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Real Life

EXCLUSIVE: The world hasn't forgotten what OJ Simpson did to my sister

Nicole Brown's sister Tanya speaks out about the trauma she went through after her sister's death.

By Courtney GReatrex
25 years after OJ Simpson was sensationally charged with murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, Nicole's younger sister Tanya, now 49, speaks for the first time about how the tragedy tore her family apart and how they have coped in the years since her death.
Despite being convinced that OJ stabbed her sister to death, Tanya reveals the incredible reason why she has finally chosen to forgive OJ.

Tanya Brown, 49, shares her story;

I first met OJ Simpson when I was seven years old.
Running into the kitchen, I squealed happily as I spotted my sister Nicole, 18, and bolted into her arms.
She'd moved out of home not long before, and I missed her.
Beside her stood a dark, strong man, who towered over my entire family.
"Tan, this is OJ," Nicole said, introducing me.
They started telling the story of how they'd met.
OJ explained how Nicole had been serving him at the exclusive members' club Daisy, where she worked as a waitress.
"I told her: 'I have some business in Buffalo, but when I'm done, I'm coming back for you'. And I did," he laughed, flashing his pearly-white teeth.
Mum and Dad were gripped by the story, but I was bored.
"I wanna go to the mall," I moaned, tugging Mum's sleeve.
"We'll take her," Nicole chimed in. I was stoked.
At the shopping centre, OJ held my hand and chatted cheerily as we walked into the toy store.
"You can get anything you want," he told me.
My eyes quickly landed on a Barbie beach house I'd been dreaming about for ages.
"Done," he grinned.
My eyes grew wide with astonishment. I couldn't believe he'd buy it for me.
I gave OJ a special lighter for Christmas in the late 70's. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Back then, I had no idea OJ wasn't a regular guy; that he was a beloved American football star with the nickname 'Juice'.
He was rich and powerful, and had the support of millions of fans around the world.
Even if I had known, it wouldn't have mattered to me. I saw him simply as my sister's boyfriend.
A few years later, on my 12th birthday, Nicole drove me to San Francisco, where she lived with OJ.
After surprising me with a perfectly wrapped gift containing a cute sweater and two crayon bobby pins, she took me to my first football game, where OJ was playing for the 49ers.
Watching him on the field was a revelation.
"Juice, Juice, Juice," the crowd cheered.
That's when it dawned on me that OJ was a star.
As three years rolled by, Nicole made sure every family event was special.
Her wedding to OJ was no exception.
It was a lavish party in the backyard of their home, with hundreds of guests.
It still felt like a close-knit celebration.
Mum, my three sisters and I held hands and danced, singing along to Sister Sledge's We Are Family.
Less than a year later, Nicole and OJ had a daughter, Sydney. Their son, Justin, came along three years later.
OJ with his and Nicole's children, Justin and Sydney. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
We spent every holiday together.
Looking back, I had the best childhood.
We lived right by the beach and I'd spend most days splashing in the waves.
As I got older, I often babysat for Sydney and Justin for pocket money.
One night, I was putting Sydney to sleep when I heard Nicole and OJ bickering in the driveway outside her room. I couldn't catch what it was about.
"Psst, can you guys be quiet?" I hissed out the window. "I'm putting the baby down."
Other than that one tiff, I thought Nicole and OJ never argued.
High school was the best four years of my life. I was social and friendly with everyone.
But that stopped when I was 18, and my best friend Harissa died in a hit-and-run accident.
A wave of depression hit me like a truck. I developed an overeating disorder and would hide my empty takeaway boxes like an alcoholic hides bottles.
One Christmas Eve, I slumped on the couch of my college share-house watching Casablanca with a glass of wine and the shutters drawn.
I groaned with annoyance when the phone rang.
"Tanya, it's Nic. Mum said you're not doing very well – what's wrong?" she asked when I answered.
I was grateful she cared, but didn't know where to start.
"I'm crying, I'm depressed, I'm watching movies and drinking wine in the middle of the afternoon," I confessed. "I don't know why I'm like this."
"We don't need to understand everything. Some things just are," she said gently.
My sister's words calmed me and I agreed to tip out my wine and spend Christmas with the family.
Nicole made a beautiful bride. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
A week later, on New Year's Eve, we were all enjoying a meal at a fancy restaurant in Beverly Hills.
