Starting Time Line part2

    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 migraine 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 occurrence 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, at the far back of the condo. 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 occurred the sound of footfalls within the house, the clatter of housekeeping details, or the use of the bath water 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: 1) Nicole's going out the door to dog awakening (I estimate about 5 minutes), 2) dog awakening to discovering the corpse (I estimate 1 minute), and 3) discovery to howling. This last interval might have been of negligible duration, or the dog might not have set to howling until it had explored the scene and gone elsewhere, as down to the corner of Dorothy and Bundy. (Fenjves considered that the sound might have come from there, but because of the difficulty of pinpointing the source of a sound when buildings intervene, he may have heard the dog barking from Nicole's front yard, or elsewhere. As is determined in "Who Heard the Dog?" it appears that the dog was barking from the alley behind Nicole's condo, and from Fenjves' perspective that may have seemed to have been "from the direction of Dorothy and Bundy.")

    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 seven minutes, and when this is applied to the best estimate for the time when the barking started -- 10:17, the mid-point of Fenjves' range, "10:15 to 10:20" -- it produces a time for the murders of about 10:10.

    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 likelihood, 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 noticeable 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. A possible explanation mentioned at the time of the criminal trial 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 "down [south] the alley," from her position just north of Nicole's condo.

    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. (Personally, I am confident that when Pilnak and Telander were outdoors, the dog was barking from the alley behind Nicole's condo, and they could not hear him because of intervening buildings and vegetation.)

    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, as is developed in the previously cited article, 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. (Personally, I believe that they did walk by the condo when they said they did, but did not see or hear indications of the crime.)

    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.)

    THE DOG'S LOCATION: The issue of where the dog was when he started barking is thoroughly developed in the article, "Who Heard the Dog." According to the conclusion there, the dog began barking at about 10:17 from behind the condo, and Fenjves and Stein heard him then, and for the next seven or eight minutes. A couple of minutes later, still barking, he moved south to the mouth of the alley, and Storfer began to hear him, too. At about 10:25, the dog, exhausted from several minutes of barking, fell silent for about five minutes, then went back out on Bundy and commenced barking again, where Tistaert and Heidstra heard him, and Schwab corralled him. The greatly illustrated article contains an original and detailed map of Nicole's immediate neighborhood, showing buildings, street curvatures, and significant vegetation that would influence the ability of witnesses to hear. The simple scenario above is consistent with the testimony of Fenjves, Stein, Storfer, Pilnak, Telander, Aaronson, and Mandel. Nobody is mistaken.

    What's not to believe with a scenario that ten people attest to?

   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. (My own -- concurrent -- timeline is 1 minute and 20 seconds, but this includes about 20 seconds to allow Nicole to come into the situation, and about 10 seconds to compose the scene after the fact.) We will assume:

    • The dog barking began at 10:17
    • It took 5 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 2 minutes after the dog found Nicole's body before he started barking from the alley.

    Combining these, we see that Nicole would have left the condo 8 minutes before the dog started barking. If he was first heard at 10:17, then Nicole walked out her front door for the last time at 10:09.

Elsewhere ("Goldman's Last Free Minutes") I have analyzed the minimum activities that Goldman is known to have engaged in (changing clothes, getting ready to go to the Baja Cantina, etc.). Also, I have driven/walked Goldman's route from his apartment house to Nicole's front gate, stopwatch in hand. Adding these elapsed times to the time that Goldman was observed to have left the restaurant, I determine that the earliest time that Goldman could have arrived at the condo was 10:09. Although it has been argued that Goldman could have taken time to do other unknown things (and that is certainly a possibility), the close agreement between his minimum time of arrival and the time of the barking dog leads one to believe that he did not.

    Both of these independent lines of reasoning (Goldman's earliest arrival and the time the dog started barking) converge to indicate that Goldman arrived at the condo, and the crimes began, at 10:09, give or take a minute or so.

    Dick Wagner • Van Nuys, CA (9/03/98) NG369A; rev. 3/14/01