The trail of O.J. Simpson led a reporter with video camera in hand to Amargosa Valley, Nevada, early Sunday morning.
It paid off.
Simpson, set free under the cover of dead-of-night darkness to avoid public scrutiny and the glare of the media, went on the record just after 5:30 a.m. local time, tracked down about 75 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
He said his freedom hadn’t fully registered after nine years in prison.
“I’m in a car for the last five hours, so how do I know how it feels to be out?” Simpson said from the back of a white SUV in video obtained by ESPN from Splash News.
“I’ve been in nowhere U.S.A. for the last nine years doing nothing. Nothing has changed in my life. What do you expect?” he said in the video.
Simpson, taken aback after first seeing the reporter, briefly answered questions while drinking from what appeared to be a water bottle.
“Man, how in the … Have y’all been … y’all stalking me?” a surprised Simpson asked.
Asked about his destination, he replied: “None of your business” before requesting that the reporter leave him alone.
“God bless, take care guys,” he said, giving a thumbs-up sign before repeating, “Yeah, nothing’s changed.”
A Nevada parole official said Simpson planned to live at a home in the Las Vegas area for the foreseeable future.
State Parole and Probation Capt. Shawn Arruti told The Associated Press on Sunday that the former football hero and celebrity criminal defendant has one approved residential plan, and it doesn’t include a move to Florida or any other state. Arruti says that could change in the future.
Simpson previously said he wanted to live in Florida, where he used to live and where he has friends and two children.
Arruti says the exact location of the house in Las Vegas isn’t disclosed for security and privacy reasons.
But he says that at least for now, the 70-year-old Simpson has no permission to leave Nevada without advance approval from his parole officer.
Simpson signed release paperwork just before midnight and disappeared minutes into the first day he was eligible for release. Through efforts by prison officials to keep the time and place secret, there were no journalists outside the prison gates to capture the moment.
Although publicity-prone in the past, Simpson had neither been heard from nor seen publicly as the day wore on — apparently taking the advice of people in his inner circle to avoid the spotlight.
Simpson was released at 12:08 a.m. PT from Lovelock Correctional Center in northern Nevada, state prisons spokeswoman Brooke Keast told The Associated Press.
Simpson attorney Malcolm Lavergne said Simpson’s immediate plans were to “reacclimate to normal life … enjoying the very simple pleasures … having good food, enjoying time with family, friends, catching up on technology, trying to get through all of that, wearing regular clothes again.”
Lavergne, speaking in an earlier interview with SportsCenter, also said Simpson had no immediate plans to talk to media.
Lavergne confirmed that Simpson was still in Nevada but would not specify where. He said he was not the person who picked Simpson up.
Tom Scotto, a close friend of Simpson’s who lives in Naples, Florida, said by text message that he was with Simpson following his release. Scotto didn’t respond to questions about where they were going or whether Simpson’s sister, Shirley Baker of Sacramento, California, or his daughter, Arnelle Simpson of Fresno, California, were with him.
Simpson has said he wants to move back to Florida, where he lived before his armed robbery conviction in Las Vegas in a September 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers.
Florida’s Corrections Department said Sunday that it has not received a request to oversee Simpson’s parole. The department “has not received any transfer paperwork from Nevada,” Corrections department spokeswoman Ashley Cook said.
Keast said the dead-of-night release from the prison, about 90 miles east of Reno, Nevada, was conducted to avoid media attention.
“We needed to do this to ensure public safety and to avoid any possible incident,” Keast added, speaking by telephone. She spoke from Lovelock, where she said she witnessed Simpson signing documents to be released.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.