Prior to the O.J. Simpson trial Italian shoe manufacturer Bruno Magli was a brand primarily known by one percenters, but the trial of the century helped make Bruno Magli a household name. A January 1997 CNN.com article noted in 1996 Bruno Magli’s “sales figures were up 30 percent, not bad for shoes that start at $250 and go up to nearly $1,000.”
“It’s Gotta Be The Shoes” is the fall season finale episode of O.J. Simpson: Fact or Fiction?, an episodic series of mini-documentaries which focuses on one element of the O.J. Simpson saga per episode. The Bruno Magli shoes has been the most requested topic that you’ve asked for an episode of O.J. Simpson: Fact or Fiction? to cover. The tenth episode of this series is a 51-minute blockbuster episode which is full of surprises and never before revealed facts.
[Note: This article does not touch on half of the things that the episode covers. We are very proud of this fall season finale episode and rather than reveal all of the spoilers in this article, you’ll have to watch the 51-minute episode. This article is simply to provide background information and to share source materials that are referenced throughout the episode.]
The Bloody Shoeprints
In the early hours of June 13, 1994, prior to the removal of the bodies and evidence, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) photographer Rolf Rokahr was assigned to photograph the Bundy crime scene. An experienced crime scene photographer, Mr. Rokahr knew which images needed to be captured for use in the investigation. Mr. Rokahr captured 30 images of partial bloody shoeprints that were found throughout the crime scene. These 30 images would prove to play an important role in both Mr. Simpson’s criminal and civil trials.
As the case against Mr. Simpson was entirely circumstantial – meaning that there were no eyewitnesses – it would be critically important for LAPD and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to attempt to connect Mr. Simpson to as much crime scene evidence as possible.
Multiple searches of Mr. Simpson’s home and vehicles failed to locate a murder weapon, clothing or shoes that could place him at the scene of the murders. None of the 40 pairs of shoes that were found at Mr. Simpson’s home resembled those that made the crime scene shoeprints. [Note: The only footwear at Mr. Simpson’s home that was manufactured by Bruno Magli was a pair of slippers.]
Having failed to identify any footwear owned by Mr. Simpson that resembled the bloody shoeprints, LAPD investigators turned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for assistance in identifying the manufacturer of the footwear that made the bloody shoeprints.
FBI Special Agent William Bodziak
In the summer of 1994 FBI Special Agent William Bodziak received 30 photographs of partial shoeprints found at the Bundy crime scene.
For background, in 1994 William J. Bodziak was a FBI Special Agent who specialized in Documents, Footwear and Tire Tread Evidence. Mr. Bodziak joined the Bureau in January 1970. In 1973 he was transferred to the FBI laboratory where he began his training in footwear and tire tread evidence. In 1976 he attained his Master’s Degree, Forensic Science, George Washington University.
Special Agent Bodziak literally wrote the book on footwear and tire tread evidence. In 1990 CRC Press published Mr. Bodziak’s book Footwear Impression Evidence: Detection, Recovery and Examination (Practical Aspects of Criminal and Forensic Investigations).
[Note: In September 1999 CRC Press the second edition of Footwear Impression Evidence: Detection, Recovery and Examination, (Practical Aspects of Criminal and Forensic Investigations) 2nd Edition. The second edition includes a chapter focused on Special Agent Bodziak’s role in the O.J. Simpson trials. I would highly recommend reading this book.]
In Footwear Impression Evidence: Detection, Recovery and Examination, (Practical Aspects of Criminal and Forensic Investigations) 2nd Edition details the steps he took to identify the manufacturer, model and size of the shoes that made the partial bloody shoeprints depicted in the crime scene photographs.
Following his initial review of the 30 photographs, Mr. Bodziak writes that he quickly realized that the photographs depicted “casual, but expensive shoes.” [Page 432]
He explains that based on the characteristics of the shoes that were apparent in the photographs he was able to identify “characteristics, evident in the shoe prints, were commonly found on expensive Italian shoes.” [Page 433]
Bodziak used this information to establish the criteria/parameters for his search of the FBI footwear database.