"Tanya, let's go to the restroom," Nicole gestured during the main course.
I followed her and she slumped into an armchair.
"I'm asking for a divorce tonight," she declared.
I frowned, totally blindsided.
"But you and OJ seem so perfect!" I said. "Are you sure?"
She nodded sadly.
I was shocked. They'd always looked so in love. I guess I was wrong.
Days later, Nicole asked me to help move her things out of their marital home. She'd be taking the kids with her.
While packing her belongings in the bedroom, we heard OJ come home.
Nicole leapt up and locked the bedroom door.
"Call Daddy, and don't hang up," she instructed me.
I was baffled, but did what she said.
When she knew the coast was clear, Nicole unlocked the door and cautiously moved from room to room, quickly packing her things as Dad sat on the line.
I suspected she wanted him to hear if anything terrible happened.
When we got to Sydney's room, she looked to the door with terror on her face.
OJ was there standing over us, speechless.
Then, he just walked away. It sent a shiver down my spine.
Our last family photo on Mother's Day in 1994 - a month before Nicole was killed. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
After, when Nicole and OJ divorced, my sister became herself again. She enjoyed her life, going out for lunches, dancing and living life to the fullest. It was as though she finally felt free.
That is, until two years later, when I was 24.
It was 6:30am when I woke to a bloodcurdling shriek from downstairs. It was my older sister Denise.
I bolted down and found her red-eyed and panic-stricken.
"Nicole's dead!" she cried.
No. I didn't believe it.
Mum, Dad and my sisters had been with her the night before – they'd just seen her!
I rushed to the next room and saw Mum white as a ghost.
Dad was keeled over the sink in the bathroom.
"Is it true?" I asked him.
He looked at me with empty eyes, full of shock.
"Y… yes," he stuttered.
After that, my life would never be the same again.
My mind reeled as I tried to comprehend that my beautiful sister, Nicole, was dead at just 35 years old.
How had this happened? No-one had told us.
Numb with grief, I wondered if she'd perhaps become the random victim of a drive-by shooting, which were common at the time.
But then, someone turned on the TV.
My jaw dropped as the news displayed the crime scene outside Nicole's home.
Her rigid body was covered by a white sheet. I nearly threw up.
OJ and Nicole seemed like a dynamic, glamorous couple. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
"That's my kid," Mum whimpered in agonising pain.
My heart broke for her and Dad.
What came next was a media circus.
The phone rang constantly and there was a hum as helicopters hovered overhead.
News crews camped at the gates to our house, so we couldn't step outside without being hounded by hungry reporters.
"Don't say anything to anyone," my older sister Denise warned me.
She'd quickly become the family's spokesperson.
Even if I could speak, I wouldn't know what to say.
We learned about Nicole's death from the news, just like the rest of the nation did.
We heard that Nicole was found lying in a pool of her own blood outside her house at around midnight.
Her friend Ron Goldman, 25, was dead, too. They'd both been stabbed to death.
That night, detectives went to OJ's estate to tell him she'd died, but he'd already flown to Chicago not long before.
They made their way into his house anyway, where they found a bloodied glove similar to one at the crime scene.
A sock with traces of blood was on the carpet of his bedroom.
Soon, OJ became a 'person of interest' in the investigation.
When he returned home, he went in for questioning and was released later that day.
Many of his fans were outraged he was being questioned.
Ron Goldman. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
It's just procedure, I reasoned, sure OJ couldn't do something like this.
Although he and Nicole had divorced, he was still family, intrinsically linked to us through their children, Sydney and Justin.
Four days later, hundreds gathered for Nicole's funeral, including OJ and the kids.
We wore sunglasses to shield us from the prying eyes of paparazzi clustered outside the church gates.
The next morning, a warrant had been issued for OJ's arrest, but authorities couldn't find him.
His close friend Robert Kardashian read a letter to the public on OJ's behalf.
"I had nothing to do with Nicole's murder... Don't feel sorry for me. I've had a great life," he read.
News anchors speculated that it was a suicide note and I felt overwhelmingly uneasy.
Less than an hour later, a helicopter crew spotted OJ in the back of a Ford Bronco, hurtling down the freeway.
His friend, Al Cowlings, was driving.
