Sydney Simpson, photographed earlier this week, and her brother, Justin, in 2014. (Photo: Splash News)
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story has renewed interest in the so-called “Trial of the Century” and the real-life cast of characters tied to the 1994 murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman are again back in the spotlight. While we’re not surprised Kato Kaelin live-tweeted the premiere — he never minded the spotlight — we can’t help but think of the littlest victims, Brown and Simpson’s children, who have tried to live their lives out of the public eye.
On Tuesday, the day ACS premiered, the couple’s daughter, Sydney, was photographed — a rare occurrence — while she walked her dog in her St. Petersburg, Florida, neighborhood. Now 30, she was wearing jeans and a purple cardigan and looked so different than the tiny dancer whose ballet recital sparked drama between her divorced parents on that fateful night.
It’s been longer since we’ve seen Justin, who broke our hearts carrying a single white flower at his mother’s funeral. He also lives in St. Petersburg, where he is a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker. The 27-year-old, who like his sister physically resembles both his parents, was photographed looking dapper in a gray suit at his grandfather Lou Brown’s funeral in 2014. He was 5 and his sister was 8 when their mother was bludgeoned while they slept in their Brentwood, California, condo. Their dad, of course, was found not guilty of the crime, but was later found liable in a civil suit.
Nicole’s sister Tanya spoke about Sydney and Justin in the People magazine cover story about the case last week. The article implied that they still face pain every day. However, “they are so well-grounded,” she said, adding, “I’m so proud of what and who they’ve become.”
The children with their parents at the premiere of Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult in 1994. (Photo: Getty Images)
In 2014, for the twentieth anniversary of the case, Tanya revealed a few more details about them in an interview with Radar Online. She said that they went to college and they’re both “professional,” adding, “They’re in relationships. They’re happy. They’re just like us. Quote unquote.”
While their father is now serving a 33-year sentence for stealing back some of his sports memorabilia at gunpoint, after the trial he shared custody of the children with the Brown family after a five-year custody battle. (Their grandmother, Juditha, had legal guardianship of the pair, but Simpson had physical custody.)
“I had to go and pick the kids up at the house where he lived,” Tanya told Radar. “It was hard for me, but I did it… I had to put on the face because this is their dad. They will always love their dad. I choose to respect that.”
An old interview featuring Kris and Caitlyn Jenner — from back in 1995 during the trial when they were married and Caitlyn was Bruce — recently resurfaced and in it the Keeping Up With the Kardashians momager talked about the kids. (Kris, of course, was best friends with Nicole while her ex, Robert Kardashian, was pals with O.J.)
“I don’t see them nearly as much as I used to, but I did have Sydney for a few days this summer,” she said. “They’re OK.” Kris noted that the children never asked her questions about their late mother — or their dad — but she wasn’t trying to hide anything if they did. “I don’t take down the pictures I have of Nicole,” she said. “They see their mother’s face and they see her presence. They know their mom is in heaven. They have a great love for their mommy.”
When Sydney and Justin were 14 and 12, they moved away from California — and the Browns — to live in Florida with their dad. They urged their grandmother, who was their guardian, to let them go. A family spokesperson told ABC News at the time, “The children said to their grandmother, ‘I want to be with my father.’”
In Tanya’s interview with Radar, she also said that she never spoke to the children about Nicole’s murder or O.J.’s alleged part in it, calling it the “pink elephant in the room that I hope never shows up.” And when she does spend time with them, she makes sure it’s a fun, positive experience.
“I’m the aunt that when they come to visit, it’s ‘Let’s go to a movie! Let’s go shopping! Let’s go to the beach!’ They’ve probably talked about it on their own,” she admitted. “But when they come to our house we have fun. We don’t need to rehash everything.”
So Kato Kaelin can be left to do the live-tweeting. Sydney and Justin are off living their lives — on their own terms and mostly out of the spotlight, except when things like The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story get people talking about their family again.