From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
FOUR MONTHS AGO, O.J. SIMPSON was a fading, famous football player who had appeared in car-rental commercials and the occasional movie, played the public-relations game for Hertz and worked as a commentator on NFL telecasts. Now potato farmers in Maine can tell you the name of a restaurant (Mezzaluna) favored by his late ex-wife; deejays in Oklahoma know that their audience won't be baffled by jokes comparing the relative intelligence of Kato the human to that of Kato the dog; and almost everyone in America could, if need be, pick a white Ford Bronco out of a lineup.

Orenthal James Simpson, 47, stands accused of brutally murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend Ronald Goldman, 25, with a knifelike weapon in front of her Brentwood, Calif., condominium sometime after 10 p.m. on June 12. The crime fascinates not just as a whodunit—a tantalizing jigsaw of tricky timing, telltale blood samples and mysterious thumps in the night—but as a whydunit: What could propel a man who seemed to have so much—if, indeed, Simpson is guilty as charged—to such an act of uncontrolled fury?

This case also offers a rare, detailed look at certain kinds of celebrity life, set in cafes, dance clubs and on the finest golf courses money can seed, and lived by men and women who like to be where the famous are. If that weren't enough, the case radiates hot-button issues the way a pinwheel throws off sparks—raising questions about interracial marriage and racial antagonisms, spousal abuse and the privileges of celebrity, whether justice for the rich is anything like justice for the poor and, finally, the perils of trial-by-media.

After months of motions, counter-motions and preliminary hearings, the trial is beginning at last in a 19-story courthouse on West Temple Street in L.A. Like a heavyweight prizefight, it could end at any moment should the prosecution or defense choose to deal. Or, of course, it could go to a dramatic resolution that might not be arrived at for months.

As one of the most remarkable cases in decades begins, here is a guide to the players, witnesses, lawyers, police and matters of evidence that will all play a role in the upcoming weeks.

Sunday, June 12, was the sort of glorious day that makes people glad they live in Los Angeles. The temperature was mild—in the mid-7Os—there was a gentle breeze off the Pacific and, after the morning haze burned away, the sky turned a sparkling blue. It was shirtsleeve weather: 22,381 fans watched the Angels beat the Tigers 8-6 in Anaheim. It was a good day to shop: The A.N. Abell auctioneers sold off some 100 items once owned by Barbra Streisand (her green mink vest went for $495). It was also a splendid day for a stroll: Along Santa Monica Boulevard, 250,000 onlookers took in the city's 24th annual Gay Pride parade, which featured gay and lesbian officers of the Los Angeles Police Department marching in uniform for the first time.

Before its end, though, the pristine day-would be shattered by two murders on South Bundy Drive. At the end of a Week that saw 15 killings in the City of Angels, these two have mesmerized the nation ever since. What follows is a chronology of the final hours of the two victims—Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson—and those of the man accused of their murders, O.J. Simpson.

6 a.m. O.J. Simpson tees off 19 minutes after sunrise at the Riviera Country Club, a tony, old-money retreat studded with eucalyptus trees not far from his Brentwood home. One member of his foursome, movie producer Craig Baumgarten, 45, botches a shot and irritably blames Simpson, who becomes angry. But the tension quickly subsides. "There was never a moment when we thought they'd come to blows," says one member of the foursome. "We laughed about it later." Afterward, the golfers have lunch, then settle into the card room of the Spanish-style clubhouse to play gin rummy.

10 a.m. Nicole Simpson shops for her children, Sydney, 8, and Justin, 6, at Star Toys on Barrington Place near Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood.

Ron Goldman, 25, works out this morning for an hour and a half at the Gym, on San Vicente Boulevard a few doors down from Mezzaluna, the upscale Italian restaurant in Brentwood where he has been a waiter for four months. Afterward, he joins friends at a nearby Starbucks coffee shop.

1 p.m. Goldman plays in his weekly soft-ball game at Barrington Recreation Center. "Ron seemed happy," says Jeff Keller, a friend at the game. "He was playing well; he was loose and relaxed."

3 p.m. Simpson calls Playboy magazine's Playmate for July, Traci Adell, 24, in Maryland, where she was acting in a movie called Life 101. The two had never met. They speak, says Adell, for 45 minutes. "He started talking about his ex-wives and how he was looking for someone else. And he made a little joke about how I'm not his typical type. He said he'd dated blondes, and said, 'I guess that hasn't worked out for me.' " Simpson also tells Adell, "I've had enough, I've lived my life. I've done things most people couldn't do in a hundred lifetimes."

4:30 p.m. Dance for Kids presents a western-themed recital called "On the Farm" at Paul Revere Middle School in Brentwood. Sydney performs, to Kenny Loggins's "Footloose," in a bell-bottomed outfit decorated with silver-spangled fringes. Nicole, wearing a black cocktail dress, sits with Justin, her mother, Juditha Brown, 63, and several friends; O.J. Simpson arrives late, driving his 1988 Bentley, and sits apart from Nicole and the others.