Over 20 police cars followed in hot pursuit, like something out of a movie.
What's more, OJ was holding a gun to his head!
We watched the live telecast in disbelief, along with 95 million other viewers across the world.
My beautiful sister Nicole. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
When the phone rang, Dad tore himself away from the television.
"What the hell are you doing?" he suddenly yelled down the line to a distressed OJ. "You have kids!"
It was surreal seeing the drama unfolding live on TV while Dad was on the phone to him.
"Juice, don't do this," OJ's friends urged him, via the TV networks.
Thousands of people lined the highway with messages of support, desperate to catch a glimpse as the car chase went by.
Finally, after two nail biting hours, OJ got out of the car at his house and called his mum.I sighed with relief that he was still alive.
Shortly after, OJ was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
I didn't believe it, but running from the cops didn't help his case.
Sydney, eight, and Justin, five, came to live with us.
We did our best to keep their lives as normal as possible and I prayed they wouldn't ask me any questions about their parents.
I had no idea what was going on, and they knew even less. We kept the TV off so they wouldn't hear the endless speculation.
As days turned to weeks, the media show didn't let up. I felt trapped.
Since Nicole was white, and OJ was black, the case caused a racial divide around the country.
People took to the streets, rallying over OJ's innocence or guilt.
Desperate to move on, I buried my grief and returned to my job at an engineering company.
OJ hired an expensive team of lawyers – among them was Robert Kardashian, who I'd known since I was 11.
His wife, Kris, was Nicole's best friend.
I felt nervous walking into the courtroom for the plea hearing. Hundreds of people had crammed in.
OJ giving evidence in court. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
OJ sat behind the dock.
"Orenthal James Simpson, how do you plead?" the judge asked.
"Absolutely, one hundred per cent, not guilty," he replied.
I rolled my eyes; OJ always had to make his own mark on things, even a plea.
Still, I was certain he couldn't have done it.
It was decided he'd be brought to trial.
One night, OJ called me from jail.
"You know I would've taken a bullet for your sister," he blurted. "What did she ever do for me?"
My mind flashed with rage.
"Are you kidding? She created a home and gave you two kids," I argued.
I knew he was hurting, too, but how dare he?
My sympathy quickly dwindled after that and I wanted nothing to do with him.
When the trial began six months later, I only went occasionally, desperate to stay out of the limelight.
But it was impossible to avoid the case. It was all anyone ever talked about.
I was stunned when we heard that OJ had been abusing Nicole since early on in their relationship.
If only we'd known, maybe we could have saved her?
One day in the courtroom, the prosecution discussed DNA examination, a relatively new science at the time.
Blood that matched Nicole's was discovered on a pair of OJ's socks found in his bedroom.
The DNA in the blood matched just one in 9.7 billion people – more than the world's population. It had to be hers.
I clutched the court bench to steady myself as it dawned on me – OJ really did do this.
He killed my sister and was trying to get away with it.
After that, nothing else mattered. When the verdict was read out – "not guilty" – I was certain it was wrong.
I was sure that OJ couldn't have done this. (Image: Getty Images)
Standing for the jury's verdict, my mind reeled.
"Not guilty," the head juror announced, clearing OJ Simpson of murdering my sister Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman. Half the room cheered, the other was in disbelief.
Despite hard DNA evidence placing OJ at the crime scene, the jury didn't believe, beyond reasonable doubt, that he did it.
My family and I returned home in stunned silence.
It had been nearly two years since Nicole was brutally stabbed to death.
There were no other suspects or leads.
Would my sister ever get justice?
Mum and Dad channelled their grief into setting up a charity in Nicole's name, which helps women in domestic violence relationships.
OJ was released and fought for custody of Nicole and his kids, Sydney, 10, and Justin, seven, who'd been living with us.
We'd tried desperately to give them a sense of normalcy, and protect them from the media circus that surrounded their mum's death and their dad's murder trial.
We remained as civil with OJ as possible for their sake, but it was hard.
We agreed OJ could have the kids on weekends.
Few words were exchanged when we dropped them off, it was purely transactional.
Two years later, OJ and the kids moved to Florida.
Then, the family of Ron Goldman, the other victim the night of Nicole's death, brought a civil case against OJ.
OJ was arrested after leading police on an epic car chase. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
It was too painful for me to attend the hearings but Mum, Dad and my eldest sister Denise went.