The shoeprints depicted in the crime scene photographs were not found in the FBI footwear database. Bodziak then conducted a hand search of other files and magazines to attempt to determine the source of the shoeprints. This search was also unsuccessful.
Next, Bodziak testified he “identified approximately 75 to 80 manufacturers and importers of high end Italian shoes and some South American shoes or Brazilian shoes.” He prepared and sent a fax to each of the 80 companies – each fax included a letter, two photographs of partial shoeprints and a composite sketch of the shoe sole he was attempting to identify.
Additionally, Special Agent Bodziak “sent an inquiry to eight international laboratories which I knew had computerized reference collections such as the FBI and I sent them pictures of the sole of the shoe as well as the pictures from the crime scene, a couple pictures from the crime scene at Bundy, and asked them the same question, could they identify the brand name or manufacturer of this shoe.”
“Seven of them responded and said they did not have this shoe in their collection. The eighth one, the national police agency in Tokyo, Japan, responded and advised that they had a shoe that they had obtained from a merchant of this design that was distributed in Europe and was made in Italy.” LORD was “the name on the shoe that the national police agency in Japan had identified as part of their reference collection from Europe.”
Of the 75 to 80 manufacturers he contacted, only one company came through with a lead. Mr. Bodziak testified that: “On August 17th I received a reply from a Mr. Peter Grueterich of the Bruno Magli Uma Shoe Store in New Jersey.” “He sent me two shoes that were left over from a Bruno Magli distribution of his in 1991 and 1992. These were both right shoes. One was a size 9 and a half and one was a size 12.”
The shoes that Mr. Grueterich sent Special Agent Bodziak were a Bruno Magli Lorenzo shoe and a Bruno Magli Lyon shoe. The Lorenzo model is a high top and the Lyon is a low top. Both models retail for $160 and were available in 6 colors: White, Black, Brown, Blue, Brandy and Olive. These models were manufactured and sold in 1991 and early 1992.
Special Agent Bodziak was able to “match” the Bruno Magli Lorenzo model shoes to the Bundy crime scene photographs.
Did Assumptions Unnecessarily Exclude Potential Donors of the Bundy Shoeprints?
With this knowledge, one wonders if Special Agent Bodziak’s assumptions that the photographs depicted expensive Italian shoes caused him to unnecessarily limit his search parameters, and, by doing so, exclude countless possibilities.
For example, if one were to only focus on Italian and Brazilian shoe manufacturers, any shoe manufacturer in America that sells knock-off’s or copies of expensive Italian shoes at a cheaper price point would be needlessly excluded from the identification process.
The absence of single, complete shoeprint crime scene photograph and the fact that a waffle tread pattern is not uncommon in soles raises questions about the identification.
Since the publication of the second edition of Bodziak’s book in 1999, there is one passage that people have cleverly cherry picked and engaged in “distortion by omission” in order to convince the public that the U2287 SILGA soles were very common and were used in shoes made by over 20 companies.
It is important to understand the actual facts and context which is omitted by those who propagate their misinformation:
On pages 445-446 Bodziak does indeed write that that there were “approximately 20 shoe companies who had made shoes with those soles” and “With one exception, all of the LORD soles were sold to other Italian shoe manufacturers who used the soles to make and sell shoes exclusively in Italy. The exception was one company in Ireland; however, the also advised that they did not export any shoes with that Silga sole to the US.”
Bruno Magli manufactured the Lorenzo and Lyon models with the U2887 SILGA Soles in sizes 12 and 13 almost exclusively to be sold in the United States (as sizes 12 and 13 (USA) were very uncommon in Europe in the 1990’s).
How uncommon were they in Europe during the 1990’s? The lasts which Bruno Magli used to build size 46 had a “12” printed on it (Next to the printed American size 12, and written in handwriting with a red marking pen, was the European size equivalent “46”) whereas the lasts for sizes 45 and below had the European sizes printed on the lasts.
