The drama that unfolded around former NFL great O.J. Simpson, one of the most widely-known athletes ever to be charged with murder, shocked his friends and professional associates.
They also expressed surprise at Simpson's extraordinary behavior. The former star, accompanied by his former Buffalo Bills teammate Allan Cowlings, vanished before police could arrest him for the violent deaths of his ex-wife and her male companion.
Armed with a blue steel revolver, he rode with Cowlings on a 90- minute, 60-mile slow-speed chase along the freeways crossing two counties in the Los Angeles area. Before fleeing, he had written three notes, one of which was read to the public and deemed, by several doctors, a potential suicide note.
His attorney, Robert Shapiro, who had arranged for Simpson's surrender earlier in the day only to be left empty-handed when his client disappeared, said he was relieved Simpson was still alive. Shapiro had expressed fear Simpson would commit suicide.
'I can't express the fear I had this matter would not end the way it did,' Shapiro said. 'I would like to ask all members of the public to reserve judgment unil this matter is settled in a court of law.
Golf pro Arnold Palmer starred with Simpson in the Hertz rent-a-car commercials.
'He came from nothing and he made a lot for himself,' Palmer said.
Al Michaels, a fellow sportscaster, said he was 'happy to see him alive. I was fearful O.J. was suicidal.'
Michaels credited Cowlings with saving Simpson's life during the more than 12 hours the two were missing. Cowlings, meanwhile, was jailed in lieu of $250,000 bond, charged with aiding and abetting Simpson in his escape.
'Allan Cowlings should get some credit if O.J. had any suicidal tendencies,' Michaels said. 'The end result is O.J. Simpson is alive. Cowlings was the only man with him.'
Former Bills teammate Joe DeLamielleure, now living in Lynchburg, Va. , said, 'Like everyone else, I felt disbelief' when the stories began to unravel and implicate Simpson in the murders.
'But then I began reading about the evidence, and like everyone else, I thought it must be true,' he said.
DeLamielleure, who last saw Simpson at a 20th reunion in Buffalo in November, said his former teammate did not have 'a darker side, but a competitive one.'
'He always wanted to win. He always wanted to be No. 1,' he remembered. 'I wonder if it led to these domestic problems.'