OVER THE SALINGERS' FENCE
THE ISSUE: Those who believe that Simpson made a trip to the Bundy crime scene at some time between roughly 10:00 pm and 11:00 on the night of the murders believe that he made the trip in his Ford Bronco and parked it upon his return near his Rockingham gate. Such people also believe that the "shadowy figure" that limo driver Alan Park described seeing at 10:55 crossing the driveway and going into the house was Simpson. But, there are two schools of thought on exactly HOW Simpson re-entered his property upon returning.
The concept was advanced in the criminal trial that Simpson went through the Rockingham gate, down through the shadows at the extreme south end of the property beyond Park's sight, and went along the south walk behind the garage, eventually coming to behind Kato's guesthouse wall where three thumps were heard about 10:45. Prosecutor Marcia Clark claimed that Simpson was hurrying along that dark and narrow passageway, to get into the house by a back route that Park wouldn't see, and crashed into the air conditioner behind Kato's wall in his haste and in the dark. During that mishap, Clark claimed, Simpson dropped the murder glove that he had brought back with him from Bundy. For her, the "three thumps" that Kato described was Simpson banging into the air conditioner. (No explanation from Clark of why Simpson abandoned his plan upon encountering such a minor obstacle, or how "banging into the air conditioner" caused more than one thump.)
I have a somewhat similar vision. Simpson came in through the Rockingham gate, and went back in that south walkway, but not hoping to come out on the other end in the back yard from which he could enter the house by the back door. I think Simpson went back there deliberately to pound on Kato's wall with his fist, and thereby attract Kato's attention to go outside to see the cause of that pounding. I think it was Simpson's plan that when Kato came around to the front of the house bound for this south pathway, he would encounter the limo driver who was already waiting at the closed Ashford gate, and create a distraction for the driver so that Simpson could enter the house through the front door unnoticed. For me, the "three thumps" is a deliberate signal by which Simpson caused Kato to come around to the front of the house, where his presence would hopefully distract Park.
A third interpretation was offered in the civil trial by plaintiff's attorney Daniel Petrocelli. He claimed that Simpson did not enter his property through the Rockingham gate, but went through the property of the neighbors to the south (the Salingers), went through their back yard to a point opposite where Kato's wall was, and there climbed over the fence that separated the Simpson and Salinger's properties. In a mishap of getting over that fence, Petrocelli claims, Simpson fell or stumbled, crashing three times against Kato's wall. For Petrocelli, the "three thumps" is Simpson's body crashing against the outside of Kato's wall. (Petrocelli's position on this issue has been passionately and tenaciously represented on AFOJS by poster Bob August.) Like Clark, Petrocelli does not seemed bothered by the idea that a man loosing his footing would crash more than once.
(The most popular explanation for the "three thumps" among those who do not believe that Simpson went to Bundy is that Kato contrived the story -- whether for sinister or harmless reasons -- and there was not actually any disturbance.)
SIGNIFICANCE: Now, this may seem to be a pretty obtuse and arcane matter, but it has bearing on the reasonableness of other parts of the scenario. For example, the method of entry influences the opportunities to change clothes and dispose of the shoes. Clark and Petricelli never were very specific about this, and I think that is because they are left in a somewhat awkward position by their assumptions concerning the cause of the three thumps. I have been quite explicit as to the time and place where Simpson removed the sweatsuit and the shoes, and in specifying the ultimate disposition of those things.
EVIDENCE PRESENTED IN COURT: The primary evidence concerning this was the nature of the "three thumps" as Kato described it in court. In the criminal trial he pounded deliberately three times on the railing of the witness box, and his verbal description indicated something like a signal -- but forceful, since a picture on his wall was sent askew, and his immediate impression was that there had been an earthquake. In the civil trial -- and after Petrocelli admits he had coached Kato -- Kato describes the "three thumps" as a body crashing against the outside of the wall.