5:30 p.m. Goldman arrives for work at Mezzaluna, dressed in black pants, white shirt, a vest and tie.

6 p.m. In the school parking lot after the dance recital, Nicole and Simpson, who were divorced in October 1992 but had attempted several reconciliations, talk briefly. He tries unsuccessfully to get the family together for a photograph.

6:30 p.m. Nicole takes Sydney, Justin, her mother, her father, Louis, 71, sister Denise, 37, and four others to Mezzaluna, three long blocks from her home. Nicole orders rigatoni and talks about her new life as a single woman. She and Denise talk "about all the trips we were going to take," her sister later tells ABC News. Nicole mentions the possibility of opening her own cafe. Juditha later says that Simpson had been told he was not wanted at the dinner.

7 p.m. Aspiring actor Brian "Kato" Kaelin, 35, who lives in the guest wing of Simpson's Tudor-style house at 360 North Rockingham Ave., encounters him in the kitchen of the main house. Kaelin later tells a grand jury that a "joking" Simpson had criticized Nicole's friends for wearing tight-fitting clothes and had wondered if Nicole would continue wearing dresses like the one she wore to the dance performance even when she got to be a "grandma."

8:30 p.m. Nicole and her party leave Mezzaluna, and Nicole takes Justin and Sydney to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop across the street. Near the Mezzaluna valet parking stand, Juditha doesn't notice as she accidentally drops her prescription glasses.

9 p.m. Nicole returns with the kids to her four-bedroom condominium at 875 South Bundy Dr. in Brentwood, a few blocks from Ben & Jerry's.

9:10 p.m. Simpson and Kaelin head for a McDonald's in Simpson's Bentley. Simpson—wearing a black long-sleeved sweatsuit—is scheduled to catch an 11:45 flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Chicago, where he is booked to join a Hertz golf outing the next day.

Juditha Brown calls Mezzaluna asking if anyone has found a pair of eyeglasses. They are located, but Juditha can't come to get them, so bar manager Karen Crawford puts the glasses in an envelope. A few minutes later, Nicole calls and asks for Goldman.

9:40 p.m. Nicole speaks on the phone with her mother.

9:45 p.m. Goldman, having clocked out at the end of his shift at 9:33, leaves Mezzaluna carrying the envelope with Juditha Brown's glasses.

Kaelin and Simpson return home from McDonald's.

10:15 p.m. Screenwriter Pablo Fenjves, who lives near Nicole's condo, hears a dog's "plaintive wail."

10:25 p.m. Allan Park, driving a white stretch limousine for the Town & Country limo service, arrives 20 minutes early to pick up Simpson for his trip to the airport and parks across from the house's Ashford Street gate and waits. [See 'A' on map of Simpson's estate on pages 48-49.]

10:35 p.m. Screenwriter Steven Schwab, who lives just off South Bundy, takes his dog for a walk between the ending of The Dick Van Dyke Show at 10:30 and the beginning of The Mary Tyler Moore Show at 11. On the street, Schwab encounters Nicole's Akita (named Kato by her children, for Kaelin) and notices that the dog is not wearing any tags and that its paws are bloody.

10:40 p.m. Park drives around to the North Rockingham Avenue gate of the Simpson house, does not see a car in the driveway, then returns to the Ashford gate and repeatedly rings the buzzer but gets no response.

Kaelin, on the phone with a friend, aspiring actress Rachel Ferrara, hears three loud thumps on the outside wall of his room ['B' on map]. He goes out to investigate with a flashlight.

10:50 p.m. Getting no response at Simpson's house, Park beeps his boss, Dale St. John.

10:52 p.m. St. John returns Park's page. The driver starts to explain that no one seems to be at home in the darkened house. Then he sees Kaelin coming from the backyard with a flashlight. Kaelin waves at him but does not open the gate. Moments later, Park spies a 6'-tall black person wearing dark clothes entering the house through the front door ['C' on map]. Lights on the first floor are turned on.

10:56 p.m. Park buzzes the intercom again; this time Simpson answers. According to Park, Simpson says, "Sorry, I overslept, and I just got out of the shower. I'll be down in a minute."

Kaelin lets Park in. As the two men talk, Simpson emerges from the house wearing a white short-sleeved shirt and stone washed jeans and carrying a garment bag.

11:15 p.m. Simpson leaves in the limousine, keeping a window open and complaining to Park about the heat, though the car is air-conditioned and temperatures that night are in the 60s. Says Park: "He kept saying, 'Whew, I'm hot. Whew, man, I'm hot.' "

11:40 p.m. Schwab's neighbor Sukru Boztepe arrives home and sees him with the Akita. Boztepe agrees to keep the dog for the night and take it to an animal shelter in the morning. But once inside, the Akita is so restless that the Boztepes decide to search with it for its owner.

