’s news conference, Hollywood-oriented entertainment industry show TMZ “initially reported that a blood-stained knife was found buried at Simpson’s Los Angeles estate and secretly kept by a retired police officer.”

The way the story developed, a construction worker found the knife when Simpson’s old house was being demolished. He gave it to an off-duty or retired LAPD officer who was working on a nearby movie shoot. The unidentified officer turned it over to the LAPD years later — sometime within the last month.

Several Southland residents shared their opinions on the breaking news story with The Wave. Most said they, too, considered the knife story “a hoax to draw attention to the FX series.”

Others said they “did not know much about the knife or the mini-series, or were not particularly concerned with it and did not intend to follow it closely.”

The series is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book, “The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson.” Episodes depict the trial, prosecution and the defense teams, their strategies and the jury’s deliberations leading to the not guilty verdict in the case.

Inglewood resident Ed Moton said, “I don’t think black people really care. No one seems to be watching the program and they are definitely not fixated on it.”

Kris Dunnagin, a View Park resident, disagreed. “I have not had a chance to watch the FX series, but I believe there is a fixation on all things O.J.”

Referring to the unresolved murder cases, Dunnagin added: “They don’t want to let anything go. They think [Simpson] is the one that got away.”

One couple who asked not to be identified remarked on Simpson in an interactive rift that lasted several minutes, touching on his tarnished image and character, and the negative impact on other people involved in the criminal justice system.

“We are passionate about the subject, but not positive. The sentiment was: ‘if I can’t get him, I’ll get another.’ They will never let [the trial] die. They’ll talk about it forever like the Lindbergh kidnapping.”

Simpson, 69, is serving a 33-year sentence in a Nevada prison for robbery and kidnapping convictions in 2008. In 1997, the Goldman family was awarded $33.5 million in damages in a civil suit brought against Simpson in Santa Monica.

William Bates, a resident of Baldwin Hills is “pretty sure Simpson is guilty, because there is too much that they had against him. They haven’t found anybody else yet and I think the knife is related to the killing.”

Dunnagin said he did not believe Simpson was guilty. Others residents who spoke to The Wave claimed “Simpson allegedly knows and is protecting the killer.”

According to LAPD Capt. Neiman, speaking at the press conference, “The bottom line is unless there is an actual arrest or conviction to prove that we have actually closed the case, the cases remain open. That is where we are … with the O.J. Simpson case.”

“[The knife] has been submitted to our laboratory. They are going to study … and examine it for all forensics … that is ongoing as we speak. Double jeopardy would be in place here so we could not charge Mr. Simpson with the homicides that he has already been charged with because he has already been acquitted.”