At the time this happened, Kato was talking on the phone to a woman friend, and he did not describe the sound to her as "a body crashing," or even necessarily as due to a person back there. He said "three thumps," and he said that he wondered if it had not been an earthquake. Furthermore, considering Kato's somewhat timid nature (he testified that he was frightened to investigate), and that he did not go all the way back along the path to his room even when the limo and its driver were present a few yards away, it is extremely doubtful that he would have gone to investigate at all if he had thought at the time that it sounded like a person crashing against his wall. One would more expect that under those circumstances he would call the police, go to consult with Simpson who he thought was probably in the main house, or leave it alone entirely. So, according to Kato's actions -- at the time -- he did not then seem to recognize this as a body crashing, he just heard three forceful and distinct "thumps."
There was also evidence concerning the blood drop trail. There was one (or more) drops on the driveway apron between the Rockingham gate and the Bronco, there were two (or more) drops between that gate and the Bentley, and there was a definite trail across the driveway between the Bentley and the front door to the house. There were no blood drops on or going toward the Salingers' property, and most importantly, there were no blood drops on or going toward the south walk and Kato's wall. Because of this, one doubts the "glove planting" hypothesis that was Simpson's defense. A person wanting to frame Simpson with the bloody right hand glove from Bundy would do a MUCH more persuasive job by just dropping it in the bushes by the Bentley. Then the obvious interpretation is that Simpson lost it while going on a direct route from the Bronco to the front door. (The is true whether or not such a planter is aware of the blood drops.) Leave the "thumps" to be an unexplained coincidence, a figment of Kato's imagination, or due to a mechanical cause, as "in the pipes".
Petrocelli elucidated testimony about Simpson's keys. Apparently, the key to the Rockingham gate was on a different key ring than the key to the Bronco. Because of this, Petrocelli believes that Simpson went to Bundy without the key to the Rockingham gate, expecting to get back in through the Ashford gate (his usual routine) which did not require a key. Being (unexpectedly?) prevented from using the Ashford gate by Park's presence, and unable to get in the Rockingham gate, Petrocelli says, Simpson went around through the Salingers' property, and over their back fence, crashing into Kato's wall in the process. Of course, this whole line of reasoning presumes that Petrocelli is a mind reader and knows what Simpson's plan was, and how he was thinking, to be sure that Simpson did not have two key rings for the trip to Bundy. (I, myself always carry two key rings with me.) There is no PHYSICAL barrier in the evidence to prevent Simpson from having a key to the Rockingham gate. Petrocelli's concept is merely based on what he thinks Simpson would have done under the circumstances of his hypothesis that Simpson set out from Rockingham to murder Nicole.
THE GATE ITSELF: After the police had seen and put markers beside several blood drops (later analyzed as coming from Simpson) near the Rockingham gate, they photographed these and that picture appears in Lange and Vannatter's book at p. 178+4 (bottom), which I reproduce here [R_GATE.JPG] with annotation. Although the gate is open in the photograph we can visualize its closed position. The picture shows one drop a foot or a foot-and-a-half outside the gate, and two more drops at two or three feet inside the gate. The obvious implication is that Simpson walked through the gate when it was open enough for him to pass through. Bob August says that the blood drops are accounted for by two trips while the gate was closed, one in which Simpson approached it from the outside (to push something under it, perhaps) and a second trip from the inside (to recover whatever had been pushed under). Although that is not theoretically impossible, it is not the obvious implication of the picture.
The gate is mechanically actuated to allow cars to pass. From the inside there is a manual switch on the gate control box, and from the outside there is a key slot set into the south (right when facing from the street) brick pilaster that serves as a gate post. When actuated, the gate opens fully and stays that way for 30 or 40 seconds, then closes again by itself. It has been August's position (which many others, including me, have presumed without any evidence to be true) that this is a noisy operation and would have been heard by Park, if it had happened. Park does not remember hearing any clanking and whirring while he waited at the Ashford gate.
