A Cop, a Glove, and a House of Cards
In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson, wife of football superstar O.J. Simpson, and Ron Goldman were brutally murdered outside of Nicole’s condo in Brentwood, California. O.J. Simpson was subsequently charged with both murders. At the time, I was working for the Rupert Murdoch machinery at Fox Television. Through the news division, we received the unsealed grand jury transcripts which laid out most of the overwhelming evidence amassed from the crime scene. As the court case unfolded on national television over the next year, Simpson’s defense went on to throw suspicion on anyone and anything they could to discredit or occlude the evidence. The main through-line of their case centered on the alleged racist investigating detective, Mark Fuhrman, and how he, along with LAPD veteran Phil Vannatter, must have set up O.J. Simpson as a patsy. When Simpson was subsequently acquitted in late 1995, I re-examined all the evidence and set about writing this piece. The following is a speculative narrative. It incorporates all of the undisputed evidence collected and registered, as well as places persons, other than Fuhrman and Vannatter, at the exact locations and times they were at on the day of the murders. If Fuhrman and Vannatter had framed O.J., this is how they would have had to do it….
The car door swung wide, as the reflections of revolving blue lights bounced off the Buick’s front hood. He stood for a moment, surveying the scene, stifling a yawn. It was late, after midnight, and he’d not had a lot of sleep over the last week. But the grin flickered across his face, despite his fatigue. Mark Fuhrman was happy.
He stepped over to the open gate and first saw the massive amount of blood on the scene. It took him longer to make out Nicole Brown’s body lying askew, practically in silhouette near the front steps of the property. A passing officer, Robert Riske, greeted the West LA Detective, telling him they taped the scene moments after calling it in.
Fuhrman gingerly stepped over the woman’s corpse, taking note of the kid lying off to the right amongst the leafy foliage. His foot slipped on the step, his shoe covered in blood. The officer made a move to catch the detective. “Son-uv-a-bitch, there’s a helluva lot of blood,” Mark barked, nervously chuckling. The other officer looked to his partner, not sure if he should acknowledge Fuhrman’s joking demeanor.
A sedan pulled into the quiet neighborhood, causing several bystanders to step from the street back onto the grass, whispering about the new arrival. Detective Ron Phillips sauntered up to the site, wiping a thin line of sweat from his lip.
“Mark,” Phillips nodded solemnly. “Ron,” Mark chirped back.
“A real massacre,” Phillips muttered into his handkerchief.
He bent down to carefully pull back the hair from Nicole’s neck with his pen. Her head was barely attached to her torso, a gaping hole slit from ear to ear. “My God, somebody really lost their nut.”
“And we all know who’s responsible,” Fuhrman added.
Detective Phillips looked up, “Mark, don’t start.”
The other two officers looked to one another, curious.
“Vannatter and Lange are on their way,” Phillips called out to Fuhrman from just inside the condominium doorway. Most of the neighbors were talking amongst themselves on the grassy parkway between the sidewalk and street. Fuhrman nodded in acknowledgement as he peered through the plants near Ron Goldman’s outstretched hand. ‘Vannatter will be on board with me on this one,’ Mark thought as he parted a small bush.
A bloody glove lay against the garden wall, hidden in the near darkness.
Fuhrman looked to Ron’s feet where another bloody glove and a dark blue knit cap lay in random fashion. The gloves were a match.
Glancing about the nearby vicinity, Fuhrman felt he wasn’t being watched. His adrenaline kicked into gear. He was elated.
Immediately, he about-faced and skirted past the bloody mess, back out to his parked sedan. Rummaging around the backseat and through the glove compartment, he finally found an old Ziploc baggie under the passenger seat; discarded from a previous lunch on wheels. Dipping all traces of crumbs onto the floorboard, Mark stuffed the plastic bag into his pant pocket and calmly strode back over to the crime scene.
The two uniformed officers were in the back of the complex, checking the alleyway with flashlights. Phillips was inside with the kids, Sydney and Justin, arranging transport to a shelter.
Darting his hand into the bush, in one swift move, Fuhrman clutched ahold of the slippery glove, jamming it into the open baggie and carefully slid it into his sportjacket pocket.
