ENDING TIME LINE
The Simpson case timeline consists of two parts. The ending events include Simpson's flight from the Bundy crime scene, his arrival at Rockingham, and culminate with limo driver Park's sighting of a "shadowy figure" crossing Simpson's driveway. The starting events feature the "plaintive wail of a dog." This article is limited to the development of the ending timeline.
There are four reference points in the ending timeline: Heidstra's sighting of a white SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) at Dorothy and Bundy, Shively's sighting of Simpson in his Bronco at San Vicente and Bundy, Kato's hearing three thumps on his wall, and Park seeing the "shadowy figure." The times of all of these observations can be determined to varying degrees of precision, the times between them can be estimated with fair accuracy, and when all of them are strung together they produce a coherent and consistent timeline.
PARK SEES THE "SHADOWY FIGURE": The limo driver Allen Park was talking on his cell phone when he saw a "6 foot tall, 200 lb. Afro-American in dark clothing" cross Simpson's driveway and go into the house. Since this is a fairly good description of Simpson, as far as it goes, it has been accepted by most people that it was Simpson that Park saw. Quickly after he saw this, Park hung up the cell phone; phone company records show that call began at 10:53 and lasted for two minutes. Therefore, it is believed that Simpson crossed his drive and went into his house at 10:55. This is the most accurately known of all the time references.
KATO HEARS "THREE THUMPS": While he was talking on the telephone to a friend, Simpson's house guest Kato heard three loud and distinct thumps on his outside wall that he described as "like a signal." He continued to talk for some time on the phone, then hung up, looked for and found a penlight flashlight, went from his guest house into the yard, around the main house to the front. There he went down the length of the driveway and into a dark path on the far side of the garage, where he unsuccessfully explored for the source of the three thumps. It was while he was out of sight, behind the garage, that the "shadowy figure" appeared.
Petrocelli walked the same course from Kato's room to the driveway in front, and found that the trip took 30 seconds. I estimate that when times are added to account for finding the penlight, walking the length of the driveway, and groping down the dark walkway before the shadowy figure appeared, the total would become two minutes. From this, I consider that Kato ended the telephone call at 10:53.
At the time of the three thumps, Kato was on the phone with a woman named Rachel Ferrara. She estimates, in court testimony, that the time from the three thumps to the end of the phone call was ten minutes. Kato estimated this time several places: in the grand jury, in the preliminary hearing, in the criminal trial, and in various interviews. The least he estimated was "two or three minutes," and the most was five minutes. I will take as the time from the three thumps to the end of the phone call to be eight minutes, and justify it in this way: Ferrara did not know Kato well, and appears to have no stake in protecting his ego or his relationship with Simpson. In short, there is no obvious reason for her to shade her recollection. However, this is an estimate of an incident that was rather inconsequential at the time, and we would not expect great precision in it. Kato, on the other hand, has an ego investment in not wanting it to appear that in the face of a possibly frightening indication he shirked a manly duty to investigate. It is better for Kato's image to have attended to this quickly than to have delayed. So, it can be imagined that he had a motive to remember the time from the three thumps to investigation as shorter than it really was. As a result, 8 minutes seems to be a figure that would allow both for Ferrara's honestly inaccurate estimate, and Kato's self-serving recollection.
If the interval (thumps to hang-up) is shorter than this, it does not do much violence to the timeline, since Simpson's activities during the time are not well implied. But, if the interval is much longer than 8 minutes, it begins to create conflicts with references at earlier times.
It is my understanding that the cause of the three thumps is Simpson himself. When he arrived at Rockingham, he crept onto his property through the Rockingham gate (a blood spot between the Bronco and the gate) and could see from the shadows by the Bentley that Park was in a position to see him if he crossed the drive to get into the house. Desperate not to be seen, Simpson hatched a plan to have Kato distract Park, and during the distraction he would quickly slip into the house. In order to accomplish this, Simpson crept through the shadows at the end of his driveway (an area that Park identified in the criminal trial as being unlighted, and into which he could not see.) Simpson then went down the path to Kato's wall, and banged on that wall to attract Kato's attention. The act had the expected result of bringing Kato to investigate, but it did not distract Park, and at the end Simpson was seen crossing the drive and going into his house. Unthinkingly, Simpson took the bloody right hand glove, that he had brought from Bundy, on the trip to Kato's wall, and dropped it there.
