By Joseph Serna, Richard Winton and Sarah Parvini, latimes.com
It was a problem that plagued prosecutors during the so-called trial of the century. Authorities said they had the bloody glove O.J. Simpson used in the stabbing death of his ex-wife and her friend, but they could never produce the knife itself.
This absence fueled public intrigue, along with two decades of theories about potential murder weapons.
There was the 15-inch retractable blade that O.J. Simpson purchased at a downtown Los Angeles cutlery shop. And the blood-stained kitchen knife wrapped in a blouse discovered near Simpson’s Brentwood estate. Even a broken carving knife found in a waste tank at Chicago’s O’Hare airport was turned in to investigators.
Now, 22 years after the killings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, a retired police officer has handed over a knife he said was given to him by a construction worker who helped raze Simpson’s mansion in 1998.
The knife brought a frenzy of new speculation Friday but also deep skepticism in some quarters over whether it’s just one more fruitless lead in the case.
Los Angeles police said the department was now testing the knife for DNA evidence and also trying to sort out the bizarre chain of events that brought it into their possession.
Los Angeles police Capt. Andrew Neiman publicly questioned why the officer didn’t notify detectives of the knife when he first received it.
“I don’t know why that didn’t happen or if that’s entirely accurate or if this whole story is possibly bogus from the get-go,” Neiman said Friday. He added that the timing was “interesting,” referring to the current FX miniseries about the 1994 killings and trial that has attracted a massive following.
Neiman declined to specify the type of knife, but a police source described it as a fixed blade that was not large.
The Robbery-Homicide Division is overseeing the investigation. Based on an initial review, the sources said, investigators believed it was unlikely that the knife was connected to the murder case but were continuing with a full investigation.
Detectives learned of the knife last month. According to Neiman, the retired officer said the construction worker was part of a crew tearing down Simpson’s former home on Rockingham Avenue. When the worker discovered the knife, he gave it to the officer, who was off-duty and working on a movie set. The officer had believed the case was closed and kept the knife among his personal possessions. The officer retired in the 1990s and informed detectives of the knife’s existence only recently.
Authorities are looking into whether the officer, whom they declined to name, could face charges for withholding evidence.
While the finding has stirred up controversy, it is yet another hypothesis in a tragic tale. Goldman’s father, Fred, said he would rather not form an opinion on the knife until he hears more definitive news. “Right now it’s a bunch of speculation and I’m going to stay away from that.”
Experts say that any evidence that suddenly points to Simpson probably would not lead to charges. Following a drawn-out trial, Simpson was acquitted a day after jurors began deliberations. Double jeopardy precludes him from being tried a second time.
The only exception to that would be in federal court, said criminal attorney Dmitry Gorin. But the former prosecutor said he does not see how a federal issue might arise in the murder case.
It’s possible, however, that if anything is ever traced to Simpson, it could potentially lead to charges against others, USC law professor Jody Armour said.
“Let’s say a friend helped stash the evidence — the knife — and they get some proof from the knife of that role. Then there could be accomplice liability.”