“I once was Casey Anthony,” while her daughter Caylee’s blood cries out from the ground, “I know the truth.”—The Atonement
This “blood crying out” mentioned in my July 2011 column entitled The Atonement referenced the first recorded murder in human history (Genesis 4) when Cain killed his brother Abel. Until now, it was the last time I considered this passage since the days following Casey Anthony’s acquittal and the subsequent public outrage.
With the recent news, however, of OJ Simpson’s release from prison in October of this year, I began to think about some of the high-profile, unsolved murder mysteries in which blood is still crying out.
Like Caylee Anthony, the JonBenét Ramseys and Natalee Holloways of this world were voices of unsuspecting innocents whose fateful end was met one ordinary day of an unknown killer’s choosing.
But many others, such as Nicole Brown Simpson, knew they were in danger and left a trail of clues to tell another kind of story—the story of one who was repeatedly failed by law enforcement, counselors, and the entire court system at the hands of an abuser’s craftiness.
In covering the LA murder of Brown Simpson, The Chicago Tribune reported that Mr. Simpson even sought to portray his wife as the aggressor during a domestic dispute on Jan. 1, 1989 that left Brown Simpson hospitalized. (Vincent J. Schodolski, Tribune Staff Writer, Feb. 3, 1995)
Later, during the murder trial, the incident was described as a mutual wrestling match by the defense, and of course we all know the rest of the story. In spite of the overwhelming evidence that pointed to Mr. Simpson as not only a violent man with a propensity for spousal abuse, but also the guilty party in the murder of two people, the jury issued a not guilty verdict. Case closed.
Though the murders remain unsolved mysteries, Nicole’s blood testified on her behalf via a trail of evidence about the darker truths of her life. The evidence carried the whisper of “OJ did it” louder than any police report that recorded her repeated shouts of “He’s going to kill me!”
On December 6, 1994, just a few days shy of the six month anniversary of Nicole’s death, Senior Investigator Michael Stevens (Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office) used a drill to open a safe deposit box previously issued to Brown Simpson. Upon successfully breaking the latch, he found photos of Nicole’s bruised face, her will, newspaper clippings detailing a 1989 domestic dispute, and three hand-written letters from OJ taking responsibility for the beating.
Though her supposed killer is still at large, Nicole’s trail of evidence is a lesson to every woman who lives inside the invisible walls of a batterer that calling for help (when escape seems impossible) and documenting a history of hidden abuse can be a powerful witness in the years to come.
That is, if the years do come.
In June of 2016, the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse launched #FreeToWalk, a campaign to call attention to barriers that keep women trapped in abusive relationships. The campaign kicked off with the release of an online film “America’s Largest Prison Break”, based upon the true story of Lori, a woman who stored cash inside tampon applicators until she could make her escape. Lori was one of the chosen who was able to make it to the other side. Countless others like Nicole, did not make it.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and find yourself wondering how the cycle of abuse will ever change, the abusive partner must be willing to admit fully to what he or she has done and have a genuine desire to change. Too often, clergymen refer couples like this to traditional counselors who tend to re-victimize the abused party and enable the cycle of abuse to perpetuate.
Like Nicole, if you live inside invisible walls and today is not the day of your great prison break, I implore you to become your own future star witness and leave yourself a lighthouse toward home while in the rough waters. You may need it someday when all of the nights of terror and confusion might just serve as the very rungs of the ladder you will climb, driven by an unforeseen courage and audacity, as you thrust yourself over the chain links of bondage into a place of freedom.
In loving memory of Margaret Mayeaux Plauché.
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette.