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Storm adds to troubled year

The tornado damage at pitcher Graeme Lloyd's house follows the death of his wife and surgery on his shoulder.

By EILEEN SCHULTE

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 20, 2000


PALM HARBOR -- This is the story of a house, its owner and his good friend, the house-sitter.

The house sits on Ocean View Avenue, and it was hit much harder than most by the Aug. 12 tornado that swept through Palm Harbor. Its roof was nearly ripped off, and it might have to be bulldozed.

The owner is Graeme Lloyd, a 33-year-old pitcher for the Montreal Expos. This year, Lloyd has had more than his share of heartache. His wife, Cindy, died on April 3, and he's had major surgery on his shoulder.

The house-sitter is a friend of Lloyd's named Keith Zlomsowitch. When the tornado hit, Zlomsowitch was talking to his girlfriend in Utah on the telephone.

Zlomsowitch might have more reason than most to be upset about a tornado, because with tornadoes come publicity. And Zlomsowitch -- a boyfriend of the late Nicole Brown Simpson, and a boyfriend who was spied upon by O.J. Simpson during an intimate moment -- has had enough of that already.

The house

Most homeowners escaped last weekend's tornado in Palm Harbor with nothing more serious than some missing roof tiles or blown-down tree branches. But the scene at Lloyd's tri-level waterfront home proved to be much worse.

Late last week, workers were gathering debris from the yard and hauling it to a truck parked in the circular driveway. An engineer was scheduled to inspect the house, which is assessed for tax purposes at $341,000, and to determine whether it could be saved at all.

With much of the roof gone, the house was uninhabitable and smelled of mold from rain that dripped in from the roof. Sheets of plastic covered bare spots on the roof.

Lloyd was not home when the twister struck, but his close friend Zlomsowitch was house-sitting for him and has since coordinated the cleanup.

On Thursday morning, in the top-floor kitchen, Zlomsowitch pointed to the ceiling, showing where the twister seems to have lifted that portion of the roof and dropped it, leaving gaps.

Doors were blown open. Zlomsowitch still could not locate the patio furniture, but did find some pool rafts in the bushes.

At one point, Zlomsowitch sat on a couch, lit a cigarette and shook his head. Fluffs of pink fiberglass insulation and paint chips littered the carpet.

Movers were on the way to take the entire contents of the home away, including two personal watercrafts and a blue vintage Corvette Sting Ray in the garage.

To protect Lloyd's things, Zlomsowitch had been staying in the house at night, but he said he couldn't sleep because there were eerie sounds. The doors creak open and wind whips through the plastic sheets on the roof.

Standing at the top of a stairway near the front door, Zlomsowitch pointed out some of the heavy Spanish tiles that broke free. A bunch of them hit a Lincoln Navigator, causing major body damage. Others hit Zlomsowitch's new Jeep.

"Graeme said it happened because I was watching the Mets," he said. "But it was the only game on TV."

The owner

That kidding aside, this has been a rough year for Lloyd.

In April, his wife, Cindy, died of complications with Crohn's disease. Soon after, he found out he had to have shoulder surgery that, if it went wrong, could have ended his career.

Lloyd could not be reached for comment last week, but Zlomsowitch, who attended the Lloyds' wedding, said the couple met in Tampa and got married in Australia. Cindy Lloyd traveled with her husband and cheered him on.

"They were really close," Zlomsowitch said.

The house on Ocean View Avenue was intended to be the couple's dream home. They had ambitious plans for renovations.

Since Mrs. Lloyd's death, Zlomsowitch said, the 6-foot-7 Lloyd has been working hard to rehabilitate his shoulder, not for himself, but for his wife.

"He did it for her," Zlomsowitch said. "Cindy was so proud of him. He made it his mission after surgery to get back for her."

Now he doesn't know whether the couple's dream house will have to be torn down. The engineer who was scheduled to inspect the house will meet with an architect, and they will consult with Lloyd, who will make the final decision.

Asked what Lloyd said when Zlomsowitch called him and told him about the tornado, Zlomsowitch said his friend told him, "In the scope of what happened this year, this is laughable. As long as you're okay, that's all that matters."

Zlomsowitch said, "I hope this is the last thing he has to endure."

The house-sitter

Like Lloyd, the last few years have been tough for Zlomsowitch, and until last weekend, the house on Ocean View Avenue had provided a quiet refuge.

In 1994, Zlomsowitch was sucked into a cyclone of a different kind: the swirling circus surrounding the murder case of O.J. Simpson, the trial of the century.

Zlomsowitch, a compact and charismatic man, had had an intimate relationship with Nicole Brown Simpson. Zlomsowitch was the director of operations for Mezzaluna restaurant, where Ron Goldman worked. He dated Nicole Brown Simpson. O.J. Simpson once told Zlomsowitch that he had witnessed a romantic encounter between him and Nicole.

And after she died, Zlomsowitch was a pallbearer at Nicole's funeral.

The relationship came out during the investigation and the trial, in which O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, Goldman.

A minor player in the case, Zlomsowitch was scheduled to be the final witness in the Simpson murder trial, but he did not end up taking the stand.

Last week, his eyes narrowed and his voice went low and angry when he said he had wished he had testified at the trial. He said he would have told what kind of man Simpson is. He said the jury system "didn't work."

After the trial ended in 1995, Zlomsowitch said his life fell apart. He could not work for two years because reporters tailed him everywhere, and "people were in the bushes taking pictures." He turned down million-dollar book deals "to do the right thing."

Yet he knows he will be part of the O.J. Simpson story for the rest of his life.

"When (Simpson) was in Tampa a few weeks ago, he was trashing my name," Zlomsowitch said.

But the tornado was a different kind of whirlwind.

During the investigation into Nicole Brown Simpson's murder, Zlomsowitch was astonished that reporters found out about his relationship with her and tracked him to Aspen.

In contrast, last week, after the tornado, he was a bit surprised that none of the TV crews that interviewed him seemed to recognize him.

"It's different when it's an act of God (than) when someone kills someone you know," he said.

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