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‘The Life & Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson’: Family, friends shed light on infamous case in new documentary

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At the onset of “The Life & Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson,” a producer is heard instructing interview subjects to use specific names as they recall Nicole’s life and their memories surrounding her death. Denise Brown, Nicole’s outspoken older sister, replies that “there’s only one name I don’t want to say, if you don’t mind.”

Of course, she was referring to O.J. Simpson, who was infamously accused of murdering Nicole and waiter Ron Goldman at Nicole’s Brentwood, Los Angeles, home June 12, 1994. 

A day after Simpson died of metastatic prostate cancer at the age of 76 this year, Lifetime announced the release of the four-part documentary airing Saturday, just days before the 30th anniversary of Nicole’s death.

Nicole’s sisters Denise, Tanya Brown and Dominique Brown are joined by starlets such as Kris Jenner and Faye Resnick and a number of the slain woman’s friends and law enforcement officers who interacted with Nicole in an effort to portray the woman beyond her death and relationship with the embattled football player.


O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson. “The Life & Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” premieres June 1 and 2.  (Kris Jenner)

“I want to exorcise from my mind a girl laying on the sidewalk in a little black dress in a pool of blood — that’s not who she was,” Nicole’s friend, Ron Hardy, told filmmakers. “I just cathartically want to talk about her, talk about who she was, what she was to me, what she was to other people and how I will never, never regret meeting her.”

Previously, Nicole was remembered only by photographs that circulated after her death, including the Polaroids documenting bruising to her face that were stowed in her safe deposit box and entered as evidence in Simpson’s criminal trial. 

But archival footage throughout the documentary shows Nicole as a child with her mother, then in footage as a mother herself, cooing over her children on the beach. Stories from the couple’s Laguna Beach vacation home contrast with the innocent scenes. Nicole’s sister Dominique said that a pall fell over the otherwise lively home anytime Simpson walked in. A bystander recalls spotting the former football star on the beach with his wife, then watching in shock as he struck Nicole so hard she fell into the waves.


Tanya Brown, Dominique Brown and Denise Brown

(L to R) Tanya Brown, Dominique Brown and Denise Brown. “The Life & Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” premieres June 1 and 2. (Lifetime )

It is impossible to separate Simpson from Nicole’s story. The pair met when she was just 18, and after their 15 years of dating and marriage, Simpson continued to figure heavily in her life through their children and incessant stalking, according to friends and family.

“She said, ‘He is never going to leave me alone. I’m never going to get rid of him,'” Denise recalled of one of many times the couple got back together. “‘I may as well go back to him.'”

Through their stories, Nicole’s loved ones paint a picture of the years of abuse she underwent, often bemoaning that they looked past warning signs until it was too late.

“I hope that by keeping her memory alive, the person that she really was, that maybe it could help someone out there who was another Nicole,” friend Robin Greer said. “Get out of something that might ruin their lives or take their lives.”


Nicole Brown Simpson, Dominique Brown, Denise Brown, Juditha Brown, Louis Brown and Tanya Brown

Nicole Brown Simpson, Dominique Brown, Denise Brown, Nicole’s mother Juditha Brown, her father Louis Brown and Tanya Brown.  (The Brown Family )

“I thought, ‘I can’t help Nicole, but maybe I can save another life,'” Denise said, speaking on her lifelong commitment to education about domestic violence. “It’s something that no one wants to talk about. I said ‘No, we’re going to talk about it.'”

Simpson was 30 when he met Nicole at the club where she worked. Her friend and roommate at the time, David Lebon, recalled that there were signs of violence right after Simpson took her on their first date in his Rolls-Royce.

“When she came home, her pants were ripped, the zipper,” Lebon said. “I said Nicole, what happened to you? And she said, ‘He got a little forceful.’ … [She told me to] calm down. I was pissed.”

Also interviewed was an LAPD police officer who, by bizarre chance, responded both to Nicole and Goldman’s murders and to a domestic violence call involving Simpson’s first wife Marguerite years earlier. 


Nicole Brown Simpson and OJ Simpson at poolside

Nicole Brown Simpson is pictured with O.J. Simpson.  (Kris Jenner)

“In the course of the argument, he got violent. Struck her. As far as I remember, he pulled out a clump of her hair,” Terry Schauer said of his response to the home Simpson and Marguerite shared. “She just wanted to leave the house, and she had no transportation — she wouldn’t sign a report. She said, ‘My husband is O.J. Simpson, the football player.'”