Although other explanations of the three thumps have been proposed, this one is faithful to the evidence, and is based on a rational motive for Simpson to have done such a thing. (At the end of the criminal trial, prosecutor Marcia Clark forgot about the description of "as a signal," and claimed that Kato had heard Simpson crashing into the air conditioner on an aborted escape run down that back walk. Petrocelli liked this idea so much that in his three-day coaching session for Kato, he taught him to hurl himself against a wall to illustrate the sound he had heard. Nonetheless, the witness's original description of what he heard was three distinct and loud thumps, "like a signal," and the sequence of events I propose is the most faithful to that.)
From the foregoing, Kato hung up on the phone call with Ferraro at 10:53, and the three thumps was eight minutes earlier at 10:45. If Simpson undertook the three thumps diversion immediately after he got onto his property, his time of arrival at Rockingham was a minute earlier (or, as much as a minute and a half earlier.) So, Simpson arrived at Rockingham no later than 10:44.
THE SHIVELY SIGHTING: Jill Shively was en route to Westward Ho Market to get some food for dinner when she nearly collided with a white Bronco which ran the red light at Bundy and San Vicente. The white car was traveling northbound with its lights out, and was delayed in the intersection for about a minute before it continued on up Bundy at a high rate of speed. While in the intersection, the driver leaned out his window and glared at her and also yelled at another driver whose car was blocking his progress. In this way, Jill both heard and clearly saw the driver of the white Bronco from a distance of 15 to 20 feet, and positively identified him as O.J. Simpson, a person she had seen often around Brentwood previously. She proceeded to her destination (a trip of two minutes from the place of the near collision) and at that time noted that the "stick-on battery operated clock" in her car registered 10:52. From this, it appeared that Simpson left the intersection at 10:50.
However, Shively knows that the car clock was "8 to 10 minutes fast," and when that is accounted for, (using a ten minute error) Simpson left the intersection of Bundy and San Vicente at 10:40; he entered that intersection a minute earlier at 10:39. The police timed the trip from the Bundy crime scene to Simpson's home and found that it took 5 to 6 minutes. Petrocelli also had an investigator try the trip, but without being scrupulous about obeying the traffic laws, and he found that the trip could be made in between 4:03 minutes and 5:35 minutes. However, the trip from where Shively saw Simpson is shorter than this, because it is a quarter mile closer to Simpson's home than the Bundy crime scene, and it has already traversed the potentially most time consuming intersection. It is therefore credible that Simpson could have traveled from where Shively saw him last to his home in four minuets flat, or even a few seconds less than this.
(Shively has been widely disregarded as a witness because of factors which were no fault of hers, and which may have been engineered by the defense team specifically to neutralize her testimony, which was disastrous to them. I have recently published a lengthy review of the issue here, and that is the conclusion it came to. The complete file is available to e-mail requesters in ".doc" format.)
THE HEIDSTRA SIGHTING: Robert Heidstra was an auto detailer that lived a block from the crime scene and was walking his dogs near to Nicole's condo on the night of the crimes. He told two versions of his experience, one in the days immediately afterward to friends, and another to the jury in the criminal trial a year later. The two versions are very similar, and differ only slightly in two details: the precision with which he could identify a vehicle he saw, and the time at which he saw it.
This is the version he told shortly after the event: As he was approaching Bundy on Gorham (first street north of Nicole's) Heidstra heard (but did not see) the Akita loose in Bundy. Wanting to avoid an unpredictable interaction between the Akita and his own dogs, he backtracked to the alley that runs parallel to and 50 yards east of Bundy, and took his dogs down that, instead. He entered the alley at about 10:30. Because his dogs were old and slow, and since he himself was in no hurry, Heidstra did not emerge from the other end of the alley (only 100 yards away) for about 5 minutes. At some time while he was in the alley, he heard a sound from the west -- the direction of Bundy -- and beyond the houses that separated him from that street. He heard a low indistinct voice, and also heard a louder voice shouting, "Hey, hey, hey." At about that time he also heard a metal gate clang.
