STARTING TIME LINE

Dr. Werner Spitz is the elderly dean of American forensic sciences, and was the natural choice for a person to discuss the Bundy murders in the criminal trial. He is too independent to have been of interest to the defense (“The less truth, the better”) but the prosecution in the criminal case tried to recruit him. Apparently not wanting to change careers (from forensic pathologist to clown in Ito’s circus) so late in life, Spitz turned down Marcia Clark’s offer. By the time of the civil trial, however, sanity was once again beginning to creep over the land, and he agreed to talk to Petrocelli, and eventually testified for the plantiffs.

Petrocelli’s first interview with Spitz must have been interesting. When they got to the part about how long it would have taken for the killer to dispatch the victims, Spitz was confident that Nicole was dead within 15 seconds of the time she was first contacted, and Goldman was dead within one minute. And, there was no doubt; Dr. Spitz was a man who would know. Petrocelli must have gone ashen at hearing this. At the time of the civil trial, there was good reason to believe that Simpson left the crime scene at 10:35, (though Petrocelli would allow a time as late as 10:45) and according to the testimony about the “plainive wail of a dog,” it was clear that the crimes were committed at about 10:15. If Spitz was right, and the murders occurred in a span of a minute or two, then there was at least an eighteen minute gap while Simpson loitered in the messy crime scene before leaving. Since that did not seem to be possible, something else had to give: either Spitz was wrong about how long the killings took, or the witnesses that described the wailing dog were wrong about when the crimes were committed. Petrocelli decided to keep Spitz, and sacrifice the howling dog. The civil trial jury never heard about the “plaintive wail.” (Petrocelli is explicit in admitting that he tailored the witnesses to justify his conclusion. In his book, he says, “Knowing that Simpson did commit the murders, we had to reveal [construct] a timeline in which he left Bundy at 10:45 at the latest.”)

It was probably a good stategy, judging by the result. But, it was Petrocelli’s objective to win his case, and we do not have that same objective. We, presumably, are only interested in understanding the truth of what happened, and as a subset of that, determining who is responsible, if we can.

Even though the implications were embarrassing to Petrocelli’s theory, there were a number of witnesses in the criminal trial that heard and saw a dog barking in distress. The fact that it was Petrocelli’s courtroom tactic to ignore those observations does not make them go away, and we shall review them here.

THE TESTIMONY: The earliest witnesses in the Simpson criminal trial had presented testimony -- for a week -- concerning the stormy relationship between Nicole and OJ. It was interesting, but -- except in the opinion of diehards -- inconclusive and routine stuff.

That was followed by brief appearances from workers in the Mezzaluna restaurant and Goldman’s sister, to set the scene of Goldman’s plan to drop off Mrs. Brown’s glasses at Nicole’s condo on his way to party with friends in the marina. The first was Tia Gavin, the waitress that served Nicole’s party. She herself left the restaurant at the end of her shift at 9:50, and believed that Goldman had left a few minutes earlier, though she did not see him leave. Stewart Tanner was bartender that night, and saw Goldman heading for the front entrance at 9:45 to 9:50, and did not see him later. Manager Karen Crawford actually saw Goldman leave through the side entrance, and believes the time was 9:50. The best conclusion from these three observations is that Goldman left the Mezzaluna restaurant no later than 9:50. (He had already removed his tie and vest before he left.)

Tia Gavin also said that she lived near Goldman, on the same street, but half a block further away. She walks home from the restaurant in two minutes, and believes that Goldman would have arrived home in somewhat less than this. Therefore, we believe that Goldman arrived home no later than 9:52. Karen Goldman, Ron’s sister, says that when she and her father cleaned out Ron’s apartment, the slacks to his waiter’s uniform had been hung over the top of an interior door, a fact that could have indicated some haste in his activities when he stopped by his place after work. It is known that he changed out of his waiter’s uniform and into the clothes in which he was found dead, but this would not have taken more than a couple of minutes. If he made only minimum preparations to go out, these could easily be accomplished in eight minutes, from which he would have left at 10:00 at the latest (with minimum activities at his apartment.)