‘The bastard’s goin’ down,’ he cheerfully thought.
LAPD Detectives Tom Lange and Phil Vannatter arrived at the Bundy location around 4:20. The bear-like veteran Vannatter spotted Fuhrman immediately. Mark allowed a smile, a knowing smile. Phil returned a slight wave, looking on a little puzzled. He had been awoken at his home at 3:00 that morning. Cobwebs still danced in his head.
The bodies were beginning to have a discernable odor. Blood had fully drained from Nicole’s corpse, trickling in the cobblestone cracks, a yard or two wide.
Tom Lange spoke first. “Okay, Mark, Ron here says you have an idea,”
“Phil and I spoke of this a few years back–you remember, Phil?” Fuhrman turned to Vannatter.
“What is it, Mark?” the old detective was irritable. He had an inkling of what was next.
“About ten years ago, I was called to this house over on Rockingham. Turned out to be O.J. Simpson’s place. The yo’s standing in his drive, big baseball bat nearby, looking like he was out of his skull. This one,” he pointed to Nicole’s body,”is peeing in her panties, scared shitless of him. Her car’s windshield is bashed in. He’d just wailed on it. O.J.’s goin’ on about it bein’ a family thang and what-not, but you could tell he would’ve killed her if we hadn’t shown up when we did. He was truly bugged.”
“You think he’s responsible here,” Vannatter chimed in.
“Number one suspect. I guarantee it. I know of at least a half a dozen times our patrol boys were called to his house to stop him from crushing her head.” Fuhrman had a captive audience.
“I remember the time you and I met about five years ago, you did mention something about Simpson,” Vannatter offered.
Mark nodded back in agreement.
“Someone wanna call him,” Phillips spoke up.
“No,” Lange commanded suddenly. “No tip off that we’re interested this early.”
“Why don’t we go over to his place,” Fuhrman said.
The others stared at him, waiting for more.
“I know he lives like five minutes from here. I’ll show ya.”
Fuhrman made a move for the cars.
“Wait a minute,” Lange said, standing still. “We just aren’t gonna barge over there, no search warrant, no probable cause as yet, to see if we can find him washing the blood off his hands.”
“What if he’s in trouble?” Phillips pondered.
“Give me a fuckin’ break!” Fuhrman exploded. “I’m tellin’ you guys, the longer we stand around here, this n*****’s gonna be a ghost. Out of town. Trust me on this. He’s the guy. He’s the one.” Fuhrman paused a moment to control his temper. “Look, we go to the guy’s house and check on his safety. Simple. Just like Ron’s said. We’re concerned he might be in trouble. Ex-husband. Celebrity. You know.”
Detective Lange stepped forward, close to Mark’s chest. “You’re damn sure about this, are you?”
“Hundred percent,” Mark said, unwavering.
“Phil, tell the officers to lock this up. No one comes in until we get back,” Lange commanded. “Let’s roll.”
360 Rockingham. 4:45am. June 13th. 1994.
“You gettin’ a response?” Phillips asked as he walked back from the street corner.
Vannatter buzzed the intercom one last time. “Guy’s in a coma in there.”
“I don’t think he’s home,” Lange said, looking to Fuhrman coldly.
“He’s in there. Just cowering,” Fuhrman growled, as he started to scale the wall.
“Detective, what the fuck are you doin’?,” Lange shot back.
“He could be in trouble in there,” Mark winked, as he disappeared over the top.
In seconds, the gate swung open, and the four detectives walked onto O.J. Simpson’s property. The sun was bringing ambient light over the horizon. Phillips trailed off behind the others, suddenly stopping.
“Hey, look at this,” he pointed at the driveway.
The other three looked to the ground around their vicinity and saw the tiny blood drops leading from the gate to the front of the house.
“Son-uva-bitch,” Lange uttered, “You were right, Mark.”
“Could be the killer’s blood. Come to get O.J.,” Phillips offered.
“No fuckin’ way,” Mark blasted, as he strode to the front, pushing the doorbell several times.
The house was silent.
“Let’s everybody spread out and see if someone’s around,” Lange said, motioning Vannatter and Fuhrman to the east side of the house.
