Los Angeles - Good
looks, fame and fortune: O.J. Simpson appeared to have it made after
rewriting the record books as an American football star.
But it all came crashing down in 1994 when Simpson, who had parlayed
his sports fame into a career as an actor and advertising pitchman, was
charged with the murder of his ex-wife and a male companion.
Simpson was famously acquitted of those charges in 1995, but was sent to prison years later for a bungled armed robbery.
After serving nearly nine years behind bars, a parole board in the western state of Nevada approved his release on Thursday.
Simpson could walk free as early as October 1.
Now 70, the disgraced former National Football League running back
will likely forever be remembered in connection with the murder of his
ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a friend of hers, Ron Goldman.
His sensational racially charged 1995 double murder trial transfixed America and was dubbed "The Trial of the Century."
Simpson's spectacular fall from grace came after a meteoric rise to
stardom that saw him go from an impoverished childhood to the football
field and then to Hollywood.
Born Orenthal James
Simpson on July 9, 1947 in San Francisco, he was left in his mother's
care at age five when his father left, growing up poor and suffering
from rickets, a calcium and vitamin deficiency that warped his legs.
Unable to afford an operation, his mother created crude braces by
putting the wrong shoe on each foot and his legs grew stronger, so
strong that eventually he was able to dash 100 yards in 9.9 seconds.
Simpson won the prestigious Heisman Trophy - for the best player in
American collegiate football - at the University of Southern California
in 1968 and was picked number one overall in the NFL draft the next
year by the Buffalo Bills.
In 1973, he won the NFL's Most Valuable Player award after becoming
the first rusher to gain more than 2 000 yards in a single season.
Simpson retired from football in 1979 and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
He had a short-lived career as sports broadcaster before setting his sights on Hollywood.
Simpson has said he was lucky that he went into the movies at a time when Americans were looking for blacks on the screen.
He appeared in several successful films including "The Towering
Inferno," "The Naked Gun" series and "Capricorn One" but never really
achieved A-list stardom.
He did, however, strike it big with corporate America and he
proceeded to cash in with advertisements for Royal Crown Cola, Schick,
Foster Grant, TreeSweet orange juice and Wilson Sporting Goods.
He became best known, however, for iconic Hertz rental car ads in
which "The Juice" - his football nickname - sprinted through a crowded
airport in a three-piece suit.
In 1977, he met Nicole Brown, then an 18-year-old waitress in a disco on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
Simpson was married at the time to his first wife, Marguerite. The couple divorced and he married Nicole in 1985.
Simpson and Nicole had two children and divorced in 1992 after a
tempestuous marriage that included allegations of domestic violence.
On June 13, 1994, Simpson's ex-wife and Goldman were found murdered outside her home in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood.
Brown Simpson had been stabbed in the throat so savagely she had almost been decapitated.
Simpson immediately became the prime suspect.
Five days after the murders, he led police on a wild car chase on the
Los Angeles freeways that was broadcast live and watched by millions.
He eventually surrendered and went on trial in January 1995.
His nine-month trial - which has been the subject of several
television shows, books and documentaries - riveted the nation and
much of the world.
It featured Simpson at one point struggling to try on a pair of gloves found at the crime scene which apparently didn't fit.
The trial ended with a not-guilty verdict that split the country, largely along racial lines.
But the law caught up with Simpson again.
He was arrested in Las Vegas in 2007 and charged with armed robbery,
assault and kidnapping after a confrontation with two sports memorabilia
Simpson claimed he was just trying to get back mementos from his sports career which the dealers had allegedly taken from him.
This time, the jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to serve between nine and 33 years behind bars.
Here are the key dates in Simpson's long tale of legal woes:
June 13: Police find the bloodied bodies of
Simpson's ex-wife and Goldman outside her home in the Los Angeles suburb
of Brentwood. They had been stabbed to death. Simpson returns from
Chicago, where he had flown the previous night.
June 16: Simpson attends his ex-wife's funeral, accompanying the couple's two children, Sydney and Justin.
June 17: Simpson is charged with two counts of homicide. Before
surrendering, the former football star leads police on a surreal chase
on LA's freeways that was broadcast live around the world.
January 23: Simpson goes on trial.
June 15: Simpson, in court, tries on an infamous bloody glove found
at Brown Simpson's house. "They're too small," he tells the jury.
October 3: Simpson is found not guilty on all charges, in a verdict that shocks many and divides the country along racial lines.
February 4: A jury finds Simpson responsible
for the two murders and orders him to pay $33.5 million to the families
of the victims.
September 13: Simpson and a group of men are
accused of the armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las
October 3: Thirteen years to the day after
his acquittal on murder charges, Simpson is found guilty for his role in
the Las Vegas robbery and jailed for nine to 33 years.
July 31: Simpson is granted partial parole on
some of the charges linked to the robbery case. He is ordered to serve
at least four more years behind bars for using a weapon during the 2007
July 20: Simpson is granted parole and is set to be freed as early as October 1 from the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada.