In a new special edition, People revisits the legal drama that gripped the nation 25 years ago

By Saleah Blancaflor
May 30, 2019 04:40 PM

Shortly before midnight on Sunday, June 12, 1994, a brown-and-white Akita was found wandering loose in the quiet streets of Brentwood. His paws splashed with blood, the dog led some local residents to a shocking discovery. Responding to their 911 call, two LAPD officers arrived within minutes to find the body of a woman in a black cocktail dress crumpled on a blood-washed walkway in front of a townhouse condominium. She was the evident victim of a knifing. Nearby, the remains of a young man who had suffered more than 20 stab wounds in a ferocious fight for his life lay in the lush shrubbery at 875 South Bundy Drive. One veteran cop later said, “It was the bloodiest crime scene I have ever seen.” Following a trail of blood, detectives surmised that the killer likely made his escape in a vehicle parked in the alley.

Finding the front door of the four-bedroom condo standing open, one officer later testified, he entered and came upon a contrasting scene of calm and tranquillity. There was no evidence of mayhem or that a robbery had taken place. Candles burned in the downstairs living room. A partially melted carton of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate-chip cookie-dough ice cream rested on the banister of a staircase. More candles lighted the master bedroom upstairs and flickered in the bathroom, where water had been drawn for a soak in the tub. Two young children, a boy and a girl, were sound asleep in their own bedrooms, oblivious to the carnage outside.

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From family photos and other items in the condo, the police came to a shocking realization. The woman who lay dead across the threshold was Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, the ex-wife of the famous former football star O.J. Simpson, then 46. The male victim, investigators later learned, was Nicole’s friend Ronald Goldman, 25, a waiter and aspiring model. Riske telephoned his superiors; once more officers arrived, Brown and Simpson’s children, Sydney, 8, and Justin, 5, were awakened and taken to a west Los Angeles police station while police tried to reach their father.

Nicole Brown, Ronald Goldman
Paul Hurschmann/AP

Those were the first hours of a real-life drama that would grip the country for the next 16 months. Within days—and following a police chase of a white Bronco truck in which Simpson held a gun to his own head— the NFL Hall-of-Famer was arrested and charged with double homicide. Now, 25 years after the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, the story of O.J. Simpson’s criminal trial and acquittal still has the power to shock and divide the nation. In a new special edition, True Crime Stories: The Trial of O.J. Simpson, PEOPLE looks back at an American crime saga like no other.

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The trial made celebrities of lawyers such as Marcia Clark (for the prosecution) and Johnnie Cochran (for the defense). It provided fodder for late-night comedians and helped launch Court TV. It changed the way we talk about domestic abuse. And it touched a pre-fame Kardashian family as Robert Kardashian, who joined O.J.’s legal team, and ex-wife Kris Jenner, had been close with both O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson. Their kids stood by the Simpson children after Nicole’s death and during O.J.’s 15-month jail stay.

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After serving nine years in prison for an unrelated crime, O.J. Simpson is a today free man. But his criminal murder trial remains an obsession, explored recently in the FX series The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and even discussed by Simpson himself in an interview given, unwittingly, to Sacha Baron Cohen on his satirical show Who Is America? Now People revisits the origins of that obsession in a comprehensive new issue.

PEOPLE’s special issue True Crime Stories: The Trial of O.J. Simpson is available now on Amazon and wherever magazines are sold

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