But, the foregoing is a description of the gate in the usual mode (what I have called a "vehicular" mode). It also appears that the gate can be closed in a way that it is either locked, or closed in such a way that it is unlocked and can be pushed open enough to admit a person (I have called this the "pedestrian mode"). We learn this from a passage at the bottom of page 35 in Fuhrman's book where he describes approaching that gate when it was closed, and pushing it open enough to walk through. It has been my position until now that IF Simpson did not have a key to this gate when he got back from Bundy he could have got through it in this way. John Junot says that this "pedestrian mode" of operation is described by Kato in Eliot's book.
THE SOUTH WALK: This is a narrow, unkempt, and cluttered passageway, and at night it is utterly dark. A picture of it as the police photographed it the next morning is shown in Lee's book at p. 242+1 (upper right) and I reproduce it here [S_WALK.JPG] with annotation. Insofar as Simpson's estate is within the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles building codes, we can presume that the space between the wall of his building and the lot line (and the fence to the neighbor's property) is five feet. The concrete walkway does not cover all of this, but appears to extend only about four feet from his building. The fence is chain link, and heavy growth on the Salingers' side is obvious; leaves (ivy?) are poking through and there are many tendrils of that growth, almost as big as a garden hose, laying across (and projecting above) the walkway, and at least one has grown a couple of feet up the wall of Simpson's house. This immediately gives a lie to Marcia Clark's idea that anyone was running down that path in the dark; they certainly would have tripped over these snares before they ever got near Kato's projecting air conditioner. (But, this is not so severe an obstacle to prevent a person from carefully creeping back there, and of course someone did, because the Bundy glove was left there.)
THE SALINGERS' PROPERTY: Implicit in all the conjecture about Simpson entering his own property through the Salingers' place is the assumption that traversing the neighbor's lot is easy enough to do. I examined that question by trying to construct a map of what the Salingers' lot is like. First, I relied on a photograph [SALINGER.JPG] of the front of the Salingers' house I had taken from the street while the replacement for Simpson's original house was being constructed. At this time there is dark green plastic covering a chain link fence between the two houses, and a tiny bit of that can be seen (together with a diagonal brace) on the left side of the picture. There was also chain link across the front the Salingers' lot at that time, presumably to protect against looky-loos like me. But we can still see the ivy bed, right up to the curb, that Rosa Lopez described, and the tree near where she stood with the dog when she saw Simpson's Bronco at its Rockingham place at about 10:10 that Sunday night. Beyond the ivy bed there is a lawn, barely visible, and beyond that is a parking area with a car in it at the time of the photograph. Only beyond all of that is the house itself. The Salingers' driveway is on the south side of their lot.
We are lucky to have an aerial view of both Simpson's house and the Salingers' in Lange & Vannatter at p. 178+1 (bottom), which I show here [S_AERIAL.JPG] with annotation. From this we see most of the features in the previous original photograph, but also get an idea of the shape of the parking area and the house, and see that their walkway that abuts Simpson's property seems to be reasonably clear. One interesting feature, though, is that behind the house there appears to be a tree bordered lawn (D), but a paved area or flat covered structure over against Simpson's fence (E). This has been identified by an AFOJS poster as a carport.
SALINGERS' LAYOUT: Using the foregoing references I have constructed a (doubtless imperfect) map of the Salingers' property. I began with the southern portion of the prosecution's map of Simpson's place and put into the space south of that the features that can be seen in the reference photographs. Since there is no information on the southernmost part of their property, what I show there is completely guess work. (In particular, the lot may be somewhat wider than I have shown.) I show a carport (thought the evidence for it is not conclusive).
A couple of factors seem clear enough...
* Simpson would not have run directly down the property line as that would have involved tramping through the deep ivy bed from the curb. Such an action would have left a clear imprint, and would have involved the risk of becoming entangled in the vines. So, he had to have gone down Rockingham all the way to the Salingers' driveway, and then gone up that.