Johnny Cochran (foolish man) was trying to portray the crime as having been committed as late as possible, and so he interpreted these sounds as being a result of the event of the crime itself. In that viewpoint, the "hey, hey, hey" was the sound Goldman made when he was surprised by his attacker. Darden trumped this idea by suggesting that the indistinct man's voice was actually the killer -- O.J. Simpson. As we shall see, there are good reasons to think that the victims had already been dead for 20 minutes when Heidstra heard these voices, and so they must have come from a different cause. The most obvious is that the dog was running loose in the street (Heidstra had heard an indication of that just a couple of minutes before) and Bundy motorists would have to stop or greatly slow to avoid hitting it. It is natural to think that one of them might have shouted at the dog to get it to move out of the street, and the natural thing to shout at a lose dog would have been "hey, hey, hey."
Cochran also interpreted the clanging gate as being associated with the crime -- as being Nicole's gate. However, when the crime was discovered Nicole's front gate was fully open, and her back gate was ajar; neither of which is consistent with a fleeing killer having slammed it. The only way Cochran's concept could be true is if the killer slammed the gate with a clang, then got back into the yard through the (then presumably locked) gate, and opened it again. Because this is unlikely and apparently a nonsensical thing to do, the clanging gate is probably not associated with the crime. Much easier to believe that a nearby householder who had been aroused by a dog barking in the street and a motorist yelling "hey, hey, hey," checked his own yard gate, and slammed it shut.
THE WHITE CAR: When Heidstra emerged from the alley, he was at Dorothy, the street that runs south of Nicole's place. Shortly after getting there, he saw a white Bronco approach Bundy on Dorothy from the far side. The car stopped briefly at the boulevard stop sign then turned south, and proceeded away at a high rate. He was asked twice if that car entered Dorothy by making a left hand turn out of the alley that comes down from behind Nicole's condo. Both times he gave the same answer: The streetlight at Bundy and Dorothy did not throw to the alley, and so he could not have seen the white car if it had come from there. The obvious observation is that at night a car does not have to be illuminated by a streetlight to be seen; it can be seen by its own headlights -- if they are on. The explicit question about the condition of the headlights was not asked by Darden, but the inference of what Heidstra said is that the white car was traveling with its lights out.
Since it appears that the car Heidstra saw was traveling with its lights out, and the car Shively saw a few blocks away at about the same time was certainly in the same lights-out condition, it is natural to think that it was the same car. However, Heidstra's car turned south, away from where Shively saw it, and away from the direct route to Simpson's home.
One can notice that a car facing east on Dorothy at Bundy is confronted by a "Right Turn Only" sign. One would think that if Simpson were coming from the scene of a double murder he would not be fussy about traffic laws, but there are a couple of considerations. He had been a frequent visitor to Nicole's condo, and the trip home was probably a matter of habit for him: he was used to turning right at that corner. There are four opportunities to turn left and double back before he gets to Wilshire, and two chances to turn right and do the same thing. Such a route does not add much to the overall trip. A left turn from Dorothy would take Simpson to San Vicente and Bundy in 30 seconds, a right turn would get him there in less than two minutes.
Also, between the place from which Heidstra saw the white SUV and that car itself there are some parkway shrubs. These are so tall that they would have blocked Heidstra's view of the intersection if he were behind them. If he were in a position to see, he was away from those shrubs, and the driver of the SUV could have seen his entire body. So, if Heidstra saw Simpson's car, Simpson very likely saw him. Knowing he was being observed, Simpson might have had the momentary idea to not be conspicuous by violating the "Right Turn Only" sign, even though he was driving without his headlights on, which was also an infraction. Certainly, he would not have proceeded directly across Bundy and continued on Dorothy; that would have taken him directly past the man who was watching him.