There was no testimony concerning how long it would have taken from his apartment to the car, but if this were a typical situation for a low-income Brentwood resident, a minute would be fair. The drive to the place where the car that Goldman drove was found is two or three minutes at most, and the walk from there to Nicole’s gate is less than a minute. Therefore, Goldman could have appeared at Nicole’s gate as early as 10:05, and would actually have appeared at a time later than that caused by activities we do not know about (taking a shower, watching a few minutes of television, eating, etc.) Judging simply by the fact that Ron Goldman was a victim, the crime could have occurred any time after 10:05.

DOG WITNESSES: Then came Pablo Fenjves, a 41-year old journalist-turned-screenwriter, to talk about something entirely different, and hardly routine. He and his wife live in a condo across the alley that runs behind Nicole’s place and “60 to 70 yards” farther from Dorothy (farther north). He did not know Nicole, but had seen her around the neighborhood. On the night of June 12th, he was in his third floor master bedroom, which is on the alley, watching the 10:00 o’clock news on channel 5, as was his habit.

At “10:15 to 10:20” he heard the sound of a dog, but not an ordinary barking sound. This was “Fairly persistent, it was at a significant pitch, and... as a plaintive wail. Sounded like a ... very unhappy animal.” Later, he added, “[It] didn’t sound as though it was in pain or anything... It sounded, as I said, unhappy,” and also described him as “barking uncontrollably.” He was aware of the sound of this dog for “five to seven” (or eight) minutes, and then he went downstairs to a room from which he could not hear outside noises. He said that he went downstairs “around 10:20.” Cochran tried to shake his idea of the time, insofar as the police report said the dog had started barking at “10:15 to 10:30.” But, Fenjves was adament: the policeman who had written the report must have misunderstood him. When Fenjves came back upstairs at 11:00 o’clock, he again heard the dog, and continued to hear it, on and off until he fell asleep about half an hour later. This witness also said that the sound seemed to be coming from the corner of Dorothy and Bundy. A line from his bedroom to that intersection would run across Nicole’s property, and a sound from there could be described as coming from Dorothy and Bundy.

Under the circumstances that were known to the world at the time, this story of a howling dog was eerie, like a page torn from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The obvious implication was that the dog’s cry was more anguish than unhappiness, and was caused by the fact that he was aware that his mistress was lying dead in a pool of her own blood. (Later testimony would show that the dog was found wandering the streets 45 minutes later, and had blood on its paws, legs, and chest. There were also rather persistent bloody paw prints leading out the front gate, and down the Bundy sidewalk toward Dorothy.)

A corroborating witness, Mark Storfer, who lived on the south-west corner of Bundy and Dorothy was presented. At ten o’clock on the night of June 12th he and his wife had gone to bed in their second floor bedroom that faced the corner of Dorothy and Bundy; their child was in bed with them. At some later time, they were still awake, but the boy had fallen asleep, and Storfer undertook to carry him downstairs and put him in his own bed. At about that time, the father heard the sound of a dog, “loud and persistent.” In fact, it was louder and more persistent than he had ever heard a dog before, and he was afraid that it would awaken his son. Later, he said, “The dog continued to bark and stopped just long enough to take a breath and bark some more. He whined or yellped periodically.” He also said he did not hear any other sounds that night that attracted his notice than from the dog, and specifically did not hear any screams. After returning upstairs from putting the boy to bed, Storfer looked at the clock on the VCR in his own bedroom and saw that it registered 10:28. Insofar as that clock was deliberately set five minutes fast, he believes the true time at that point was 10:23. He estimates that the time it took from first hearing the dog until he looked at the clock was three minutes, therefore, he estimates that he first noticed the barking dog at 10:20. Storfer said that he also looked out his bedroom windows at 10:20 and later that evening, and before 12:15 never saw a person or a dog, either north of him on Bundy or west on Dorothy. After 12:15 he saw police cars, crime scene tape, and a dog tied to a street sign pole. He also said that he slept fitfully between 10:20 and 12:15, and sometimes awoke to hear the dog still barking.