Keep in mind thatthese shoes were sold in 1991 and early 1992 which was years before the Internet facilitated our current global digital marketplace.
Today, any of us can use our phones to order shoes from an obscure manufacturer anywhere on the planet as long as that manufacturer has a website or sells their shoes on sites like Amazon.
The creation of the global, digital marketplace and on-demand manufacturing has caused many companies to adapt their offerings to the global customer and not completely focus their offerings on a local or regional customer base.
Of the circa 20 shoe companies who used the U2887 SILGA Soles in their shoes, with one exception those companies sold their shoes exclusively in Italy. The exception is one Irish shoe manufacturer that used the U2887 SILGA Soles and sold shoes exclusively in Ireland.
I recently asked Special Agent Bodziak if any of the 20 companies that used the U2887 SILGA soles offered those shoes in sizes 12 or 13 (USA)/46 or 47 (Europe). Mr. Bodziak was kind enough to review his records and informed me that only Bruno Magli ordered the U2887 SILGA Soles in sizes 12 or 13 (USA)/46 or 47 (Europe); none of the 20 other companies that used the soles had ever ordered them in those sizes.
The US representative for SILGA confirmed that no other shoes were ever sold in the U.S. with the U2887 soles, except the Bruno Magli Lyon and Lorenzo styles.
As you can see, while it is a fact that 20 companies besides Bruno Magli manufactured shoes using the U2887 SILGA Soles, however when this is conveyed by those individuals who propagate outrageous conspiracy theories the actual facts and context that we have shared in this article is omitted. Anyone who has engaged or continues to engage in acts of “distortion by omission” in their desperate attempt to convince the public (in the most misleading manner possible) that the U2287 SILGA soles were very common and were used in shoes made by over 20 companies is simply not credible.
Did O.J. or Nicole Simpson Purchase Bruno Magli Lorenzo Shoes?
Special Agent Bodziak testified that there were 40 stores in the United States that sold the Bruno Magli Lorenzo shoes in 1991 and early 1992.
The FBI conducted a thorough investigation at all 40 stores in hopes of connecting Mr. or Mrs. Simpson to the purchase of size 12 Bruno Magli Lorenzo shoes. The FBI’s investigation failed to connect Mr. or Mrs. Simpson to the shoes.
Mr. Simpson regularly purchased shoes at one of the stores that carried the Bruno Magli Lorenzo shoes: Bloomingdale’s on 59th Street in New York City. Sam Poser was Bloomingdale’s assistant buyer of men’s shoes and frequently helped Mr. Simpson with his shoe needs.
Testifying for the prosecution on June 20, 1995, Mr. Poser said that in the winter of 1991 Mr. Simpson “came in, he was about to do a broadcast for a Bills game in buffalo and he needed a boot to wear for the Bills game and I remember selling that–assisting in the sale, selling it to him.”
Under cross-examination by Mr. Simpson’s attorney F. Lee Bailey, Mr. Poser stated that he told an LAPD investigator that “I did not recall selling the Lorenzo boot to Mr. Simpson. I also said that for the use in Buffalo, I probably would not have sold Mr. Simpson the Lorenzo boot for the climatic conditions that were there.”
Speaking of the Bruno Magli Lorenzo model shoes, Mr. Bailey asked “It would not do well in slush, snow and mud, would it?” Mr. Poser replied “Correct.”
There is an important reason that the Bruno Magli Lorenzo model would not do well in slush, snow, mud or rain: The shoes were suede. As everyone knows, suede is ruined by rain, snow, slush or mud.
Furthermore, law enforcement’s review of Bloomingdale’s receipts and other financial records were not able to connect Mr. or Mrs. Simpson to a purchase of the Bruno Magli Lorenzo shoes.
Additionally, a forensic examination of the Simpson’s credit card and bank records failed to identify a purchase that could be the Bruno Magli Lorenzo shoes.
Note: In a 2016 interview with Footwear News, Sam Poser changed his story. Either he committed perjury in 1995 or he’s lying in 2016 – you be the judge.