11:45 p.m. Simpson catches American Airlines flight 688 for Chicago.

12:00 a.m. The Akita leads Boztepe and his wife, Bettina Rasmussen, to 875 South Bundy. Near the dimly lit, gated entrance to the condo, Boztepe sees a body sprawled on the Spanish-tile walkway. "There was a lot of blood, and I just turned around,'' Boztepe says later. They rouse a neighbor, who phones for help.

12:09 a.m. Officer Robert Riske responds to the emergency call. Boztepe and Rasmussen direct him to the body. Riske finds two victims:

Nicole Brown Simpson, 5'5", 129 lbs., has had her throat slashed through to the spinal column. The 5½-inch by 2½-inch gash runs from the left side of her neck to her right ear. There are numerous additional wounds, including four in the left side of the neck and three punctures in the back of the head. Her black cocktail dress is ripped, and her bloodied hands are in a defensive position, as if attempting to ward off an attack.

Ron Goldman, 5'9", 171 lbs., lies in bushes 10 feet from Nicole's body. His neck has been slashed several times on both sides, and he has been stabbed three times in the chest, once in the abdomen and once in the thigh. His hands, too, have been cut numerous times. At his feet, police find a brown leather left-hand glove and a knit cap; at his knees is the envelope containing Juditha Brown's glasses; at his back, Goldman's beeper.

The door to the condo is ajar. Upstairs, Justin and Sydney are asleep. Lights are on throughout the house, except in the bathroom, where the marble gleams from the light of candles.

1:05 a.m. L.A. police Det. Mark Fuhrman's supervisor calls him at home to tell him about the murders on South Bundy.

Simpson's daughter from his first marriage, Arnelle, 25, who lives in one of the rooms ['D' on map] in the guest wing of Simpson's house, comes home after having been out all day. She goes to bed.

2:10 a.m. Detective Fuhrman arrives at 875 South Bundy, which has been cordoned off with police crime-scene tape. Sydney and Justin have been taken to the West Los Angeles police station.

3 a.m. Detectives Philip Vannatter and Thomas Lange are called at their homes; Vannatter arrives at the scene an hour later, Lange 30 minutes after that.

4:15 a.m. (6:15 Central time) A Hertz driver in Chicago drops off Simpson at the O'Hare Plaza Hotel.

5 a.m. Four officers, including detectives Vannatter and Fuhrman, drive to Simpson's house. They get no response after buzzing the intercom at the Ashford gate. They try phoning, but no one answers. Checking a white Bronco parked askew to the curb ['E' on map], the police see what appears to be blood on the driver's side door. After the officers discuss what to do, Fuhrman scales the wall ['F' on map] by the Ashford Street gate and lets the others in. They wake Kaelin and Arnelle. Kaelin tells Fuhrman about the noises he heard outside his room, and the detective investigates. Between a fence and the outer wall of the guest wing, Fuhrman finds a brown leather right-hand glove smeared with blood. More blood is discovered: a trail of drops leading up the driveway from the Bronco to the front door.

Detective Vannatter leaves to obtain a search warrant from L.A. municipal court.

5:45 a.m. Inside the main house, Arnelle helps police locate her father by putting them in touch with his assistant, Cathy Randa. They call Simpson to inform him of Nicole's death and ask him to return to Los Angeles. He checks out of the O'Hare Plaza, visibly agitated.

6:55 a.m. Almost seven hours after discovery of the bodies, police officially notify the coroner's office of the deaths on South Bundy.

Around this time, Arnelle picks up Sydney and Justin at the police station and returns home. She calls Juditha Brown to tell her that Nicole is dead but breaks down and hands the phone to a detective.

7:41 a.m. (9:41 Central) Simpson's flight to Los Angeles leaves O'Hare. Visibly upset, he takes an aisle seat in the coach section next to Chicago attorney Mark Partridge, 39. Simpson orders mineral water and begins placing calls on the airplane phone. "It seemed to me he was calling friends and advisers," Partridge later tells PEOPLE. "It was evident from the phone calls he was making and the comments he made during the flight that a great tragedy was affecting his life and the lives of his children.... I remember feeling very sorry for him."

9:30 a.m. (11:30 Central) Chicago police search Simpson's hotel room. They find drops of blood on the bathroom sink, a broken glass and a bloody washcloth.

12 p.m. Detective Vannatter sees Simpson in front of the mansion, carrying a leather travel bag. Vannatter notices a bandage on the knuckle area of the middle finger on his left hand. Simpson speaks with his attorney Howard Weitzman, who had arrived earlier. Simpson is briefly handcuffed; he voluntarily goes to police headquarters, where he is questioned for 3½ hours.

12:20 p.m. The bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman arrive at the coroner's downtown office for autopsy. Four days later, Orenthal James Simpson is charged with two counts of murder by the L.A. district attorney.