LOS ANGELES, June 30 -- Two witnesses in the hearing that will determine if O.J. Simpson stands trial for murder testified Thursday the former football hero bought a 15-inch knife a few weeks before his ex- wife and a male friend were stabbed to death. Allen Wattenberg, co-owner of Ross Cutlery, and his employee, Jose Camacho, said Simpson bought a high-quality, single-edged stiletto knife for $74.98 plus tax during a break in filming of a TV show outside his downtown Los Angeles store May 3. Both men described the knife as a 'collectible' lock-blade knife rather than a hunting or utility knife. Pictures of the type of knife shown in court showed it was engraved and had no serrations on the blade. Defense attorney Robert Shapiro got Wattenberg to admit there was no receipt showing Simpson bought the knife, which he sharpened before Simpson left with it. 'When he said he wanted the knife, he required the knife sharpened,' Camacho said. The testimony is the first time prosecutors unveiled evidence linking Simpson to buying a weapon shortly before the slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, 25, outside her expensive Brentwood condominium on June 12. Camacho said he had earlier lied to reporters and told them he didn't know anything about Simpson buying a knife, but testified he had agreed to sell his story to the National Enquirer tabloid for $12,500. Camacho became nervous when Shapiro reminded him he had been under court order not to talk about the case after testifying before the grand jury, which had considered the Simpson case until it was removed after hearing media accounts.
Meanwhile, police searched an area Thursday between Simpson's Brentwood estate and his ex-wife's condominium, but it was not clear whether they had found any evidence in the Simpson case. Police would not discuss whether they were looking for the murder weapon, which has not been found. At an evidentiary hearing that took up much of the day, Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell ordered prosecutors to allow Simpson's defense team to be present when evidence, including blood and hair samples, is tested because it is unclear how much of the initial samples would be left after the testing. Shapiro had said he wanted independent tests to be done on all of the evidence to determine if the blood matches that of his client. He said Simpson could otherwise be deprived of his right to show that errors could be made in the LAPD's testing process. The judge said her order would 'safeguard Mr. Simpson's rights in this matter.' Testifying at a hearing to determine if the Hall of Famer-turned actor's lawyers can get portions of the evidence for independent testing, Michele Kestler, the assistant director of the Los Angeles Police Department's crime lab, said some of the evidence could be split for analysis by Simpson's legal team. Kestler was unsure whether blood found on other evidence including clothing, towels and sheets at Simpson's Chicago hotel room, a cap found on the floor of Simpson's Ford Bronco and nail scrapings from the victims could be split and given to the defense for evaluation. Attorneys also argued over how many pieces of hair they should be able to take from Simpson's head to try to determine if it matches hairs in a knit cap found at the crime scene. Deputy District Attorney Marcia Clark said criminologists needed 100 pieces of hair, but Shapiro said all that was required was one. The judge determined that Simpson would have to provide between 40 and 100 hairs. When it was his turn to question Kestler, Shapiro signalled that he is going to mount an aggressive defense, immediately challenging her credentials as an expert witness. Simpson, who was dressed in a blue suit, white shirt and red tie, sat quietly throughout the proceedings, taking notes on a yellow legal pad as attorneys outlined every piece of evidence. Nicole Simpson's mother and father and two of her sisters were in the packed courtroom for the hearing. Each of the sisters wore an angel brooch, which one sister said resembled the brooch worn by their slain sister. Nicole Simpson's mother wore the original brooch her daughter wore. Members of Goldman's family, including his father and stepmother, also were in court for the hearing. They were shielded from a horde of reporters who have flooded the downtown Los Angeles courthouse. No members of O.J. Simpson's family were seen, but his longtime friend Robert Kardashian was in court. During the hearing, prosecutors turned over phone records to the defense team that are believed to show when Nicole Brown Simpson's mother last talked to her daughter before she was slain. The GTE records are believed to be a key piece of evidence in determining the validity of O.J. Simpson's alibi, which is that he was at home waiting for a limousine to take him to the airport for a pre- planned flight to Chicago.