O.J. Confidential

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Later, he was hired by the Tarrant County grandparents of a missing 5-year-old. He managed to track her to a small town in Nebraska where she was being held by her mentally unstable father. The story's happy ending featured Dear and the little girl stepping off a plane in Dallas as the minicams recorded the joyful reunion.

Each round of publicity, he quickly learned, resulted in a new wave of calls from prospective clients.

Those were the days when he was at his self-promoting best, a time when he was lionized by some and labeled more sizzle than steak by others. His detractors were quick to point out that the gushing newspaper and magazine profiles never bothered to mention the cases he didn't solve or that much of the legwork credited to him was actually being done by the sizable staff he employed. At one point, a rumor circulated that his license had been suspended after a dissatisfied client complained to the Texas Board of Private Investigators. Never happened, Dear says.

Says Richard Riddle, a former Dear partner who now has his own agency, "Sure, Bill's got a big ego. Doesn't even try to hide it. But he works his tail off for his clients. I don't know how many missing-kid cases he's worked for a dollar. On top of that, I've seen him spend thousands of dollars of his own money on cases when the client couldn't afford to pay."

While the self-assuredness and the sizable ego remain, today's Bill Dear says he is no longer chasing fame and fortune. Members of the staff who once worked for him have gone off to set up their own investigative agencies. He now takes only those cases that interest him, enjoying the simple pleasures of being a grandfather. He even occasionally ventures out in public without a suit and tie. It's his version of semiretirement.

Now, however, the unanswered questions surrounding the Simpson-Goldman murders have his motor running. The Los Angeles police, he says, "screwed up." And, since O.J. Simpson was acquitted of criminal charges, the murder cases officially remain open.

"It needs to be resolved," Dear says.

The portrait of Jason Simpson drawn from Dear's investigation is one of a young man battling myriad problems. The files assembled from the investigator's research suggest as much:

In 1990, police records show, Jason Simpson was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs and placed on summary probation. Two years later, assault charges were filed after Jason Simpson attacked the owner of a restaurant where he worked as the prep chef. Pleading no contest to a reduced charge of disturbing the peace, he was again placed on probation, this time for 24 months. The only other brush with the law Dear was able to find occurred in 1994, when he rammed his Jeep into the back of a pickup in the wee hours of the morning and fled the scene. A witness had taken down his license plate number, and Simpson was later charged with leaving the scene of an accident and driving with a suspended license.

The medical and psychological records obtained by Dear document a series of suicide attempts, drug use, brief stays in psychiatric hospitals and ongoing visits with a counselor. Dear traced Jason's erratic behavior back to the age of 14, when he was first admitted to the hospital following a cocaine-induced seizure. An enraged Simpson once took a baseball bat to a bronze statue of his father that was located on the grounds of the Rockingham home. There was, according to family friends Dear quotes in his book, an ongoing battle, both verbal and physical, between O.J. Simpson and his son.

On at least three occasions, Jason had attempted to take his own life. There was the incident when he had cut his wrists with the glass from a broken window after the argument with his girlfriend, another occasion during which he had stabbed himself in the abdomen and yet another when, after a night of drinking tequila and beer, he swallowed 30 Depakote tablets, more than 10 times the recommended dosage prescribed to prevent epileptic seizures.

Dear quotes Dr. Burton Kittay, the psychologist who treated Jason Simpson on numerous occasions, saying that his patient did have mental problems. Dr. Kittay did not, however, believe Jason could have committed the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. As he tells Dear in his book, "And besides, I don't think Jason is smart enough to have pulled off the murders and not gotten caught."

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Carlton Stowers
Contact: Carlton Stowers