Arnelle Simpson was in a frazzled state. She spoke with O.J., who was on the line at the other end in Chicago. Kato Kaelin seemed more collected. But his eyes darted about, never resting on Detectives Vannatter’s and Lange’s faces.
“He, uh, he…had me turn on the alarm. Rather he called, I guess from the airport or something and had me turn on the alarm. I’d never done that before, so he really had to walk me through it.”
Ron Phillips walked into the kitchen from the front staircase. “No one up there. Nothing unusual. No blood that I saw. Bathroom looks like it’s been used in the last while though. Towels are moist.”
Vannatter stopped his questioning of Kato and went in search of Fuhrman’s voice.
By the guest house in the back, Fuhrman waited on the walkway for Vannatter to approach.
“What do you have, Mark?”
The two walked back behind the guest house, the light branches from the shrubbery grazing their arms. Fuhrman stopped by the back wall and watched Vannatter.
“You gotta be kidding me,” Vannatter actually laughed.
“Dead to rights, buddy.”
“You planted that glove there, didn’t you, Mark?”
Fuhrman took a moment. Just stared stonily at Vannatter, weighing the moment. He stepped closer to the veteran.
“I want this. I want this fucker to go down bad,” Fuhrman said in a hushed voice.
“Oh shit, Mark,” Vannatter said flustered, “You are stupid. Jesus, Mark, not this case.”
“Exactly this one. He’s a public figure. You know it’s gonna send a big message.”
“What’s that, Mark?”
“The rich ones aren’t safe. None of ‘em better step outta line. You hear what I’m sayin’? Man, the fuckin’ yo’s are gonna weep if we make this tag.”
Vannatter searched Fuhrman’s face. “You’re really serious, aren’t you?”
Mark moved up close and whispered, “Why not O.J.?”
“More to the point, Mark, Why O.J.?”
“Shit, Phil, why O.J.! Have you forgotten that night I told you about ten damn years ago? What he did to that gorgeous woman now lying in her own blood and urine a mile from here?”
“It’s too risky.” Vannatter dismissed him, regaining his senses.
Fuhrman grabbed the elder detective’s arm, bruskly.
“Bullshit, Phil. This is the perfect time. The door is wide open. I say we do the fix.”
“Mark, the media’s gonna be outside within the next hour. They’re probably setting up right now. They’re covering the Bundy scene. Not just a stringer or two. I’m talking every damn station freelancer and twerp with a camcorder. Zooming through the gates. Climbing on the wall. Setting up the dishes. It’s out of the question.”
“Wait, wait,” Fuhrman relaxed, leaning back against the guesthouse, his head resting beside the air conditioner. “What if I explain how we do this.”
“No, you wait. What if he has an iron-clad alibi? What if someone’s been with him the whole time tonight? Before he left for Chicago. Shit, what if he wasn’t even in the vicinity, on his way to the airport or something when this murder went down?”
“The evidence will be so–”
“We’ll have our asses hanging in the wind, that’s what will happen, Mark. Hell, Deputy Dawg would be able to crack that hoax. You don’t frame someone when you don’t know who the real killer is. You don’t frame someone when you don’t know all the angles. For all we know the real killer might stumble into a bar later today and confess to the whole thing. Or his mistress might call up the station and tell the truth. ‘My Stanley up and knifed Nicole and Goldman last night. I was with him. Waiting in the car. I took a fuckin’ video of it.’ Mark, we will have our balls ripped out and neatly framed on Willie’s wall. You get it?”
“He did it, Phil! We are gonna nail this n*****!” Fuhrman’s face turned beet-red.
Gripping Mark’s neck, Vannatter bruskly herded the junior detective farther down the walkway.
“Now, let me tell you something, Mark. I know you’ve wanted this a long time. We talked about this five years ago when we met. And yes, I’ve said I’d like to see something this big happen too. We think the same wavelength. You–maybe more intense than I. But, dammit, it’s gotta be secure. It’s gotta be a sure thing. I haven’t been a clean dick for 25 years, wrapped more cases without a taint to ‘em, put up with more scumbags than Saint Christopher’s ever seen, to have it all get pissed away in one night’s blunder. Watch my pension vanish like a bride’s nightie.”
