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Blade Runner: The Verdict

"48 Hours" goes inside the Oscar Pistorius case as experts and those closest to the Olympic sprinter react to a judge's ruling

Finally, it was over. The trial that captivated the world. The triumphant athlete -- a hero who always seemed to beat the odds. Yet this challenge was even greater, as Oscar Pistorius stood accused of murder.

In the packed Pretoria, South Africa, courtroom of Judge Thokozile Masipa, the "Blade Runner" confronted his fate.

Masipa declared Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide.

In layman's terms, manslaughter. According to the judge, Oscar Pistorius did not intentionally kill Reeva Steenkamp, but acted negligently in firing four shots through his bathroom door. Her parents, June and Barry Steenkamp, seemed stunned, as her friends wept. Pistorius, who had wept like a child through out the trial, now silent and stoic.

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius listens to the verdict in his trial
Oscar Pistorius listens to the verdict in his trial at the High Court in Pretoria, Sept. 12, 2014.
REUTERS

The reduced guilty verdict washed over the crowd. Pistorius made his way through it, center stage in the saga that has become a nation's real-life soap opera.

Pistorius' uncle, Arnold Pistorius, gave the family's initial reaction:

"This is a big burden off our shoulders and Oscar's," he said. "We would really like to show our deep -- how grateful we are of Judge Masipa, who has found Oscar not guilty of murder. ... it won't bring Reeva back, but our hearts still go out for her family and friends."

Steenkamp's mother spoke out in a television interview. "Shocked. Disappointed, you know, your heart drops because you just want the truth and it's going in the wrong direction. That's how you feel," she said.

Throughout the tense two-day verdict process, Pistorius was emotional, seemed overwhelmed and shattered.

"The accused was a very poor witness, an evasive witness," said Masipa.

What became clear: The judge found Oscar's version of events more plausible than that presented by the prosecution.

"The accused was clearly not candid with the court when he said that he had no intention to shoot at anyone as he had an armed firearm in his hand," Masipa said. "The State clearly has not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder."

The countdown to justice was long and deliberate.

"Reeva doesn't have a life anymore because of what you've done. She is not alive anymore," prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court during the trial.

Oscar Pistorius, the fabled blade-runner whose athletic achievements captivated millions, stood accused of murdering his beautiful girlfriend, a woman with the talent and poise to match her dreams.

Reeva Steenkamp, a model and reality TV star, was shot dead on Valentine's Day 2013; four shots through the bathroom door of Oscar Pistorius' bedroom.

"I did not fire at Reeva," a sobbing Pistorius said during his trial.

Throughout the 41 days of testimony, Pistorius came undone, as Nel, nicknamed "the bulldog," proved relentless.

"His intention when he fired those shots was to kill a human being," he told the court.

Nel hammered home his version of events: this was not an act of panic -- it was murder.

"He was fixated on his anxiety and vulnerability on this intruder," Pistorius' defense attorney Barry Roux said. "He was fixated on that."

Vulnerable in the dead of night without his prosthetic legs was how Roux described Pistorius. Convinced a stranger was in his home, the Olympian panicked.

"The trial has been all-consuming for everybody in South Africa," said Jen Su, a South African talk show host and friend of Pistorius. She found the idea Oscar was a killer unimaginable.

"It's difficult because I am with friends and they strongly disagree with me," she said.

Su wasn't alone. Day after day, as he attended court in Pretoria, it was evident for many that Pistorius, 27, remained a national treasure -- a hero and inspiration.

When this marathon ended, Pistorius was just one of 37 witnesses. But it was the Olympian who Gerry Nel took to the mat:

Oscar Pistorius: I don't have to look at a picture. I was there!

Gerrie Nell: You killed a person, that's what you did isn't it?

Oscar Pistorius: I made a mistake.

Gerrie Nell: You killed Reeva Steenkamp, that's what you did!

It would fall to Masipa, a veteran judge, to navigate through it all. In the South African system, she is both judge and jury. A child of apartheid, Judge Masipa became a social worker, then crime reporter, a lawyer, and now judge in the High Court.

Late in the trial came an extraordinary development. Testimony was stopped cold as the prosecution requested a psychological evaluation of Pistorius. If ruled mentally incompetent, the trial would have been over.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Sasha Bardey monitored the case.

