Nicole Brown Simpson’s Sisters Are Still Haunted by O.J.

ABC News
ABC News

“How did you live with 30 years of rage and heartbreak?” Good Morning America’s Diane Sawyer asked at the beginning of her interview on Tuesda with the three sisters surviving Nicole Brown Simpson, ex-wife of O.J. Simpson, who was murdered alongside her friend Ron Goldman in June of 1994.

“A lot of therapy,” Tanya Brown, the youngest of the Brown sisters, told Sawyer. “It was rough. Unresolved grief. Everything bit me hard 10 years later.”

“Sometimes I would think, ‘Gosh, I am just staggeringly sad today.’ And I would realize that it was the day she was murdered, or it was her birthday or something, or some memory would come up,’” Dominique Brown added.

“The pain doesn’t go away, doesn’t subside, doesn’t get easier,” Denise Brown told Sawyer firmly. “But you do the best you can, and you move on, and it’s one step forward.”

Sawyer then plugged a forthcoming new Lifetime documentary, which, she said, “has unearthed pictures and videos of their radiant sister Nicole, with all her vitality and warmth. A loving mother.”

In a bit of footage, Nicole can be heard off camera cooing to a baby onscreen. “Hey Sydney, when you watch this tape when you get older, see that little quilt you’re laying on? Mommy made that for you,” Nicole Brown Simpson says, addressing her then-infant daughter with O.J. Simpson.

“It’s the voice of Nicole that we wanted to hear, because so many people said, ‘We don’t even know what her voice sounds like,’” Denise Brown told Sawyer. “‘Who is Nicole?’ So, I hope they get a true sense of who Nicole is in this documentary.”

Nicole Brown was only 18 years old when she met Simpson while working as a waitress, Sawyer explained.

“He would charm her into his life and what Denise says is the pattern of domestic abuse inflicted upon so many women,” Sawyer continued.

“‘You’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re worthless, nobody’s going to want you, I’m the only one who can put up with you,’” Denise Brown illustrated.

“That escalates into that physical violence, and that’s the hitting, kicking, punching” Denise said, as a photo of Nicole Brown Simpson’s bruised and battered face appeared onscreen.

“I found that [photo] in her bathroom drawer, and I said, ‘Oh my god, Nic, look at that black eye,’” Denise Brown told Sawyer. “And she said, ‘No no no, it was the makeup artist at the studio,’ because [Simpson] was shooting films at the time. And I said, ‘Oh my god, it looks so real,’ and I threw [the photo] right back in the drawer. I didn’t know it was a real black eye. I had no idea.”

The sisters were flabbergasted when they eventually read Nicole Brown Simpson’s diaries, which documented the abuse she wrote that she experienced.

“I found the will, her diaries, just stacked in a box underneath the kitchen cabinet with the kids’ artwork and a bunch of other stuff,” Dominique Brown told Sawyer.

“So she was trying to hide it,” Denise Brown remarked. The documents weren’t “any place obvious,” Dominique agreed.

Sawyer then read an except from Brown Simpson’s diaries describing her marriage: “He threw a fit, chased me, grabbed me, threw me into walls.” Another excerpt onscreen reads, “1st Dr. said ‘Possible skull fracture,’ then after O.J. talked to him he said it’s (head) just badly bruised.”

“When [Brown Simpson] is pregnant,” Sawyer said, “he screams, she’s ‘a fat pig, you’re disgusting, I want you out of my house.’ At one point, she calls 911 and runs for her life into the bushes. Years later, a police officer would testify about how brutally she had been beaten.”

The interview cut to testimony from the O.J. Simpson trial in which an officer describes Brown Simpson’s injuries. “She had a cut approximately one inch I believe, on her left upper lip, swollen right forehead, and her right eye was starting to blacken. She had a hand imprint on her throat.”

“It was the first time that the police would actually arrest Simpson, but he got off lightly,” Sawyer explained. “It was the moment Nicole finally confided in Denise, but Denise said, back then, like so many people, she didn’t understand the complicated quicksand of domestic violence, and said the wrong thing.”

Denise Brown told Sawyer that she told Nicole, “‘Why don’t you just get out of this relationship? Why don’t you just leave him?’ Those are things that you don’t say, and I didn’t realize that at the time. I was just like, ‘Why are you with this person?’ So, I asked her all the whys that you don’t ask.”

Instead, Denise Brown said, the correct strategy when dealing with a loved one experiencing domestic violence is just to be “supportive. And you just let them do the talking.”

“I just wonder if I could have done more to help her, to listen to her, to try to dig into her heart, to…” Dominique Brown said, trailing off. “It’s the worst thing in the world.”

When Brown Simpson finally left the house she shared with Simpson, Sawyer narrates, the former NFL star “doubled down on his jealousy and rage.”

Sawyer then plays a 911 call made by Nicole Brown Simpson in which she says, “He just drove up again, could you send somebody over? He’s in a white Bronco.”

When a 911 responder tells Brown Simpson to stay on the line, she answers, “I don’t want to stay on the line. He’s going to beat the shit out of me.” Simpson can then be heard screaming in the background as Brown Simpson implores him to be quiet, because their children are sleeping.

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On the fateful night that waiter Ron Goldman stopped by Brown Simpson’s house to return a pair of eyeglasses she’d left at a restaurant earlier, Sawyer said, “Someone was watching, lurking.” Goldman was stabbed at least 15 times, Sawyer recalled; while Brown Simpson was stabbed at least 7 times in the neck.

For the past 30 years, the host explained, the Brown sisters have been working to advocate for women experiencing domestic violence. Denise Brown, for example, helped secure funding for the Violence Against Women Act.

“I sit there and go, why did it have to take Nicole? Why it it have to take my sister? Why did it have to take Nicole for people to understand that domestic violence can kill?” Denise Brown said.

“And now, after the all the long decades of anguish, O.J. Simpson dies of prostate cancer,” Sawyer said in the voiceover.

“Did that have a profound change on you immediately?” Sawyer exclaimed to the sisters, leaning forward in her seat.

“Very confusing,” Dominique Brown remarked. “It’s very complicated. But I have a relationship with the kids that means everything to me. And I was just very, very sad for them.”

“I think back to that haunting prediction Nicole told Denise long ago,” Sawyer said, cutting to an interview she’d done with the sisters 30 years ago.

“‘O.J.’s going to kill me and he’s going to get away with it,’” a 1994 version of Denise Brown tells Sawyer Nicole told her.

“‘He’s gonna kill me one day and he’s going to get away with it,’” Denise Brown recalled in the present day.

Tomorrow, Sawyer said, she’ll be digging to the trial with the sisters, and discussing what went wrong.

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