“Phil, I’m planting it. I’m calling Lange and Phillips out here. You can back me up or expose me. If he’s really the killer, this’ll hammer it home. If he isn’t, this will still be strong evidence toward linking him to the killings.”
“What’s goin’ on back there?” Lange’s voice came from the back door.
Mark looked to Vannatter.
The old detective saw the conviction in this fellow policeman’s eyes. Sighing, Vannatter said, “You better be slicker than shit with this.”
The uniformed officers taped off the entrance to the Rockingham estate. Lange and Vannatter conferred with someone on the police radio, trying to speed up a search warrant. Arnelle had called Al Cowlings, and the two were somewhere in the vicinity.
Shortly before 8:00, Criminalist Dennis Fung pulled up to the Rockingham gate. Lange escorted him to the blood drops spattered in a trail across the driveway.
“Oh, and we found blood inside the Ford Bronco parked over there,” he pointed to the vehicle parked at a slight cant to the curb.
“Should’ve just used a big painted sign: ‘This way to the killer’s house’,” Fung said lightly.
Vannatter stepped forward. “And the glove.”
“Oh, jeez, right, there’s a glove, blood all over it, in the backyard,” Lange said.
“I’ll get to work,” Fung pronounced efficiently, opening a bag of serology equipment.
Vannatter felt a presence next to him. Mark Fuhrman was standing off to his side.
“Smooth,” he mouthed to the hound-faced detective.
Fung finished collecting the blood from the driveway. Several cloth swatches absorbed the drops and were placed into evidence bags, marked with the case DR number. He’d also finished bagging the bloody glove from out by the guest house. And he swatched the blood spatter from the outside driver door of the Bronco.
Peering into the vehicle, Fung looked at the blood smears on the driver’s seat, the instrument panel, the steering wheel, the center console, the inside driver door panel. On the floorboard of the driver’s side, a small beret-style hat lay over noticeable bloodstains on the carpet. A partial shoe print could be seen.
“The guy was at least a little aware of the fact that he’d been standing and walking through blood. When he parked, he tossed the cap on the floor to try to obscure whatever stains he’d left down there,” Fung assumed aloud.
Fuhrman watched from the front of the vehicle. “Gonna be O.J. isn’t it, Mr. Fung?”
“Would look that way.”
Fung walked back to his bags.
At 10:20, Fung left the Rockingham location and drove over to the crime scene at Bundy. He began swatching the blood drops at 11:00, specifically, the tiny trail which led from the bodies, back towards the condominium front door and all the way back to the carport area. He would collect cloth swatches at this location for the next 5 hours. O.J. Simpson was still in flight, returning from Chicago back to LA.
Fuhrman was antsy. He kept catching Vannatter’s eye, nodding to a private place to talk throughout the morning. Phil hoped he wasn’t going to trip them up.
“I’ve been thinking,” Fuhrman allowed, his brow creased with concern.
“Just keep cool, Mark,” Vannatter muttered.
“No, really. This isn’t going to be enough.”
“What are you saying?”
“What if O.J. didn’t do the killing? I mean, I really don’t understand who else’s blood might’ve been here in the driveway, and whose blood would be in his Bronco, but what if some guy had it in for O.J. So much so that he risked coming over here after killing Nicole and Ron, looking for the Juice, and didn’t find him home. The guy’s got a cut on his body and is dripping everywhere.”
Vannatter rolled his eyes. “That would explain the blood in the driveway. But why the blood inside, all over, the car? There’s no signs of forcible entry into the vehicle whatsoever.”
“Doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make sense to me either. But dammit, Phil, we’ve got to make this stick.”
“The glove’s enough, Mark. The media is everywhere. Cops are everywhere. People we don’t know are all over the place. Why risk anything else?”
“I respect that line of thinking Phil, but I can’t abide by it. We’re gonna have to plant more shit.”
“Fuck, Mark, the glove you planted’s got the two victims’ blood all over it. It was found on O.J.’s property. What more evidence are they gonna need to convict the prick?”
“More.” Fuhrman stormed off, leaving Vannatter muttering expletives.
