O.J. Simpson had just been found not guilty of the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her acquaintance, Ron Goldman, when a 20-year-old tourist from Minnesota stopped to see his home in Brentwood, Calif.
Christie Prody got more than she bargained for that day. She met the former star NFL running back turned actor, and has been with him ever since.
She’s the tall blonde whom many believe looks a lot like Nicole Brown Simpson, NBC’s Kerry Sanders reported for TODAY on Thursday.
Although she now shies away from the cameras and microphones that follow Simpson everywhere, she remains loyal to him. She even showed up in Las Vegas this week to attend a court hearing related to the new kidnapping and conspiracy charges Simpson faces in connection with a confrontation with sports memorabilia dealers in a casino hotel room.
But who is Prody?
“I consider her shy, soft-spoken and kind,” her friend, Linda Townsend, who recently spent time with Prody in Miami, said.
Her uncle, Steve Bellmore, told NBC she was a shy girl from St. Anthony, a small town in Minnesota, who went to the University of Minnesota but dropped out before her senior year and became a cocktail waitress.
“She's probably got a bad rap because of the situation and the relationship she's in,” he told NBC.
She’s 32 now — Simpson is 60 — and although there have been ups and downs, police reports and a breakup, she’s still with Simpson. When he was arrested in Las Vegas on multiple counts including armed robbery and kidnapping in connection with a memorabilia deal gone bad, she visited him in jail and told people she was O.J.’s girlfriend.
For the past seven years, Sanders reported, she’s been living with him in a $1.1-million four-bedroom home with an outdoor basketball court and a big in-ground pool in the Kendall section of Miami. Though they’ve never been engaged, they live together as if they were married.
She cooks, does the housework, runs the home and has cared for Simpson’s two children by Nicole, Sydney, 21, and Justin, 19.
Early on in their relationship, Prody seemed to feed off the excitement and attention that came with being Simpson’s girlfriend. But the relationship has been rocky at times.
Four years after they became a couple, she split up with him and sold a story about their life together to “The National Enquirer.” In it, she said that Simpson confessed to her that he did murder Goldman and his ex-wife.
Despite that, they were soon together again, a trail of police reports documenting some of the bumps in the road. Among them is a 1999 call Simpson made to 911 in which he said, “She's been doing drugs for two days ... I'm trying to get her to leave her house to go into rehab right now.”
A year later, police responded to a call about a disturbance at a Miami hotel involving the couple. Simpson said that Prody slapped and kicked him, but he did not press charges. A year later, she accused him of breaking into her home, but she didn’t press charges. And in 2001, a neighbor who had gone to the Simpson residence to help Prody jump-start her car called police to say she attacked him. No charges were filed in that case, either.
Her friends and family say that’s all in the past, and Prody now is a homebody.
As to why anyone would want to get involved with a notorious person like Simpson, Dr. Drew Pinsky, a relationship expert and host of the “Loveline” radio show, told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira that it usually goes back to childhood and mirrors a problematic relationship with a parent.
“The reality is these things get wired into us early,” he said. The more difficult the relationship becomes, the more attached the person becomes, he added.
Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler and hostage negotiator, said women can be attracted to “bad boys” because such people are exciting.
“They’re high-energy, they’re self-confident, they demand respect and they get it,” he said of such men. “When she first started dating him at 20 years old, this was exciting, this was Superman.”
As the years have gone by and Simpson has aged, the relationship has changed, Van Zandt told Vieira. “This is someone now who is almost like a caretaker of O.J.,” he observed.
Whatever people think of Simpson, they shouldn’t judge Prody harshly, said Bellmore, her uncle.
“Christie's a good kid,” he said. “I mean, what does she have to gain from this? She doesn't look for the fame, she isn't in the spotlight and obviously there isn't a lot of money there, I would assume.
“She's not married to the guy, so I mean what is the motive?” Bellmore said. “You tell me.”