Nicole Brown Simpson's sisters remember her 'adventurous' spirit before she met O.J. Simpson

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What do you remember about “the trial of the century” when athlete-turned-actor O.J. Simpson stood accused of a double murder committed nearly 30 years ago, on June 12, 1994, and was acquitted?

Do you envision Johnnie Cochran, defense attorney for the Heisman trophy-winning running back and first-round NFL draft pick, telling a jury that if a glove found at the scene of the fatal stabbings “doesn’t fit, you must acquit”? Do you return to Simpson’s blood being found on the rear gate of his ex-wife’s Brentwood, California, townhouse, and the victims’ blood discovered in Simpson's infamous white Bronco? Do you recall gasping at the verdict watched live by an estimated 150 million people, or do you think of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, whose lives were savagely and abruptly ended that summer night?

Nicole’s younger sister, Dominique Brown, remembers the 1995 proceedings becoming a spectacle.

“The course of the trial became such a circus and such a fiasco that (the verdict) wasn't a surprise,” she says. Her oldest sister Denise Brown agrees. “It wasn't a surprise. You're right.” Tanya Brown, the youngest of Juditha and Louis Brown’s children, also joins her sisters for an interview about Lifetime’s upcoming docuseries “The Life & Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” (Saturday and Sunday at 8 EDT/PDT). The four-hour docuseries gives viewers a better understanding of Nicole, through home movies, photographs, and recollections from her sisters and friends, including Kris Jenner, Faye Resnick and Brian "Kato" Kaelin. Melissa Moore (“The Prison Confessions of Gypsy Rose Blanchard”) and Jesse Daniels (“Surviving R. Kelly”) are executive producers.

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Producers offered a “level of trust and this level of confidence that they could portray Nicole and humanize her, versus being just a victim or … someone that didn't have a voice, wasn't represented during the trial,” Dominique says.

During the proceedings, Simpson's defense sought to disparage Nicole.

Nicole and her friends "would go out two, three, four nights a week and stay out until 5:00 in the morning,” Cochran told the jury, as seen in footage from the docuseries. “They’d go out dancing. They’d do whatever they would do. We know Faye Resnick was using drugs in this period of time.”

Denise says hearing the defense’s portrayal of her sister, who died at 35, felt “horrible, absolutely horrible.”

“I didn't understand who the person was that they were talking about because it certainly wasn't Nicole. And that's why I'm so glad that we are doing this documentary so that people actually get to know who Nicole is.”

“There was so much life in this girl,” Denise remembers. “For the first 18 years of her life, she was adventurous. She was like, ‘Come on, let's have a party! Come on, let's go here! Come on, let's get all the kids together! Let's have fun!'”

The first sign of trouble the family witnessed

Nicole met Simpson at age 18 in 1977 while working at The Daisy restaurant in Beverly Hills. The athlete, 12 years older, was still married to his first wife, Marguerite Whitley, with whom he had three children over 12 years.

When Nicole and Simpson first began dating, she was “definitely in love,” Dominique recalls. “It's all she talked about, and she had a different glow about her.”

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O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson
O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson

But eight months into the relationship, Denise witnessed the first signs of trouble. Nicole invited her family to see Simpson play an NFL game, and he became upset that Nicole greeted a friend of theirs with a kiss on the cheek.

“I thought, my God, we're European. We kiss on the cheek. We kiss everybody all the time,” Denise says. “When we got back to the house, all hell broke loose, and she was like, ‘I hate him! I hate him! I hate him!’"

Shortly afterward, it seemed all was forgiven, Denise says, recalling Nicole said “Everything's OK. I embarrassed him.’”

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Simpson and Nicole married in 1985 and had their daughter Sydney that year and son Justin in 1988. But the troubles between them only continued. Nicole documented Simpson’s abuse in pictures she kept in a safety deposit box and her diary. "I wanted to be a wonderful wife…but you made me feel so ugly,” Nicole wrote. “You beat the holy hell out of me. … I hated you so much."

On New Year’s Day in 1989, police visited the Simpson house, reportedly on their ninth trip to the residence for a domestic disturbance. A report from the Los Angeles Police Department obtained by the Los Angeles Times said that when police arrived at their North Rockingham Avenue house, Nicole jumped out of the bushes with bruises and scratches on her body, and told officers, “He’s going to kill me.”

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She filed for divorce in 1992 after seven years of marriage, and a weight lifted, Dominique says. “It was a freedom. It was a carefree-ness. It was something that I hadn't seen in her since she had been on the beach as a teenager."

But Simpson couldn’t accept that Nicole wanted to move on and began stalking her, Nicole told her therapist. “She used to say, ‘O.J.'s trying to scare me again so that I go back to him,’" Dominique remembers.

“The same thing happened the last night we were together,” Denise says of the celebratory dinner that followed Sydney’s dance recital, just hours before the killings. The family dined at Mezzaluna, where Goldman waited tables.

“We were having dinner, all of us, and then all of a sudden," Denise says, and Nicole points out O.J. "'There he goes.’ And he was just driving by.”

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Nicole Brown Simpson's sisters Tanya Brown, far left, Dominique Brown and Denise Brown participated in a Lifetime docuseries about their sister who was murdered in 1994.
Nicole Brown Simpson's sisters Tanya Brown, far left, Dominique Brown and Denise Brown participated in a Lifetime docuseries about their sister who was murdered in 1994.

Just a few hours later, Nicole’s neighbors discovered her and Goldman’s bodies outside her home.

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Tanya and Denise believe Simpson committed the murders. Dominique politely refuses to offer her opinion to protect her relationship with Justin and Sydney and hesitated to participate in the docuseries.

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Simpson died in April at 76 from prostate cancer, but that "does not bring Nicole back,” Denise says. “Him passing away does not take the pain away from us of losing our sister.”

The docuseries, at least, lets the sisters share a true portrayal of their vivacious, spirited Nicole.

“I'm really proud of being part of it,” Tanya says, before praising her late sister for acting as a warning to others experiencing domestic abuse. “I still get emails or messages from people saying, ‘If it wasn't for your sister, I'd be dead.’ Nicole has made a difference.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nicole Brown Simpson sisters on O.J., Lifetime documentary series