Photographs were taken of the partial shoe prints left in the escape trail away from the bodies at Bundy. Hair fibers were carefully picked from the victims’ bodies. The knit cap and glove were tagged and put into evidence bags.
Secretly, Mark Fuhrman appeared back at the Bundy location and caught up with Fung.
“Ah, Detective Fuhrman, look at this. “ The mild mannered criminalist led the jittery detective along the walkway, pointing at the blood trail which pointed in the direction of the back alleyway.
“See the footprints?”
“Yeah,” Fuhrman said nervously.
“The intermittent blood drops are to the left of the footmarks.”
“A cut, right?”
“Yes. On the left hand.”
Shortly after 12 noon, Monday June 13th, O.J. Simpson finally appeared at his Rockingham home. Detectives Lange and Vannatter surrounded him, even put him in cuffs for a while, and talked to him about the situation at hand.
Fuhrman appeared, and spotted the big Juiceman. ‘You are goin’ to the Big House, Zulu boy,’ he thought ruefully.
He looked to O.J.’s hand. There was a small cut on his knuckle, a band-aid around it. On his left hand.
‘Holy shit!’ Fuhrman thought. ‘How lucky can I get, fer Chrissakes!’ He was absolutely jubulant. Waving manically at Vannatter, Fuhrman danced on the balls of his feet.
Phil wanted to crawl into a hole.
He sauntered over to the hyper-racist cop. “What now, Mark?,” he growled under his breath.
“O.J.’s got a cut on his left hand!”
“Blood drops at the crime scene are to the left of the footprints. Don’t you see, it’s him.”
“Good. Then let’s end this discussion now.”
Vannatter stopped in his tracks.
“You’re taking him downtown, right?”
“You’re taking a blood sample?”
“What do you think?”
“Gonna bring it back here?”
“Bring it back when you’re done with him.”
“What the fuck for.”
“You’re gonna have to give it to Fung anyway. Bring it back.”
Vannatter stormed off, about to explode. A nearby newsman observed the tet-a-tet and found the body language interesting, but his attention was diverted by the lack of ice in his Big Gulp drink.
O.J. Simpson was interviewed by Vannatter at Parker Center in downtown Los Angeles for approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours. At the conclusion of the interview, registered nurse Thano Perato drew blood from O.J. Simpson’s body. That blood went into an 8mm vial.
Vannatter now had O.J. Simpson’s blood on his possession. The time was approximately 3:30 in the afternoon.
Detective Phil Vannatter arrived back on the west side of town around 4:00. Fuhrman was waiting for him. He was out of his mind.
“It’s about damn time! We’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do.”
“Mark, what are you going on about?”
“Fung’s back here at Rockingham. He just arrived from the Bundy location before you did. He’s collected all the samples from the crime scene. C’mon.”
Fuhrman practically yanked Vannatter up the Simpson driveway. Fung stood inside the front foyer examining three blood drops.
Fuhrman cleared his throat. Fung looked up with a sigh.
“What is it, detective?”
“Could Detective Vannatter and I have a moment here?”
Fung grumbled and shrugged off towards the kitchen.
“Okay, okay, the blood vial.”
“Mark, what are you doing?,” Vannatter protested.
Fuhrman snatched the blood vial from Vannatter’s hand. He proceeded to pour a few drops of Simpson’s blood over the already-present blood stains on the floor.
“This won’t make any sense, Mark. You’re either combining two different DNA blood spots, so that the killer and O.J. would have to have stood in one place and dripped on the same exact spot, OR you’re just putting more of O.J.’s blood in O.J.’s blood.”
Fuhrman just nodded intently, still dripping the vial.
“The first scenario is absolutely ludicrous, you fuckin’ nut.”
Mark was deaf to the reasoning. Two officers walked down the staircase, right by Vannatter and Fuhrman and did not so much as glance at what they were up to.
“Gimme that.” Vannatter snatched the vial back from Fuhrman.
“C’mon. Upstairs.” And Fuhrman was racing up the steps.
Vannatter watched as Mark digged through O.J.’s closet. Several pairs of shoes spilled out onto the floor.
“What now, Mark?” Vannatter was positively exasperated.
“Hey, get a sock out of that drawer over there.” Fuhrman never looked up.
