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Philip Vannatter, detective in Simpson and Polanski cases, is dead

January 22, 2012 | 12:33 pm


Philip Vannatter, the Los Angeles police detective who was led the investigation of the brutal 1994 slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, has died.

His brother, Joe, told the Associated Press that he died of complications from cancer. He was 70.

Vannatter was among the first detectives on the scene at former football star O.J. Simpson's mansion in June 1994 after the stabbing deaths of Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

In 1977, Vannatter conducted the investigation that led to the arrest of film director Roman Polanski on charges of having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

A grandfather known as "Dutch" among friends and as a "super cop" among colleagues, Vannatter rose through the LAPD ranks quickly based on a reputation for meticulous, tough-minded work.

One colleague told The Times in 1994 that Vannatter was a bear of a man who, when he kicked in a door while arresting a robbery suspect once on the Westside, he knocked the door off the hinges. When Vannatter worked as a detective in Venice in the 1970s he would have contests with co-workers to see how long they could hold a sledgehammer outstretched in front of them with one arm.

But his work was challenged repeatedly during the Simpson trial, and Vannatter often responded testily on the stand when Simpson's attorneys questioned him. In seeking to show that Vannatter illegally entered Simpson's property to collect evidence, the lawyers questioned every detail of his account of events. But the detective stood firm, and Municipal Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell ruled that the police had acted appropriately.


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Photo: Los Angeles Police Department Det. Phillip Vannatter testifies in the O.J. Simpson murder trial on Sept. 19, 1995. Credit: John McCoy / Pool