Bundy & San Vicente

Today (10/23/98) I visited in person the intersection where Jill Shively saw O.J. Simpson fleeing the scene of the Bundy murders, in order to determine the physical characteristics of the place. While we do not know for sure how much this place today resembles the same location in June of 1994, most of it is probably the same, and I have it on personal assurance from someone who has lived in the area for a long time that there has been no major renovation of the streets in the interval.

GENERAL LAYOUT. In a previous article, I tried to depict the situation with a character-symbol map, and it is pretty horrible, but a better portrayal has been prepared as a result of the trip described here and is found elsewhere on this site as "Shively/Simpson Encounter (map)". South is at the bottom of the map, and Nicole's condo is 2-1/2 blocks down Bundy in that direction. North is at the top of the map, and Simpson's Rockingham estate is about 1-2/3 miles up Bundy in that direction. Bundy is one of only two north-south streets in the vicinity that are continuous from Wilshire to Sunset (Barrington is the other.) So, it gets a fair amount of traffic throughout the day and night. The main east-west street in this vicinity is San Vicente, which is the site of a very up-scale commercial zone which ends on the west at Bundy. Beyond that point, there are large apartment buildings on the north side of the street, and the ivy-covered fence of the Brentwood country club on the south side of the street. Shively's sighting occurred at the intersection of Bundy (South) and San Vicente, along the most obvious route from Nicole's condo to Simpson's home.

This is a somewhat complicated intersection. The first unusual characteristic is that San Vicente is a divided street, with a 34' wide grassy median separating the eastbound and westbound lanes. Planted periodically in the center of this median are a particular species of fig tree, of which the local residents are very proud. The grass is a popular jogging locale, and for the ambitious, the median extends all the way to the end of the continent in Santa Monica, 2-1/2 miles to the west. The grass is very well tended, both in the Brentwood (City of L.A.) part, and the Santa Monica part.

The second complication is that Bundy jogs to the west (going north) at San Vicente; it becomes necessary then to distinguish between "Bundy North," and "Bundy South." A hundred yards or so south of San Vicente, Bundy South turns sharply to the east, but at the intersection itself, both parts of Bundy intersect San Vicente at a right angle. Both Bundy North and Bundy South perforate the median, and the length of the median between these two is 104 feet. The actual penetration of the median is at an angle, so that if a person is driving north on Bundy, after they cross the eastbound San Vicente lanes they find themselves on a short piece of pavement that is 45 degrees counter-clockwise from their original Bundy direction. To continue north, they have to turn another 45 degrees counter-clockwise into the westbound San Vicente lanes, travel a hundred feet to Bundy North, and there make a right angle turn clockwise. As I say, it is slightly complicated.

THE MEDIAN: I made observations from the median between Bundy South and Bundy North between 11:30 am and noon. That place is surrounded on all sides by a concrete curb 6-1/2" high and 6-1/2" wide. There is no concrete gutter, the road surface paving comes up directly against the curb. The entire interior of the curb is covered with grass, and there are two trees planted in this piece of the median: one on the west end and one on the east. The west tree looks to be very old, but the east one is young, and may have replaced an earlier tree in the last four years. If the usual practice was followed however, a replacement tree is planted in the same location as the one it replaces. When I was there, the earth near the Bundy South crossing was soft and moist. Even pushing down on it with your finger leaves a depression in the grass due to deformation of the underlying earth.

THE CURB: According to Jill Shively, Simpson swerved to avoid colliding with other cars (hers, and a gray Nissan in the westbound San Vicente lanes) and jumped the curb coming to rest with one or more wheels on the median. From her account, it would have been the west curb of the median between Bundy South and Bundy North that he would have jumped, and so I looked carefully at that curb for old signs of distress. The vertical surface of that curb contains may black smears of rubber from tires, both new and old. Because of their direction and extent, it appears that virtually all of these were left by tires that were traveling nearly parallel to the curb, but just got too close to it. It is impossible to form any reasonable conclusion about Simpson from these marks, even in my somewhat detailed study of them.

Then, I examined the horizontal (top) surface of the curb. There are two tire indications here. One appears "old," I should say, runs parallel to the curb, and is a couple of feet long starting in about the middle of the island; and an impression of the tire tread is recognizable. However, because of the direction, I would say of the vehicle that left it "it went on the curb," not "it went on the median." I do not think it is of interest to us.

I also saw a heavy scuff on the top of the curb, ten feet from the south edge of the median that I would characterize as "very old." Associated with this were three chips in the curb, the largest of which was 2-1/2 inches square and 1/4 inch deep. Because an SUV, like a Bronco, has good ground clearance, and would not contact a 6-1/2" obstacle (I think) these are probably not due to Simpson's vehicle. However, the old rubber mark is in roughly the place that Shively claims Simpson jumped the curb. (There is also a region farther north where there is a series of four or five old "scratches" or narrow gouges in the concrete, but I am sure because of the ground clearance issue that these are not of interest.)

OTHER FACTORS: There is no obstacle in the place of Jill's sighting that would contradict her account. The east fig tree is about 25 feet from the curb (more than a car length) and so there is plenty of room for the front end of the Bronco to have come to rest on the grass. The only other obstacle on the east end of the median is a traffic signal about 7 feet from the south curb, and so the majority (the other 27 feet) of median width could be jumped without striking this. All driving surfaces are asphalt, and hence any skid marks would not be conspicuous. The intersection is illuminated with three modern vapor-discharge type of lamps on the south side of San Vicente, and one on the north. There could be additional illumination from a Union gas station on the north-east corner of San Vicente and Bundy North, and the parking lot of Vicente Foods directly north of the Bundy South penetration of San Vicente.

For a driver proceeding east on San Vicente, traffic coming from the south on Bundy is obscured by the fence around a school on the south west corner of Bundy and San Vicente. This chain link fence is covered here and there by opaque materials (signs, banners, and such) and comes rather close (within 8 feet, I would guess) to the curb. So, this is a fairly blind corner for the eastbound San Vicente driver, and a northbound Bundy vehicle traveling without lights would suddenly be in front of her without any warning.

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: I did not see anything by visiting the scene of Jill's observation that casts doubt on it, but neither could I find evidence -- at this late date -- that definitely confirmed it.

Dick Wagner • Van Nuys, CA (10/23/98) NG 451

ps: The "Right Turn Only" sign confronting an eastbound driver on Dorothy at Bundy, that you
may have seen in photographs, has been removed. This leads me to believe that it did not
exist on the night of the murders, but was added for crowd control later. Parking
restrictions on Bundy have also been relaxed.