Eva Stein was Nicole’s neighbor to the immediate north. On the night of June 12th she went to sleep about 10:00 and was later awakened by the sound of “barking dogs.” Upon closer questioning, she said that she couldn’t be sure if what she heard was one dog, or several. Her bedroom is upstairs, on the alley, the window was open, and she believed the sound was coming from the south. At various times, the attorneys characterized the source of the batking as the end of the alley, at Dorothy, and at other times as the intersection of Dorothy and Bundy. She did not object to either characterization, but thought that it was some distance from her, not right under her window. She said the “barking seemed to be very, very intense, nonstop and very, very loud...” Her boyfriend came home from an out-of-town trip at about 10:45, and at that time it was her sense that the dog had been barking for about half an hour, though she did not say that it was barking constantly for the entire period. (She did not consult a clock after she went to bed slightly before 10:00.) From this, she thinks that she first heard the barking begin at about 10:15. She did not hear screams or other unusual sounds that night. When asked if she had ever heard a dog bark like that before, she said, “Not in that intense way.”

Louis Karpf is Eva Stein’s boyfriend and housemate. He had been out of town on the 12th, and came back to the condo at 10:45 or after. When he got back, he went to the front of the building to retrieve the mail, and there saw and heard the dog in the street, “barking very loudly,” and at one point, “coming at [him] profusely.” Karpf retreated, and the dog moved up the street. He was shown a photograph of Nicole’s Akita and identified it as the dog he had seen. He said that while he was at the mailbox he also saw another man across the street walking his own dog northward. From later testimony, it is presumed that this was Steven Schwab, who testified at finding and taking with him the Akita. Of the lighting in front of his building, Karpf said, “basically, it’s fairly dark.” He said the lighting in front of Nicole’s place was dark, too. When challenged by the defense that he got home at 10:45, Karpf conceeded that 10:50 was his best estimate of the time. However, Steven Schwab believed that the time when Karpf would have seen him was 10:55. Evaluating the time when the dog woke up Eva Stein a half an hour before Karpf got home, it is 10:15 according to Karpf’s original estimate, 10:20 according to his later estimate, and 10:25 according to Steven Schwab’s estimate. Of course, the interval from the onset of dog barking and Karpf’s homecoming is itself vague, being “about half an hour.”

Elsie Tistaert is an old woman with impared hearing who lives directly accross Bundy from Nicole’s condo. She had to adjust her hearing aid during the time she was on the witness stand, and this leads us to believe that sounds in her environment could easily escape her notice. On the night of the twelfth a barking dog attracted her attention, “because it barked for so long.” After the dog had been barking for a half hour, she called the police station and was advised to call Animal Control; she did that, but could not get through. She also looked out her window and saw the dog running loose in the street and back and forth on Nicole’s front walk. She could give no information about what time she made these observations.

From these several accounts of the barking dog, it is possible to form a conclusion as to the earliest time that the barking began. My estimate is:

Source Time Estimate Reliability

Fenjves 10:15 to 10:20 Good
Storfer 10:20 Very Good
Stein/Karpf 10:15 to 10:20 Poor
Stein/Schwab (none) 10:25 Poor
Tistart (none)


From this, the latest time that the dog began to howl seems to be 10:20, and that event could have been as early as 10:15.

SIGNIFICANCE: Even though it is possible to come to a fairly confident idea about the time at which the barking began, it remains to relate that to the time of the murders. There was no attempt to do this in the criminal trial, but it was left as a tacit assumption that the murders occurred at about the time the barking began. There is at least a little reason to think that this was not the case. The peculiar sound of the barking seems to indicate that the dog was in a state of lamentation about the murder of his mistress; that is, he was first heard barking after the murders were done. If he were present during the time that violent acts were in progress, and if he barked then, one would expect it would have more of the character of angry or attack barking, but none of the witnesses who heard the dog said that they heard such angry barking before the plaintive wail sound.