About 20 years later, Schauer responded to Nicole’s home in Garden Grove after neighbors found her and Goldman dead.

“The officer that was there first told me that he worked that area quite a bit. He said [that police calls were] a very common occurrence at that house with O.J. That’s what jogged my memory about Marguerite Simpson,” Schauer said. 

Simpson’s first wife has publicly denied there was any abuse.


Nicole Brown Simpson and Juditha Brown smiling

Nicole Brown Simpson at her wedding with her mother Juditha Brown. (David LeBon)

Nicole’s friends recall her constant unease even after separating from Simpson. In one instance, Simpson saw his ex-wife kissing another man through a large window of her living room during one of his many nights stalking her. He ripped her front door off its hinges in his subsequent meltdown.

On Nicole’s final night alive, Dominique recalled Nicole pointing out Simpson’s car passing the restaurant where they were eating. Somehow, Denise said, their mother was “eerily quiet” and seemed to know that something was amiss that night. 

She had left her glasses at the restaurant. Goldman, a waiter there, brought them to Nicole’s home, where he was later killed, the family said.

Denise recalled hearing the awful news June 12, 1994. 

“It’s six o’clock in the morning, and all of a sudden I hear this … gut-wrenching curdling scream out of my parents’ bedroom,” she said. “My mom was on her knees, and my dad was on his elbow just looking up at her. I pick up the phone and I said, ‘Who is this’ and he said, ‘It’s [a detective].’ …  He says, ‘Your sister’s been killed.’ I said ‘Oh my God, he did it, he finally did it, oh my God.”

The relatives described Simpson mourning alongside them at Nicole’s funeral and their disquieting uncertainty about his guilt. When asked directly if he was responsible for her death on a car ride afterward, family friend D’Anne Purcilly recalled that he looked down at his hands and repeatedly said, “I loved her too much.”


Nicole Brown Simpson and Denise Brown smiling

Nicole Brown Simpson and Denise Brown in an undated photo. (The Brown Family )

After Nicole’s death, the specter of their sister’s jealous ex-husband was replaced by the constant whir of helicopters and press attention. Before Simpson was acquitted of murder in court and regained custody of his children, Dominique recalled, their parents removed all the TVs from their home so that the children could be sheltered from the constant media coverage.

Although they are pictured heavily alongside their mother in family footage, Nicole’s children with Simpson did not participate in the documentary, nor did Simpson’s three children from his previous marriage. Sydney and Justin, just 8 and 5 years old, respectively, when their mother died, are now parents themselves and avoid the spotlight, Nicole’s family explains. 

But much of the film gives an unprecedented window into their experience at the center of the murder that captured the nation.


OJ Simpson with Nicole Brown Simpson

O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson pose at the premiere of “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” in which O.J. starred March 16, 1994, in Los Angeles. (Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)

“One night I was tucking (Sydney) into bed, and we were talking, and she said ‘Denise, is my daddy in jail?’ Nicole’s sister recalled. “I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Is my daddy going to die?’ I said, ‘No, why?’ And she said, ‘People who kill other people, don’t they kill them?'”

Purcilly recalled another uncomfortable conversation with the girl shortly after her father was released from prison.

“When he got out of jail, he kept voicing how important it was … to be with Sydney for her birthday. He got home, went to the Browns’, picked up Sidney and took them to Neverland … Michael Jackson’s property,” Purcilly recalled.

Dominique Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson and Tanya Brown smiling

Dominique Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson and Tanya Brown smiling in an undated photo. (The Brown Family )

“She asked if next time we could take [my kids] to Neverland [with them]. I sat down with her and said, ‘Sydney, you have to understand that I will never let my boys go be with your dad. Because I believe your dad killed your mother, and I can’t let my children go there.’ She just kind of looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, I know.'”


Along with her strong will, vibrant energy and generosity, friends and family remembered Nicole as a doting mother. 

“She didn’t get to see them grow up. She didn’t get to see them have kids and a life and graduate. He killed her before she could do anything,” Denise said. “I was angry for 13 years after Nicole’s murder. I realized while we were here, I still have a lot of anger in me.

“He f—ed up our whole family,” said Denise. “How could one person f— up so many people’s lives?”

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