Although people are still buzzing about Sunday's Academy Awards, there's been another Oscar making headlines — Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, who pleaded not guilty to murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Commonly referred to as the "blade runner" because of his prosthetic legs, the South African quickly became an Olympic idol thanks to six Paralympic gold medals and his ability to compete with able-bodied athletes. Last year, though, that heroic image took a turn, because Oscar admitted to shooting and killing his girlfriend on Valentine's Day 2013. If he's convicted of premeditated murder, Oscar will face South Africa's mandatory life sentence with a minimum of 25 years. This week marked the start of his trial, which is expected to last at least three weeks, so now's the time to catch up on everything there is to know about the case.
Oscar's Olympic Background
- Oscar's first win came at age 17, when he took home the gold for the 200-meter T44 final at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games.
- He quickly became known as an Olympic hero, competing as a double amputee in races for athletes with one leg.
- At the Paralympic Games in Beijing, he won three gold medals and was personally invited to meet Nelson Mandela.
- In 2012, Oscar became the first amputee runner to qualify for the Olympics, and although he didn't take home a medal in London, he's won six Paralympic gold medals in his career.
Reeva's Life Cut Short
- Reeva had the brains and the beauty: the law graduate also worked as a model.
- The TV personality had signed on to be part of the South African reality show Tropika Island of Treasure, and the program started filming two days after her death.
- The week before her death, celebrity gossip magazine Heat published what it claims to be Reeva's final interview. She gushed about Oscar and said, "I don't want anything to come in the way of his career."
Crime and Trial Details
- Now 27, Oscar admitted to shooting and killing Reeva on Feb. 14, 2013.
- The Olympian claimed that the murder was an accident, saying that his girlfriend was in the bathroom with the door closed, and he thought she was an intruder.
- Prosecutors charged Oscar with premeditated murder, and in the wake of the incident, sponsors like Nike and Oakley suspended their contracts with the athlete.
- Oscar pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, plus three other counts related to the gun used in her killing and two separate gun indictments from earlier incidents.
- In Oscar's statement, the athlete said he'd been speaking to his girlfriend before he grabbed two fans from their balcony, and she must have gone into the bathroom while he was getting the fans.
- One of Oscar's neighbors, Michelle Burger, was the first witness to testify on March 2, and she recalled hearing "blood-curdling screams" from a woman followed by four gunshots. Her words contradict Oscar, who said he thought his girlfriend was in bed.
- The defense doubted whether Burger could hear a woman screaming inside a closed bathroom in a house 177 meters (about 581 feet) away.
- Another neighbor said she woke up to the noise of loud voices shouting for nearly an hour before she heard four distinct sounds, but she hadn't been sure they were gunshots.
- Burger's husband, Charl Johnson, echoed her testimony. Defense lawyer Barry Roux suggested that they purposely collaborated on their testimonies, saying, "You and your wife could just as well have stood together in the witness box. You failed, Mr. Johnson."
- Johan Stipp, a doctor who lived nearby, said he went to the house after hearing gunshots. There, he testified that he saw Steenkamp's body at the bottom of the stairs, where Oscar was bent over her with fingers in her mouth trying to clear her airway.
- Oscar broke down in the courtroom when Stipp said he believed that Oscar had wanted her to live. "He looked sincere to me," Stipp said. "He was crying. There were tears on his face."
- On March 7, Oscar's ex-girlfriend Samantha Taylor testified, getting emotional as she described a previous gun incident. She said that after a friend was pulled over for speeding, Oscar shot a gun through the car's open sunroof.
- Taylor also responded to a line of questioning about whether Oscar had ever woken her up because he thought he heard an intruder. She said yes, he'd done so several times.
- A security guard who arrived at Oscar's house on the night of the murder, Pieter Baba, said that he called Oscar after neighbors reported the sound of gunshots. Oscar first told Baba that everything was "fine" but later called back and cried, not saying anything.