The Photographs: The Buffalo Trio
The Buffalo Trio are the three Buffalo New York-based photographers who are responsible for the photographs of Mr. Simpson allegedly taken on September 26, 1993 prior to the Buffalo Bills – Miami Dolphins game.
The gentleman at the center of the trio is Rob McElroy. Rob McElroy did not take any photos of Mr. Simpson on September 26, 1993; rather he was a freelance photographer who served as the agent for the photographers who took photographs of Mr. Simpson that day: Harry Scull Jr and EJ Flammer.
Despite the fact that he had never served as anyone’s agent, in April 1996 Harry Scull Junior agreed to allow Rob McElroy to be his agent. Shortly after becoming Scull’s agent, Rob McElroy sold Scull’s photo of Mr. Simpson allegedly wearing the so-called murder shoes to the National Enquirer for almost $20,000. However unbeknownst to Harry Scull, Pat McElroy kept $17,000 and only gave Scull $2,500.
When “EJ Flammer” ‘found’ his photos of Mr. Simpson In late-December 1996, he also agreed to allow Rob McElroy to be his agent.
Again, a curious choice to say the least.
By the way, despite the financial windfall he earned selling the Flammer and Scull photos, to our knowledge McElroy has not served as an agent for anyone since.
In July 1996 Harry Scull Jr testified that he was employed as a black and white printer, photographer and photo assistant at Photo Tech Studios. Currently the home page of the Buffalo company’s website states, “We have a complete understanding of manipulating image.”
In early 1996 Scull realized that he had a photo of Mr. Simpson walking across the end zone at Rich Stadium wearing shoes that resembled the Bruno Magli Lorenzo.
Twenty years after testifying under oath, Harry Scull Junior shared the story of what really happened in a June 2016 article he wrote for the Buffalo News. Most significant is Scull’s revelation that he had nothing to do with the photo ending up in the National Enquirer.
Harry Scull writes:
After the criminal trial, a friend asked if he could look into my images further. All of a sudden my pictures showed up in the National Enquirer. A photographer acted unprofessionally and sold the stuff to the Enquirer without my knowledge, lied to me about the amount of money that was made on the photo and put me in a bad light when I had to sit in a deposition in Buffalo and defend the authenticity of that image.
Very interesting to say the least….
The final member of the trio is EJ Flammer.
In 1993 EJ Flammer’s father was the president of the Buffalo Bills booster club and EJ served as the photo editor for the club’s newsletter.
EJ Flammer followed Mr. Simpson’s 1995 criminal trial and he was also a friend or acquaintance of Harry Scull Junior.
Harry Scull’s photograph of Mr. Simpson attained significant news coverage in Buffalo throughout 1996 – from April through December.
The date and location of the Scull photo was well-known – it was the same game that EJ Flammer had taken photos of Mr. Simpson for the Buffalo Bills booster club newsletter.
Testifying in January 1997, EJ Flammer claimed that he was completely unaware of all of those things. He testified under oath that it was just by happenstance that he discovered his 30 photos of Mr. Simpson on December 27, 1996.
O.J. Simpson: Fact or Fiction? Episode 10: It’s Gotta Be The Shoes
We hope you enjoy “It’s Gotta Be The Shoes” the fall season finale of O.J. Simpson: Fact or Fiction?
Additional Materials Referenced In This Episode:
- Forensic Techniques Subject to Human Bias – Washington Post – April 17 2012
- National Academy of Science 2009 Report Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States [PDF]
- President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)2016 Report – Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods. [PDF]
Special thanks to Michael Griffith for the source materials he shared for use in this episode.
Previous Episodes Of O.J. Simpson Fact Or Fiction?:
You might also like:
- O.J.: Veritas. The Fuhrman Tapes. [Official Trailer of the Documentary Film]
- June 13, 1994: LAPD Interrogation of O.J. Simpson
- The Unbelievable, Untold True Story of If I Did It & the Ron Goldman Foundation
We welcome your feedback. Feel free to email the author or connect with us on social media. Follow Brian Heiss on Twitter: @BrianHeiss