John “Bullfrog” Burke was handy with a knife. He held a serrated blade to the throat of a woman he mistakenly thought to be an intruder, and he was ready to use it to slice her throat. Burke was a former Navy SEAL, and the woman turned out to be his estranged daughter.
It was the plot of just another pilot for just another NBC series, Frogmen, but the show would never be seen.
Burke was a fictional character portrayed by O.J. Simpson, who only weeks after shooting the pilot in Puerto Rico would be arrested for the violent murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in June 1994. Both were stabbed to death, with Nicole’s throat being cut.
During preparation for the shoot, Simpson was briefed on how someone could kill up to four people at a time using a knife, including training on how to slash someone’s throat.
And while Simpson was determined to be not guilty, NBC has still refused to release tapes of the show and quietly killed it.
It’s just another layer of mystery to the murders, and one more notion that includes the knife, and the considerable ability of whomever wielded it, in committing the homicides.
The murder weapon has never been definitely found, although it has taken on its own identity. The first report was that the knife was discarded by O.J. in a trash bin outside the American Airlines terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on the night of the murders as he departed on a flight to Chicago. From there, the theories of the origin and the final resting place of the knife have varied wildly.
Did O.J. purchase the weapon at Ross Cutlery, then in the Bradbury Building, in downtown Los Angeles? Store employees testified in a preliminary hearing in 1994 that O.J. bought a 15-inch Stiletto knife six weeks before the murder.
Was it found by a construction worker at the site of O.J.’s former residence, a revelation made earlier this year by celebrity website TMZ? The story goes that the worker found the knife sometime between 1998, when the home was demolished, and a few years ago. It had been handed over to an off-duty LAPD officer who was working security in the area. The officer, as the story goes, held on to the folding buck knife until this past year, when he told a colleague about it, who then reported it.
The Daily Mail reported that when O.J. was told about the knife found on his property being tested, he said to a prison source, “Let me tell ya’ll something, I’m not that stupid, I got on a plane that night going to Chicago, that’s all I’m gonna say.”
And then there’s the New York Post interview in March with former LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman. Asked about evidence that was disallowed in the trial, he notes an empty Swiss Army knife box near the master-bedroom bathtub.
“Simpson was a spokesperson for Victorinox Swiss Army knives and had within just days traveled back East to the factory and left with a dozen knives; at least one was this type 4-inch lock-back,” Fuhrman told the Post. “In the limo drive from the factory to the airport, Simpson displayed one of these knives to the driver and stated, ‘You could kill somebody with one of these.’ The limo driver testified in the civil trial and also took a polygraph of which he was found to be truthful.”
Jason Simpson, in a deposition for the civil trial against his father in 1996, said the only knives he ever saw O.J. with were the small utility pocket knives that Swiss is famous for.
There is no question that O.J. had access to many different knives, and the knowledge to commit violence with them. Whether any of these knives is ever proven to be the murder weapon or is ever successfully linked to O.J. remains to be seen.
Main photo: Defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, Jr. (L) shows the jury the cut on murder defendant O.J. Simpson’s finger 25 January 1995 that the prosecution contends was cut during the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend. [Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images]