Murder mystery feeds LA's appetite for celebrity scandal

IT IS a murder mystery that has all the elements to appeal to the lurid appetites of this media-driven city. There are two bodies, found sprawled on a pavement at midnight after apparently being stabbed to death. There is a blood- stained glove in a luxury house. And there is a sports superstar.

The case began in the early hours of Monday, when a passer- by found the victims, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman, outside a townhouse in Brentwood, a trendy suburb of Los Angeles. There appeared to have been a struggle but no sign of robbery.

Appalling though it was, this discovery would not have not been regarded as particularly compelling news in this crime-drenched city, were it not that Simpson, 35, was the ex-wife of O J Simpson, an American footballing legend who is also known to millions as a hapless cop in the 'Naked Gun' films, and for his sports commentaries on NBC television.

The double killing has prompted a flurry of speculation, notably about the relationship between Simpson and the 25-year- old Goldman. So far it has been established that Goldman, who once modelled for Armani, worked as a waiter at a restaurant that Simpson reportedly visited on the night of her death. The young man's relatives say he was returning a pair of glasses that she left behind. His co-workers say the two were already acquainted.

On discovering the bodies detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department contacted Mr Simpson in a hotel in Chicago, where it is believed he was planning to attend a function with Hertz, the car rental company for whom he acts as a spokesman. According to the hotel manager he made a reservation several days earlier and checked in at 6.30am on Monday. After being told the news, the former Buffalo Bill and San Francisco 49er returned to Los Angeles where he was questioned by police for several hours and released without charge.

There were conflicting reports yesterday over whether Mr Simpson, 46, was being considered as a suspect. Police said they were not ruling out anyone but did not implicate him. However, quoting unnamed police sources, the Los Angeles Times yesterday alleged that he was a suspect. The newspaper also revealed that a blood-stained glove had been found at his elegant home.

But the star's lawyer, Howard Weitzman, said 'O J' had nothing to do with the tragedy, which left him devastated: 'I don't believe that O J would even contemplate doing something like this, to Nicole or any other person.'

O J - his real name is Orenthal James - divorced Simpson, who was his second wife, in 1992, bringing an end to a stormy marriage. Three years earlier, he pleaded no contest to wife battery charges that alleged he kicked her.

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