One of the most enigmatic pieces of the O.J. Simpson murder trial-era was his coveted Heisman trophy, which he won as a student at USC in 1968.
A month after the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, in June 1994, the trophy was stolen from the university’s athletic department.
The stolen Heisman, which was a duplicate given to the university when their player won the award, was returned by the LAPD in January 2015.
In September 2015, a 56-year-old man named Lewis Eugene Starks Jr. was arrested and charged with the theft of the university’s Heisman.
Starks, who pleaded not guilty, had a pre-trial hearing on Friday before his case heads to trial on April 12. If convicted, he could face up to six years in jail.
He appeared in court the same day new questions arose about the murder case. It emerged that a knife, discovered on Simpson’s property when it was demolished in 1998, had been turned over to the LAPD.
In January, his attorneys asked a judge to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor or to drop the case entirely, but their request was denied.
During that hearing, LAPD Detective Donald Hrycyk testified that he went to USC in December 2014 after the university was contacted by Starks. Starks brought the trophy to campus and wanted it authenticated.
According to Hrycyk, Starks wanted to see if he could get a finder’s fee or reward for returning the missing item, 20 years after it was snatched.
Hrycyk also testified that Starks said he received the trophy from a friend. The unidentified friend allegedly acquired it from a person involved in the initial burglary, according to the detective. Starks claims he had the item since 1995 or 1996, according to Hrycyk.
After authorities acquired the missing trophy, a member of the Heisman organization authenticated the artifact and it was indeed the missing Simpson replica from USC. The trophy has been appraised to be worth $50,000.
At a hearing in September, Starks attorney said his client turned the trophy over to USC in December 2014 and the LAPD made him take a polygraph test, which he passed, but he was still arrested.
In 1987, Starks was arrested and convicted of burglary, according to court documents.
During the decades in which the trophy was missing from USC, another replica was made for the university and has been on display.
As for Simpson’s personal Heisman trophy, it was seized under a $33.5 million judgement after a civil court found the former football star liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
In 1999, Fred Goldman, the father of slain Ronald Goldman, told INSIDE EDITION that “any form of punishment is good punishment” when the coveted trophy hit the auction block.
Simpson’s personal Heisman sold at auction in 1999 for a reported $255,500 by Tom Kreissman, the owner of a Pennsylvania steel company. Simpson’s Heisman now sits stored away and hidden from public view in a safety deposit box at a bank in Philadelphia.
In 2013, Kreissman told The Washington Post, many of his own friends have no idea he owns the coveted trophy.