MICRO TIMELINE: It is understood that when Heidstra heard the "hey, hey, hey," he was roughly due east of Nicole's condo. (If he was very much north or south of this position, it is unlikely that he would have been able to make out the words.) Since that condo is the third one north of Dorothy, Heidstra appears to have been about 150 feet from Dorothy. If he loitered for 15 seconds, and then walked slowly at 2 feet per second (1.36 mph) toward Dorothy, he would arrive there after 1-1/2 minutes. If he loitered for another 30 seconds before seeing the white car turn south on Bundy, then the total elapsed time from the "hey, hey, hey," to the white car turning was 2 minutes flat. (These estimates of loiter times and walking speeds are consistent with Heidstra's courtroom testimony.)
Now, we notice an interesting thing in the path of the Bruno Magli shoes. At one point shortly after they leave the front yard they appear to hesitate, turn sideways, and back into the bushes on the north side of the walk. This has been interpreted as meaning that the man in the Bruno Magli shoes was trying to get a vantage from which to look back to the front of Nicole's condo. And this, of course, implies that something had attracted his attention there. Since Heidstra says that he heard a disturbance west of him and near the latitude of Nicole's condo, which -- if it was in Bundy would have been east of the man in the Bruno Magli shoes -- it is natural to think the man in the Bruno Magli shoes heard the same sound and looked to see what it was. That man was walking slowly, in some parts of the path with a limp, and he had about a hundred feet to go before reaching the alley. If he also walked at 2 fps, it would take him nearly another minute to get there. From coins found on the ground near where his car would have been parked, it appears that he was fumbling and somewhat uncoordinated when he got there, and it is possible that it took him, in that state, another minute to get sufficiently organized that he could drive away, down the alley, turn on Dorothy, and come to the intersection with Bundy. That is, two minutes from the "hey, hey, hey" for the man in the Bruno Magli shoes to appear at Bundy and Dorothy.
According to this, the length of time from Heidstra hearing the "hey, hey, hey" to the time when he saw the white car turn is the same as the time it took for the man in the Bruno Magli Shoes to travel from the point at which he too heard the "hey, hey, hey," and got to the point in his white car where Heidstra saw him.
COURTROOM VERSION: The foregoing was the version that Heidstra told to friends shortly after the crimes. When he testified a year later in court, his story was substantially the same, except for two details: He did not describe the car he saw as a "white Bronco" but (substantially) as a "white sport utility vehicle." And, he said he entered the alley at 10:35, not 10:30.
It has been noted that considering the type of person that Heidstra was (poor but honest) he could be manipulated by attorneys that appealed to his vanity to shade his testimony to favor the defense. And, the defense wanted the time of the white car sighting to be as late as possible. On the other hand, Heidstra had apparently come to the snap conclusion (after he heard about the crime) that the car he had seen was Simpson's, and the description of that car as a "Bronco" may have been more influenced by that conclusion than actual observation.
All things considered, it appears that Heidstra entered the alley at 10:30 or a couple of minutes thereafter, and saw "a white SUV" five minutes or so later. Specific values that match this interpretation and also fit perfectly with other timeline points are: He entered the alley at 10:32 and saw the white car at 10:37. We notice that a car turning south on Bundy from Dorothy (as Heidstra saw) at 10:37 would arrive at Bundy and San Vicente where Shively made her sighting at 10:39, exactly the time we had determined for that observation.
SUMMARY: From the foregoing, we can construct a summary of the ending timeline that is supported by several detailed items of evidence and estimateable intrvals between. It is the best interpretation of that evidence. It is:
10:35: Simpson leaves the site of Nicole's body.
10:37: Heidstra sees Simpson turn right on Bundy from Dorothy
10:39: Shively nearly collides with Simpson's Bronco
10:40: Shively sees Simpson leave San Vicente and race north on Bundy
10:44: Simpson arrives home while Park is on the phone in the limo
10:45: Simpson runs down to Kato's wall and bangs on it, loses glove
10:53: Kato sets out to investigate source of "three thumps"
10:55: Kato is behind garage, Park sees "shadowy figure" cross drive.
Because it is locked in by redundant observations that occur at fairly well known times, there is probably not as much as a two minute error in any part of this timeline.
Dick Wagner Van Nuys, CA (8/17/98) NG364