Early on the morning on June 12, 1994, Paula Barbieri called O.J. Simpson and left a message, saying she was ending their years-long relationship. About 15 hours later, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were slain. And legal experts say the prosecution in O.J.'s civil trial should have used that voicemail as a motive to pin the killings on the NFL star.
O.J. and Paula had dated off-and-on for a couple years by the time of the murders. She was an actress and model known for her roles in erotic dramas and for her 1994 Playboy pictorial. O.J. was apparently impressed with her ambition and charisma. "This is the first woman I've been involved with who had a career and has been successful in her own right, which is interesting," he once said, per People. "It is the first time I had to make concessions to another schedule, which is weird to me. She gets along with people easily, and I don't have to work as hard as I normally do. At times, she'll even direct the conversation." (He also bragged that she looked like Julia Roberts, according to the magazine.)
But during their relationship, Paula was frightened by his temper, as she later revealed in her 1997 book The Other Woman: My Years With O.J. Simpson. For example, she described a fight they had during their time together in Panama City, FL. "I thought he looked ready to lunge at me, to pick me up and shake me," she wrote, per Radar Online. "He seemed to be fighting with himself, as if there were some other person struggling inside. A person who was wild and violent, a person who scared even O.J."
During the civil trial, Paula testified about her breakup message, but prosecutors never called her to the stand. Legal experts deemed that a mistake, as the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. "The prosecution danced around this as the motive for a lot of the trial: Simpson is rejected by Paula, and his ego can't take this, so he lashes out," Stanley Goldman, a Loyola University law professor, told the newspaper. "If the prosecution knew about [the call] and didn't use it, it's blatant illustration of ineffectiveness on their part."
These days, Paula is living a low-profile life in Panama City, Daily Mail reports. She became a born again Christian, and in 2000, she married Michael Overstreet, a Florida circuit judge renowned for his work on domestic violence cases. They live with their teen daughter in an oceanfront home in one of Panama City's most exclusive communities.
Paula hasn't commented on the O.J. case in recent years, but in a 1997 interview with Larry King, she said she was consciously reserving judgment. "I'm choosing not to look further into making a decision one way or another," she said. "And I ask people's forgiveness on that."