A few months after the testimony about the barking dog I had a personal experience that greatly influenced my understanding of the significance of the barking. At the time, it had been my habit to visit my parents every night at 7:00. Every night I sat in the same chair, the television was turned off, and we chatted for an hour, then I went home. At that time, they were engaged in long term “dog sitting” of two boxers, whereby “Batina” and “Babe” were living with them (Batina was Babe’s mother.) In the first weeks of my nightly visit, the dogs would greet me at the door with some agitation, but as more time went on they would stir themselves less and less at my arrival, until after less than a month, the just continued to lay on the living room floor as I came in. Soon after that, they did not even awake at my arrival; it had become a very predictable part of their daily routine.

It happened that one night as I was driving to my parents’ house I felt a migrane headache coming on, and immediately when I got there, I went to the kitchen, took some pills that I carried with me as a precaution, and went to the guest bedroom to lay down. I did not sit in my usual chair, the television did not go off, and conversation did not replace the electronic drone. Because of my previous experience with these headaches, it was my habit to make note of the time I first felt symptoms, and the time I took medicine, and so I knew the latter time very accurately. So it was that I knew that after six and a half minutes one of the dogs (Babe) awoke, and began to prowl the house. A minute or so later she found me in the dark and seldom used room.

I begin my interpretation of this with the common observation -- confirmed by anecdotes from several others with whom I have discussed this -- that dogs often sleep “with one ear open.” Thereby they are aware of the sounds in their surroundings. I add to this the implication of my own anecdote above, and I believe that a dog can be sensitive to a change in the expected sound or activity that he is accustomed to, and when the usual pattern does not occur, he will rouse himself to investigate the cause. (Dogs can also be awakened by the occurance of an unusual sound -- as human observers Stein and Storfer were -- but in the situation here described, they apparently can also be aroused by the lack of sounds from a usual pattern.)

It is believed that after 10:00 pm Nicole’s dog was on the second floor, sleeping in the children’s bedroom. From that position he would probably be vaguely aware of activities on the first floor: the sounds of walking around, water running, voices, activity on the intercom... Notice that the front gate, where the murders occurred, is thirty feet from the front door of the condo, whereas the sidewalk on Bundy is only forty-five feet away. So, from the vantage of a point deep inside the condo -- such as the sleeping dog’s -- any small disturbance at the front gate was not much difference than the usual street sounds on Bundy. But, after Nicole went out her front door after 10:00 o’clock, there no longer occured the sound of footfalls within the house, the clatter of housekeeping details, or the use of the bathwater that had been already drawn. There was an interruption in the flow of expected sounds that reached the dog, and after some period -- five minutes or so, I believe -- the dog awoke because of this interruption in his experience, and set out to investigate the cause. A minute later, I believe, he discovered Nicole’s corpse, and shortly thereafter set to howling.

It is hard to be exact about the interval from Nicole’s going out the door to the onset of barking, but there are three components: out-the-door to dog awakening (I estimate about 5 minutes), dog awakening to disovering the corpse (I estimate 1 minute), and discovery to howling. This last interval might have been of negligable duration, or the dog might not have set to howling until it had explored the scene and gone down to the corner of Dorothy and Bundy. (All of the witnesses who heard the dog, considered that the sound might have come from there, but because of the difficulty of pinpointing the source of a sound when buildings intervene, these people may have heard the dog barking from Nicole’s front yard, or elsewhere.)

This leads to a range of times of from 5 to 10 minutes between the murders and the beginning of the howling. I will use a nominal value of five minutes, and when this is applied to the best estimate for the time when the barking started -- 10:20 -- it produces a time for the murders of 10:15. This is the latest likely value, and occurs by assuming that the dog awoke four minutes after Nicole went out her door, and began barking immediately upon discovering her body. Less conservative, but credible assumptions could put the actual crimes in the period of 10:05 to 10:15. All of these are consistent with the time at which Goldman could have arrived on the scene.

