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Out of the Morgue
Outcome of trial of the century in 1995
otm vlc Simpson verdict
OJ Simpson and his legal team were surprised and heartened to learn the verdict, not guilty, after the eight-month trial. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be.

On Tuesday, Oct. 1995, America woke with the anticipation of a verdict in the trial of  OJ Simpson, a former National Football League star, who was charged with the murder of his wife, Nicole Simpson, and her alleged lover, Ron Goldman.  After eight months of testimony which felt more like a made for television miniseries at times than a murder trial, the jurors delivered their final verdict to Judge Lance Ito -- not guilty.  
When asked after the verdict was read what caused them to draw that conclusion, one juror, Lionel Cryer, said while many felt OJ Simpson was likely guilty, they felt collection and presentation of evidence by the Los Angeles Police Department likely led to contamination, and therefore it could not be determined beyond a reasonable doubt.  
Later, in 1997, Simpson lost in civil wrongful death suits by the Simpson and Goldman families, where the burden of proof was less stringent, and was required to pay $33 million in damages.  That was $33 million he didn’t have.  In 2001, he tried to appeal the judgement, despite the fact that the attorney’s for the Brown family showed Simpson drew more than $20,0000 a month from an untouchable pension.  In 2007 he was arrested for the armed robbery of sports memorabilia in Las Vegas, shortly after the release of his book, “If I did it: Confessions of the Killer,” in which he outlined how he would have committed the murders.  This time, he was found guilty and sentenced to nine to 33 years in prison.  In 2013, his appeal was denied, and he still remains in jail today, in what one friend described as a four-by-six foot cell with a television.  He will be eligible for parole in 2017.
An editorial the following day by Tribune reporter Susan Thacker, “O.J. mini-series ends,” described the newsroom that day, “A few moments of tense silence gripped America Tuesday afternoon, as we stopped to watch the reading of the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial.”
She summed up the questions running through the minds of the people, albeit in a farcical manner, and quoted Associated Press writer Michael Fleeman,” The case wasn’t just about murder.  It was about fame and wealth, love and hate, fragile egos and misdirected power.  it was about the judicial system, the media, domestic violence, racism, sexism and crass opportunism.”  
In a final analysis by Washington Post writer Kent Babb, “In the years since, the lineage of so many cultural phenomena — the 24-hour news cycle, a never-ending stream of reality television shows and many Americans’ unquenchable thirst for celebrity gossip — can be traced to this nearly 16-month span.”

Church conversion arson
Sharing the page with the O.J. Simpson verdict was a dramatic photo of Great Bend firefighters battling a blaze, later determined to be suspicious, at a church building at the corner of Lakin and Odell.  The building was in the process of being converted into a home by Kip Thorson, Great Bend.  
“Fire spread to the attic and the snorkel truck was brought into action, GBFD Assistant Chief Vernon Hayes said.  Firefighters crawled from the snorkel basket onto the roof and chopped a hole in the roof to allow access to the fire in the attic.  
At first, the damage was estimated at around $10,000.  A few days later, that was revised to much more, and was investigated as an arson.  We were unable to determine the results of the investigation.
Editor Chuck Smith offered praise to the Great Bend Fire Department for their work on what could have “been a major conflagration which was speedily brought under control early this morning by the department.”  It would remain to be seen if the old building could be saved or not.  A quick trip by the corner is all it took to see the answer was ultimately not.  Today, a much newer home stands at the location where the church once stood.  
After consulting various historical documents, we determined that the church had been the original Trinity Lutheran Church, established in 1908.  In 1956, the congregation moved to a newly constructed Trinity Lutheran Church located at 24th and Adams Street.  Soon after, the First Church of Christ Scientist occupied the church building at Odell and Lakin, and remained there until sometime in the 1980s.  In a 1990 reverse directory, it was listed as vacant.  

Purdy trip to China
In August 1995, Great Bend Soroptimist member Lois Purdy was tapped by Joan Cromer, president-elect of Soroptimist International of the Americas to attend the Joint Conference on Women’s Issues in the People’s Republic of China.  This provided an opportunity for her to expand on her lifelong interest in China.  As an alumni of a Christian college, she had heard stories from missionaries all her life, she said.  It was an eye opening trip, as she encountered seas of people, buildings with small apartments several stories high, many of which could only be accessed by stairs.  She visited the Imperial Palace in Beijing and many other popular sites.  While the media was focused on controversies, her group attended conferences on domestic violence, education, entrepreneurial efforts and health initiatives for women and children.  From the conference, a document that guides the United Nations on how to deal with these issues was established, and continues to be referred to today.  
We tried to locate Lois, hoping we might be able to talk to her about her views on how women have done since her visit to China.  Sadly, thanks to the research efforts of Karen Neuforth at the Barton County Historical Society, it appears she has passed away.  She was born in Montana Sept. 15, 1918, making her nearly 77 years old when she took her trip.  She passed away May 26, 2013 in Orlando, Fla, at the age of 95.  What an interesting life she must have had.  
Just for Fun
For decades, readers flipped pages to find the advice column by Ann Landers.  A quick look back shows our problems are pretty much the same as they’ve always been.  One reader, this week, wrote in to complain about the lack of table manners kids of the day had.  Imagine what that person might have to say if they were confronted with children of the smart-phone era.  Yikes.
“Our 10-year-old son has two friends who are invited to stay for dinner often, and their table manners are applalling.  One boy eats everything  with his fingers.  He squashes his food, stacks it, rolls it around on his plate and stuffs handfuls in his mouth.  The other boy uses a fork but drowns everything in ketchup and talks with food in his mouth, a most unapetizing sight.  He gets food all over his face and never uses a napkin.  Last week, we decided to feed them at a separate table and serve only sandwiches and fruit cut into bite-size pieces.  I feel sorry for these boys once they venture out into the real world.  Are children ruder these days, or does it just seem that way?”
Ann’s answer would likely be underscored today, with the addition of phones at every dining table on which children focus their attention as they consume food in a distracted manner, and are quickly quieted by parents by the instant gratification of electronic gadgets with games.  
“Children aren’t ruder today, it’s that parents don’t take the time or have the patience to teach them good manners.  And of course, some parents don’t have such great manners themselves.”