Simpson case is focusing on a knife


LOS ANGELES -- O.J. Simpson was sold a 15-inch folding knife about six weeks before the football great's ex-wife and friend were slain, cutlery merchants testified.

Hours later, parts of a knife -- an entirely different style of knife -- surfaced in a Chicago airplane waste collection tank.

As a preliminary hearing to see if Mr. Simpson will go on trial began yesterday, attorneys unveiled evidence for the first time: blood inside Mr. Simpson's white Ford Bronco, on his driveway and in two of his bathrooms, and a bloody glove containing bleached blond hairs that matched a glove found at the crime scene.

Robert Shapiro, Mr. Simpson's lawyer, moved to suppress 34 pieces of evidence seized from the estate early June 13, including the bloody glove. He argued that detectives wrongly obtained the evidence before they got a search warrant.

Merchants testified at the hearing that Mr. Simpson bought a folding knife with a 6-inch blade five weeks before the killings.

Last night, cleaning workers found a carving knife handle and a small part of the blade at O'Hare International Airport in a tank that holds bathroom waste pumped from American Airlines planes, said Lisa Howard, a Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman.

Mr. Simpson flew to Chicago on an 11:45 p.m. American Airlines flight on June 12. The bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and Ronald Goldman, 25, were found at 12:10 a.m. on June 13 outside Ms. Simpson's condominium in Los Angeles.

Sgt. Philip Derrig of the Chicago Police O'Hare Unit today described a knife quite different from the one witnesses said Mr. Simpson bought. "It's a carving knife, a standard knife for a kitchen," Sergeant Derrig said. "It's no folding knife. The blade can't be closed or moved or anything." Still, Chicago police said they would contact L.A. police about the find.

Workers found the knife fragment when equipment that grinds up the waste jammed, and they emptied the tank to fix it. The tank was last emptied a month ago, Ms. Howard said.

"They're trying to get the rest of it, but it's down in this God-awful waste pit," she said.

Chicago Police Sgt. Frank Cappitelli cautioned that the knife could have belonged to anybody.

"There is no way we can connect anything to the Simpson slayings," he said. "A stewardess could have dropped this knife. It could have come from anywhere. Dozens of planes dumped their stuff into that tank."

At the preliminary hearing, Mr. Simpson, 46, sat stolidly while relatives of his ex-wife and Mr. Goldman crowded the gallery. He has pleaded innocent to two counts of murder.

No longer under a suicide watch, Mr. Simpson was clean-shaven and wearing a tie in court for the first time since he was charged. A crowd cheered and waved as the van carrying the former football star pulled into the courthouse garage.

Allen Wattenberg, owner of Ross Cutlery in downtown Los Angeles, testified that Mr. Simpson purchased a German-made Stiletto knife May 3 with a retractable blade and a handle made of deer antlers.

Mr. Simpson bought the knife for $81.17 while filming a TV pilot on location in front of the knife shop, Mr. Wattenberg said. Before leaving, Mr. Simpson had the knife sharpened, said salesman Jose Camacho.

Mr. Wattenberg acknowledged that his brother -- the store's co-owner -- and Mr. Camacho agreed to sell their story to the National Enquirer newspaper for $12,500.

Mr. Simpson got the only receipt for the sale, Mr. Wattenberg said.

Mr. Simpson's lawyer stressed in cross-examination that such knives are "collectibles," suggesting he didn't buy it to kill.

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