* When he got to the parking area he could have either continued down the drive and gone around the south side of the house, or gone up to the narrower walkway on the north side, near his own property. Either way, it was probably dark, and hard to negotiate his way.
* Since there is a dog at the house, we can presume that the back yard is fenced and secure on all sides. So, Simpson had to go through at least one, no matter which route he took. And, since this was not his own property and it was dark, it might have been a little difficult to know where the latch on the gates were.
* At the carport there may have been low walls and/or a fence to contend with; Simpson would have had to get around those things, too.
* A person very greatly doubts that Simpson could have taken the route past Rosa Lopez' room on the north pathway. Over almost of that entire path of 100 feet or so he would have been passing immediately adjacent to the fence he wanted to get over, and yet went all the way to the end, down to the open side of the carport, and into that to find a crossing point at the darkest, most inaccessible place on that route. Not likely.
(My map is shown here as S_LAYOUT.JPG.)
Although none of the foregoing is impossible, it is not a walk in the park, especially in the dark, and when Simpson desperately did not want to be seen. If he really was confronted by the need to get in through the Rockingham gate without a key, one wonders why he would not just opt to scramble over the wall on the north side of the Rockingham gate, as Fuhrman jumped over the same wall east of the Ashford gate a few hours later. Just the decision to go through the Salingers' property seems doubtful, much less the doing of it.
Dr. Henry Lee visited the site and saw the fence in question. He says (p. 239 of his book, #13), "Simpson allegedly jumped the fence near the guest house in his haste to return home and, at the same time, avoid being detected by limousine driver Allan Park, who was out front. The fence is very high and is covered by a large number of vines and other vegetation. Why was there no damage to such vegetation?" By saying this, he implies that the vegetation was examined and found to be free of an indication that someone had scrambled up it.
In his comments upon the first publication of this article, John Junot claims that the fence is four feet high on the Simpson side and about five feet high on the Salingers' side. That situation is shown on the Simpson video, and this reveals that Henry Lee's characterization of "very high" is misleading, at least. However, the undisturbed condition of the vines was also observed by Clark and Vannatter, according to Junot.
Finally on this aspect, whichever route Simpson took on the Salingers' property, it is almost entirely over paved and cleaned surfaces that would show blood drops much better than Simpson's own leaf strewn south walk. And yet, even though Fuhrman looked there for such on Monday morning, no blood drops were seen on the Salingers' property.
SUMMARY: The obvious (but not completely conclusive) implication of the blood drops on Simpson's property are that he came onto his property by going through that gate. There is not a shred of physical evidence to show that he went through the Salingers' property, and some indication (observations that there was no indication on the vegetation on the fence) that he did not. The circumstances of the physical layout seem to indicate that it would have been an unlikely choice for Simpson to go by way of the Salingers' when a simpler choice was to climb over his own wall. Finally, the entire argument rests upon the idea that Simpson did not have a key to the gate with him, and could not have used a "pedestrian mode" of the gate which is sometimes in effect. The coached revisionist testimony by Kato does little to strengthen the argument.
The hypothesis that Simpson came over the Salingers' fence is certainly not proven, and in fact is a long way from even being convincing.
WHAT REALLY DID HAPPEN? I have previously (as now) been convinced that Simpson came in by way of the Rockingham gate, and to explain this IF Simpson did not have the gate key with him, have lobbied for the use of the "pedestrian mode" of the gate as Fuhrman described. Now however, after taking this detailed look at the situation, I see that the true answer is different than that. Simpson DID have the key with him, and did open the gate in the usual "vehicular" mode. This is obvious from the first picture of the blood drop markers on the driveway near the gate. If Simpson had entered by the "pedestrian mode" he would have opened the gate only far enough to get in, and his blood drops (if any were seen) would have been on the left side of the driveway. They are not; they are right down the middle of the driveway. For some reason, he was farther to the right, both before and after he went through the gate, than we would expect if he just pushed the latch edge of the gate open far enough to walk through.
