It was a Friday in June 1994, and Dallas private investigator Bill Dear, dapper as ever in his three-piece suit, monogrammed shirt and alligator boots, had completed his speech to the National Conference of Investigative Reporters and Editors and remained in the St. Louis Convention Center to answer questions.
On that day, however, attending journalists seemed less interested in his litany of recollections of high-profile cases he'd worked during a colorful, sometimes controversial, three-decade career. Never mind his investigations that had been spun into nonfiction books; solving the murder of an Ohio millionaire, tracking down a missing 16-year-old genius and an abducted 5-year-old girl; the tales of dangers faced and bad guys put behind bars; the staff of assistants he employed who helped him sleuth around the world; the bigger-than-life persona that Dear had long perpetuated as "the real Sherlock Holmes." The topic of the day, clearly, was a crime that had occurred thousands of miles away in an upscale California residential area known as Brentwood.
There, in the realm of Los Angeles' rich and famous, the slain bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman had been found. The savage murders that had occurred in the doorway of Nicole Simpson's Bundy Drive condo only five days earlier had been locked onto the front pages of newspapers throughout the world and were an around-the-clock concern of the electronic media. The prime suspect: the murdered woman's ex-husband, O.J. Simpson, Heisman Trophy winner, NFL Hall of Famer, movie star and pitchman.
What, the famed P.I. was asked, did he think about the case?
"I told them what I believed to be true, based on what I'd heard and read," Dear says. "O.J.'s blood was found at the Bundy crime scene. Nicole's blood was at Simpson's home on Rockingham. Ron Goldman's blood was in Simpson's Ford Bronco. This, I said, looked exactly like what it was: O.J. was guilty."
It was later, as he stood in the convention center lobby, that Dear noticed a strange look on his son Michael's face. Having accompanied his father on the trip, the young man had sat in on the question-and-answer session. "You've never done that before," he finally said.
"I didn't have to ask what he meant," the elder Dear recalls. He had, in a from-the-hip reply to a reporter's question, joined the nationwide chorus that was proclaiming O.J. Simpson guilty even before the investigation was complete. The credo he had sworn to throughout his career--never assume, always verify--had been violated.
Three weeks after the murders--after watching the live coverage of the bizarre slow-speed chase along a Los Angeles freeway that finally ended in Simpson's arrest, after reading and re-reading every news report he could lay hands on, after filling a legal pad with questions he wished answered--Dear was on a plane to Los Angeles.
Though he had been talking of slowing the frantic pace of his career and moving into semiretirement, he was off on what would turn into a six-year odyssey. It became, he admits, an obsession. Working independently, without assistance from Los Angeles law enforcement or the "dream team" of lawyers assembled to defend Simpson, Dear went in search of a truth he was convinced had not yet surfaced. Unlike many, he saw reason to doubt that O.J. was, in fact, guilty of what was being called the Crime of the Century, many questions that to him weren't answered:
··· If the crime scene had been the horrific bloodbath described by media reports, why was it that such small amounts of blood were found in Simpson's Bronco?
·· ·If he had made his getaway from Nicole's condo and driven directly home to make certain he caught a scheduled late-night flight to Chicago, didn't it stand to reason that there would have been blood on the vehicle's gas pedal, brake or steering wheel?
·· ·Why, in the wall-to-wall beige carpeting inside Simpson's home, was there no blood left by a man who, just minutes earlier, had stabbed and killed two people?
·· ·In a limited time frame, how had he disposed of bloody clothing? And, assuming he'd done so, why would he have overlooked the pair of socks later found in his bedroom with a single droplet of blood on them? And what of the murder weapon?
·· ·Why, after what authorities assumed was a violent struggle with victim Goldman, did Simpson have no bruises or scratches except for a small cut on the knuckle of one finger? And if the finger had, in fact, been injured during the murders, why was it that there was no cut on either of the gloves Simpson was supposed to have worn?
·· ·Then, the most troubling question of all: If Simpson was wrongly accused, who else might have committed the horrific crimes?