CONTRARY TESTIMONY: In order to create doubt about when the dog began to bark -- or even whether the dog barked at all -- the defense attorneys presented several witnesses that did not hear a barking dog. The entire logic whereby an observer who claims to have heard something can be impeached by one that did not is doubtful. I did not hear the barking dog, myself, but I was ten miles away with an intervening mountain range. In all likelyhood, you did not hear the barking dog, and for a similar reason. But, we do not consider that our failure impeaches Pablo Fenjves. Also, some people are more sensitive to the sound of a dog bark, so even if the bark is equally audible for two people, we expect that some will notice it, and some will not; failure to notice does not necessarily mean there was nothing that could have been heard. Finally, a barking dog is not like a fixed-in-place siren which once started will be equally noticible by all people in the same place at all times. A dog moves around, and so even if he is barking all the time it is not certain that a person in a particular place will be able to hear him as well at one time as at another when the dog has moved closer or farther away. The dog may bark at times when some people hear him, and not when other people come into the same range. Of course, the latter will say they did not hear the dog, because the dog did not, in fact, bark when they were in position.

Because there are so many ordinary and common sense reasons to explain a person not hearing something, it is surprising that the defense attorneys would try this method of sewing confusion about the barking dog. But one can not argue with the result; it did succeed in causing many people to doubt that the dog barked when witnesses said they heard it. And, in lawyering, the result is everything.

DENISE PILNAK: This defense witness is the most often discussed reason for disbelieving that the dog was barking at 10:20 and afterward. She lived on the east side of Bundy 75 yards south of Dorothy. She was seeing off a guest (Judy Telander, also a witness) and was thereby on her porch between 10:21 and 10:25. Neither of the women heard the barking dog.

There are two reasons to doubt that their failure to hear the dog means that the dog was not barking. Those reasons are completely discussed in a separate paper (“FENJVES/PILNAK CONTRADICTION”) previously posted. The most likely explanation is that Pilnak misrembered the details upon which her reconstruction of this anecdote was based, seven months after the fact. A five minute error in recalling the details would make all the difference, and after so long a time, seems quite possible. (She made no contemporaneous notes concerning the details of her experience on June 12, 1994.)

Also, it is quite possible that the location from which the dog barked was not Nicole’s front yard. His bloody paw prints lead out to the sidewalk, down that, and turn west on Dorothy, toward the place where Goldman had parked (on Dorothy at the alley.) The dog could have followed the scent from Goldman’s corpse, and when that came to a dead end, then set to barking. From such a location, there are no intervening structures to the places (Fenjves/Storfer/Stein) where people heard him, but are buildings on the south side of Dorothy and the west side of Bundy that would have blocked that sound to Pilnak/Telander. Also, one of the witnesses (Stein) described the sound as having come from Dorothy and the alley.

All things considered, it is much easier to believe that Pilnak is mistaken about the time, or the dog barking came from the alley, than that the other witnesses, particularly Fenjves and Storfer, were so disoriented and confused about what they heard.

MANDEL AND AARONSON: Also discussed as a reason to disbelieve that the crimes were committed before 10:30 is the testimony of Danny Mandel and Ellen Aaronson, a young couple on their first (and only) date on the night of June 12th. They claimed to have walked home from the restaurant after dinner past Nicole’s condo at 10:25, and did not see Nicole’s body, see or hear the dog barking, see the bloody paw prints, or see any other person on the walk. I have described and analyzed this testimony in detail in “MANDEL/AARONSON CONTRIBUTION.”

It was Marcia Clark’s theory that the couple was simply lying in order to insinuate themselves into “her” case, and that they had really walked back from the Mezzaluna restaurant by way of Westgate, not Bundy. Although that is possible -- Mandel is so unfamiliar with that confusing neighborhood, he probably does not know where he was -- Clark was unconvincing. However, it is extremely unlikely that even if they had passed the condo when they believe, that they would have seen the body or the bloody paw prints if they existed. If the dog had begun barking at the alley, instead of in Nicole’s front yard, as was proposed as one resolution of the Fenjves/Pilnak contradiction, that would partly explain the failure to hear the dog. Finally, the timing of their experience rests (substantially) on the reconstruction that they spent “ten to fifteen minutes” talking after paying the bill. If they actually spent five minutes less than this the contradiction goes away.

