The sport and screen celebrity fled a murder charge while the whole world watched four years ago.

The bloody crime-scene snapshots…squeezing on that glove… the Bruno Magli shoes…. Of all the images branded on our collective consciousness by the two-year-long American epic that was the O.J. murder case, the most resonant is still the first: a white Bronco leading Los Angeles police on a slow-motion chase as Orenthal James Simpson fought the urge to blow his brains out.

On the evening of June 17, 1994, all the major networks and most local stations cut away from regularly scheduled programs for live coverage of the personal meltdown of a previously congenial public figure, now suspected of murder. Five days before, Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole, 35, and her friend Ron Goldman, 25, had been found stabbed to death outside Nicole’s L.A. condominium. The 46-year-old Simpson, the police department’s only suspect, had agreed to turn himself in that day at 11 a.m. When he still hadn’t shown up by two in the afternoon, LAPD commander David Gascon announced, ”Mr. Simpson has not appeared, and we will find him.”

Police traced Simpson to Orange County, near the cemetery where Nicole was buried, and the chase began. With longtime friend and NFL colleague Al Cowlings at the wheel, Simpson rode for more than two hours in the Bronco’s backseat, holding a revolver to his head with one hand and clutching a picture of his family in the other. Along the winding, 60-mile route, freeway traffic came to a halt as thousands of fans stood on overpasses, along city streets, or even on the highway itself. Some yelled, ”Go, Juice, go.” Many waved and blew him kisses.

”As police pursuits go, it was the most boring ever — and yet the most fascinating,” says TV producer Bob Tur, then a KCBS-TV helicopter reporter who was among the first to track Simpson. ”He was destroying himself.”

With the help of his multimillion dollar Dream Team of attorneys, Simpson was acquitted of the murder charges after a nine-month trial and just two hours of jury deliberations; a year later, however, he was found liable for $33.5 million in damages in a wrongful-death suit brought by the victims’ families. After that verdict, Ron Goldman’s father, Fred, offered to waive his share if Simpson would simply confess to the killings. Simpson refused.