The left/right location of the blood drops is entirely consistent with the scenario in which he went all the way to the right pilaster, used his key to actuate the gate, waited for it to open, walked through near the pilaster, and after he got a yard beyond the closed gate line (at about the center of the driveway) he waited for the gate cycle to finish and then walked back toward the bushes on the left side.
Now, the objection to this idea has always been that Park, 150 feet away, and beyond the considerable vegetation that can be seen on the left side of the L&V photograph, would have heard the gate actuating. But, this has always been only an assumption. There was no testimony, or even any first hand mention in a book, of the amount of noise the gate made when it was operating. It may have been very quiet.
SOUND OF A POWER GATE: My ex-wife, Rosanne, lives in an apartment building with security gates. The vehicular gate is somewhat different than Simpson's, being of the rolling type, not the swinging type, but it is similarly electrically operated. She has been in the vicinity of her gate often when it actuates, and I asked her if it was noisy. She said it is very quiet; however there is a separate pedestrian gate beside it, and it clangs noisily when used.
I pointed out a distance of 150 feet on my street and asked her if on a very quiet night she thought that the actuation of the power gate at her apartment would make a conspicuous noise at that distance. She did not believe so; she said there would be a slight clunk and a metallic snap, and doubted that a person at that distance would notice. And that was without my mentioning intervening shrubs.
PARK'S TIMELINE: Furthermore is the timing. According to the timeline that I have been advocating for two years, Simpson pulled up to the Rockingham gate at about 10:44. I have examined the criminal trial transcript to reconstruct Allan Park's timeline and I find...
10:23 Arrives at Simpson's estate, parks near Ashford gate.
10:39 Moves limo, inspects Rockingham gate
10:40 Parks limo pointing into Ashford Gate
10:40 - 10:43 Unsuccessfully tries to page house 3 or 4 time
10:43:44 Called St. John's (his boss) pager
10:44 - 10:46 Paged house "a couple of times"
10:46:30 - 10:48:50 Calls home to get St. John's home phone number
10:49:07 Calls St. John, no answer
10:50 - 10:52 Tries to page house "a couple more times"
10:52:17 - 10:55:12 St. John calls Park and they talk while the following happens,
10:55 Kato shows up on north walk
Shadowy figure (presumably Simpson) crosses driveway
Kato goes off without opening the gate
10:55:45 Gets out of car, pages house, Simpson answers
10:56:30 Kato comes back and opens gate to admit the limo.
So, the critical time of Simpson's return, about 10:44, coincides with a period when Park paged his boss (10:43:44), got out of the limo and paged the house, and got back in to call to call his home (10:46:30). The time of being out of the car to page the house is nominally about 2-1/2 minutes, and this seems to be a little long to wait between two pages. We could suspect that Park did not jump out to page the house the instant that he made the call to his boss's pager, but was still in the car for a minute or so. Also, the transcript does not make explicit how long the call to St. John's pager lasted, though we would assume it was only about 20 seconds.
So, if I have erred by 30 seconds in my estimate of time of Simpson's return, then Park was certainly inside the limo and on the phone when the Rockingham gate actuated. If my estimate is exactly right, then Park was still probably in the limo, but done with the phone call. In either event, he is not in a good position to hear the gate mechanism 150 feet away and behind many bushes. And, even if he did detect the sound, it would not be known as being from Simpson's gate, and not another on the street, would not be particularly realized to be related to Park's problem of rousing someone inside the house, and so would probably not be remembered.
CONCLUSION: There is no barrier to believing that upon Simpson's return from Bundy he immediately went to the outside gate controller (leaving a blood drop as he did), actuated it with a key, and when the gate opened walked through it, then waited in the middle of the driveway for the gate to begin closing (dripping two more blood drops while he waited), then headed left for the bushes on the north side of the driveway, going along there to the shadows by the Bentley. In fact, I think that is just what happened.
Dick Wagner Van Nuys, CA (2/26/01) NG_714.TXT; rev. 3/05/01