I'll never forget when they called to tell me OJ had been found liable for Nicole and Ron's wrongful death.
He was ordered to pay more than US$33 million in damages – a pittance compared to the loss of two innocent lives.
Still, I was pleased the justice system acknowledged that he was involved, but he'd never be punished under criminal law.
Over the years, I tried to move on from Nicole's murder, refusing to let it define me.
I studied psychology, and even got engaged to a wonderful man.
We set the wedding date for the following September.
One night, I was stunned when my fiance asked me to sign a prenuptial agreement.
I refused, certain our love would last forever.
"That's fine," he nodded with understanding.
But four days before the big day, the venue called me to confirm the cancellation of the wedding.
What?! Had my fiancé called it off without even telling me?
The hurt ripped through me like a thunderbolt.
In a daze, I ran upstairs to tell Mum.
"He's cancelled the wedding," I wailed.
Suddenly the world closed in and my vision became tunnelled.
My lips turned blue and I started hyperventilating.
Mum helped me to regain focus but my heart was shattered.
Afterwards, I spiralled, drinking too much and popping prescription pills.
The grief and anger I'd suppressed since Nicole's death was finally catching up with me.
Me with Sydney and Justin's dog, Kato. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
One lunchtime, I dragged myself out of bed in a zombie-like state and shuffled to the kitchen, popping the cork off a warm bottle of Merlot and swigging from it.
I took it back to my room and used it to wash down pills, ignoring the 'do not consume with alcohol' warning on the bottle.
Later, I stumbled into the lounge room and found my two sisters, and Mum and Dad sitting with a family friend.
Their giggles and lighthearted conversation seemed insulting.
"It's all your fault," I roared to Dad.
The room fell silent.
"What's wrong, Tanya?" he asked, puzzled.
I screamed it again, without knowing exactly what I meant.
"And you!" I pointed at Mum.
They were baffled, but somehow I blamed them all for my despair.
Then I screamed at Denise too.
When she'd become our designated family spokesperson after Nicole's murder, I wasn't bothered.
Why was I suddenly upset that she'd told me not talk about the case now?
Rationally, I knew they'd just wanted to protect me, the baby of the family. But my silence had been suffocating me for years.
"You're nothing but a selfish b----," I roared at Denise.
"Learn some coping skills, Tanya," Denise retorted.
I slammed my fists on the table and stormed back to my room.
OJ was back in court in 2008 on different charges. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Fingers shaking, I yanked the cap off the pill bottle and poured out a handful.
I envisaged Nicole's beautiful smile, then it was replaced by her blood at the crime scene, the funeral, and the choppers hovering above.
What was the point of living? It was all too much.
I grabbed the leftover Merlot, ready to wash down the pills.
"What are you doing?"
My sister Dominique, had dashed into the room.
"Get me out of here," I cried desperately.
In that moment, I hated everyone.
I just wanted was to die.
Next day, I admitted myself into a psychiatric unit and was put on lockdown for ten days before becoming an outpatient.
A team of psychiatrists and counsellors helped me through my grief.
I was finally breaking free.
After three months, I was finally becoming myself again for the first time in years.
The therapy sessions inspired me to resume my psychology studies so that I could help others overcome trauma.
Over time, OJ became nothing but vapour to me.
When he released his book, If I Did It, in which he puts forward hypothetical descriptions of the murders of Nicole and Ron, I was furious, but refused to rise to his vicious ploys.
I'll never forget what OJ did to my family, but I've chosen to forgive him so that I can move on. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Karma came the following year when he was arrested and jailed for armed robbery and kidnapping.
He'd tried to steal sports memorabilia from a Las Vegas casino.
It wasn't the crime I'd hoped he do time for, but at least he was where he belonged.
When he was released nine years later, we barely spoke to him again.
We still see Sydney and Justin when they visit, but we don't talk about OJ.
I'll never forget what OJ did to my family, but I've chosen to forgive him so that I can move on.
Now, I'm a motivational speaker and campaigner, focusing on mental health and domestic violence.
I share my story to keep Nicole's legacy alive and encourage others to seek help.
She shouldn't be remembered as a victim, but instead as a beautiful sister, mother and friend.
I miss her every day and now I'll honour her with my work.

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