Vannatter grabbed a blue sock off the dresser top.
“Pour a drop from your vial on that thing. Just one!”
Vannatter simply complied, having given up with arguing.
Mark stood up with a pair of designer Italian shoes. “Voila,” he said to himself.
Pulling an old sandwich baggie from his coat pocket–the one which previously held the bloody glove he’d transported from Bundy to Rockingham–Fuhrman smeared some of the blood from the baggie onto the sock.
Vannatter could barely control his rage. “Can we fuckin’ stop this, Mark! The guy is framed. He’s nailed. We are going to get caught. Enough already!!!”
“Nope, I gotta be Real Thorough.”
The city had learned of two brutal murders.
O.J. had been questioned and let go.
Tomorrow would yield more clues.
Rest for now.
…Er, but not for Mark Fuhrman and Phil Vannatter.
“Okay, I think it looks pretty much like daylight. Just tilt that spot a little more to the left.”
Mark directed Phil, who was busy trying to focus a harshly bright klieg light on the stained walkway at Nicole’s condo.
A few neighbors peered from their window, intrigued.
“Now, I’m gonna put these bloodstained Italian shoe prints exactly over the other ones which we wiped clean,” Mark said enthusiastically, a special gleam in his eye.
Vannatter just drooled a little. Both were giddy, exhausted, and working on overdrive.
Mark put O.J.’s shoes on his hands and trotted step-wise on all fours along the walkway. The shoes left prints.
“Okey-doke, time to take the picture.”
Flash! A bright light captured the awkward, bloodied forgery.
“Careful, the night guy is gonna hear us. He just went to the crapper.”
Vannatter had knocked over a bucket of cleaning liquid left by an errant janitor. The two detectives squished through the soapy liquid outside the serology lab at the LAPD Investigative Unit, downtown Los Angeles.
The time on the clock above their heads read 2:45am.
“Yippee, I’m in!,” Fuhrman squealed, as the lock gave way to Fung’s laboratory. Vannatter kept chanting, droning, like a mantra, completely frazzled from sheer exhaustion, “We’re gonna nail the Juice! We’re gonna git the Juice!”
Plying through bags and boxes, they came upon the evidence bag marked with the Simpson D.R.
“Start putting O.J.’s blood on every swatch of cloth you find.”
Ripping open evidence baggies, applying blood drops from the vial, Vannatter hooted and cackled, “That fuckin’ Hertz guy’s gonna fry!”
Blood dropped everywhere on the swatches.
When they had finished, baggies and swatches lay about the table top.
“Find me some more baggies, Phil baby. We’ve got to seal these things back up.”
Vannatter skipped about the lab like a big puppy dog, plucking bags merrily from shelves, whistling ‘Ol Man River.’
The swatches went into the baggies.
“Can you write like that Fung asshole, Phil?”
“Sure, Marky boy.”
Vannatter scribbled the correct evidence numbers on each baggie. Amazingly, duplicating the penmanship of Criminalist Dennis Fung.
The baggies were tossed back into the storage freezer.
“We are finished! What a day, Phil!” Fuhrman was beaming.
“You told me it’d be easy, but how was I to know it’d be this easy.”
“That Yamauchi Charlie Chan is slated to get started analyzing these swatches in the morning. Boy, we work fast. Let’s go grab some brewskis.”
The two began to head out of the lab. Fuhrman turned to Phil.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart, ya big lug. We’re about to see the biggest, blackest, baddest of the Naked Gun actors go to the slammer . This is the happiest moment of my career. Let’s remember to be real invisible on the way out of the building now.”
Vannatter placed his big paw on Fuhrman’s shoulder.
“Got a gift for ya.”
Fuhrman looked at him questioningly.
From his breast pocket, Phil took out his handkerchief. Unfolded, there appeared to be hair strands stuck all over the cloth.
“Brushed it from his pillow at home. We can add ‘em into the hair samples they took from the crime scene.”
“You’re beautiful, Phillip baby!”
And Fuhrman placed a big wet kiss on Vannatter.
The preceding was based on a timeline of events which took place on June 13th, 1994. It is purely a work of fiction. The reality is that the jury bought this story, hook, line and sinker.
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