When all of this is taken into account, there are just too many other reasonable possibilities to resolve the conflict than to believe that Fenjves and others did not hear the dog when they say they did.

(Also presented by the defense to refute the timeline was Francesca Harman, a guest at a dinner party on Dorothy on the night of the crime. She drove past the crime scene that night and did not see anything untoward. However, her observation was so detached that it was never accorded much significance, and it is not analyzed here.)

TIME OF THE MURDERS: According to Dr. Spitz, the murders occupied less than one minute if they were committed concurrently, and no more than a minute and a quarter if they were committed serially. Because we believe that the killers made a couple of small arrangements of the crime scene before they left, we will use 2 minutes as the interval from the first victim being contacted and the killer(s) having left the scene. We will further assume:

• The dog barking began at 10:20

• It took 4 or 6 minutes from the time there ceased to be sounds of life in the condo to the time the dog woke up and went to investigate.

• It took 1 minute from the time the dog awoke to the time he found Nicole’s body.

• It took 0 minutes (if he barked in the front yard) or 2 minutes (if he barked from the alley) after the dog found Nicole’s body before he started barking.

From this, the time at which the murders commenced can be calculated--

Discover-to-Bark
0 minutes 2 minutes

4 min. to awake 10:15 10:13
6 min. to awake 10:13 10:11

There is a possibility that the onset of barking could have been as early as 10:15, in which case the foregoing times could be advanced by five minutes, giving a range from 10:06 to 10:10, which is still barely within the earliest times that Golman could have arrived. However, times in this range come back into conflict with Pilnak and Aaronson, and are not the most likely interpretation of the barking dog witnesses.

So, overall, we conclude that the most likely time at which the crimes commenced was 10:13 give or take a couple of minutes, and the most likely time at which the killer(s) was gone was two minutes later.

THE “PERFECT” TIMELINE: There is, however, a possible scenario which gives rise to the “perfect” timeline. In it, the dog walks silently from the crime scene to Goldman’s car, and from there walks a few yard up the alley before beginning to bark. At such a point, he is within the canyon formed by the back walls of the condos along the alley, and is easily heard by persons (Fenjves and Stein) listening from the backs of those buildings, but not one (Storfer) listening from the corner of Bundy and Dorothy. After five minutes of barking from within the alley, the dog trots down to Dorothy and continues from there. At that time, the barking does not appear much different to Fenjves and Stein, but is then very conspicuous to Storfer.

With this scenario it is possible -- without doing harm to the Pilnak or Aaronson explanations -- that the following happened:

10:05, Crimes commence.
10:07, Crimes finished, killer(s) gone.
10:12, Dog awakes.
10:13, Dog discovers Nicole.
10:15 - 10:20, Dog barking from within alley.
10:20 - 10:25, Dog moves to Dorothy and continues barking.

This timeline is “perfect” insofar as it does not involve any unknown activities on Goldman’s part. At the outset, we had analyzed the likely time that Goldman would have appeared as 10:05, and allowed that he could have been later to account for other activities (eating, watching TV, etc.) that were not known. This timeline is also “perfect” insofar as it provides for Fenjves to have heard the dog start barking at 10:15 (which is the best interpretation of his testimony) and for Storfer to have first heard it at 10:20 (a reliably known time.)

The reason that this is not the preferred scenario is that there is no independent conformation of it, as the paw prints confirm that the barking began at some point beyond Dorothy and Bundy, a place which could have been at Goldman’s car as well as within the alley. This scenario also assumes that the dog sleeps for seven minutes before being aroused by the silence of the condo to investigate the cause; this was four minutes in the previous analysis.

Dick Wagner • Van Nuys, CA (9/03/98) NG369

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