"The results of the examination indicated ... that -- Oscar Pistorius was not suffering from a mental illness or disease," he said.

Game on. As the trial and the drama heightened, the pressure built. The superstar, who had seemed indestructible, seemed ready to explode. Out on bail, he'd get into a shoving match at a Johannesburg night club. Pistorius' supporters worried that the man who was such a force of life, might attempt suicide.

Reeva Steenkamp was talented, beautiful and only 29 years old.

"I think the way you go out ... and make your exit is so important. You've either made an impact in a positive way, or a negative way,'" Steenkamp said on "Tropika Island of Treasure", the reality TV show in which she appeared. "But maintain class and just always be true to yourself. And I'm gonna miss you all so much. And I love you very, very much (blows a kiss at the camera).

With Friday's extraordinary verdict, reaction was swift and passionate.

"I'm completely astounded. Disbelief," Dr. David Klatzow, a forensic investigator, told CBS News correspondent Debora Patta. "Because it is so different from what I thought was an open-and-shut issue."

"How did you feel emotionally? Oscar is your friend," Patta asked Jen Su.

"Well from that point of view I was relieved for Oscar. This was definitely a best-case scenario for Oscar," she replied.

Late Friday, new photos were released of a stunned and bloody Pistorius from the night of the shooting.

The verdict is in. Oscar Pistorius remains out on bail until sentencing, which will come in about a month. The legal battle is far from over.

OSCAR AND REEVA

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius seemed like the kind of couple dreams are made of.

"People saw them and thought, 'Wow, they're so attractive,'" Vanity Fair writer Mark Seal said. "They were like stars."

Seal, a "48 Hours" consultant, has written about the case.

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, Jan. 26, 2013
Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, Jan. 26, 2013.
Getty Images


"I mean, it was the story of a man who overcame incredible disability ... and then met an incredibly talented and beautiful woman. Fell in love. And then tragedy struck," said friend Jen Su.

The tragedy runs so deep because Oscar Pistorius ran against the wind from his birth in 1986. He ran so fast, came so far. Pistorius was born without fibula bones.

"When I was 11 months old I had both legs amputated. And then when I was 13 months old I got my first pair of walking legs," Pistorius told Sky TV in a 2004 interview.

His "walking legs" would soon take Oscar around the world. But the inspiration started with his mother, Sheila, who set the tone that allowed her child to become a champion. Years later, Pistorius shared the memory with Jay Leno.

"My mother just said to me in the mornings you know, 'Oscar you put on your prosthetic legs. The last I wanna hear about it. You know there's no disability in our family,'" he said.

"His mother ... told him that the real loser is not the one who crosses the finish line last, the real loser is the one who sits on the side and doesn't try to compete," said Seal.

"She became ill and she passed on suddenly," said Mike Azzie.

With his mother gone and estranged from his dad, 15-year-old Oscar turned to Azzie as a father figure.

"He's always been a wonderful boy," said Azzie.

To Oscar, he's Uncle Mike.

"There's never a conversation that's ever ended without one of the parties saying, 'I love you,'" said Azzie.

Nearly 9,000 miles away from South Africa, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, "48 Hours" found a man who knew Oscar Pistorius before he became an international icon.

"He was around 14 years old ... and he was jumping over hurdles," Francois Van Der Watt told "48 Hours" correspondent Peter Van Sant. "I was like 'Why would you do that?' And he was just, 'There's no why not?'"

Van Der Watt, back then living in South Africa, sensed the determined boy needed better than his battered legs.

"He was wearing what we call exoskeletal prosthetics, which is pretty much wooden prosthetics," he explained. "Very primitive."

Together, Van Der Watt and Pistorius decided to give Oscar the legs to match his heart -- the wings he needed to fly. They called them "blades."

"He wanted to be fast. He wanted to be a runner," said Van Der Watt.

Oscar Pistorius took off.

"God had a plan when he gave me these legs, and at the end of the day I'm happy. I don't think I would be doing athletics if I was able bodied. I don't see myself as disabled," a young Pistrious said in a Sky TV interview.

The "Blade Runner" was born. The world had never seen anything like it.

"He became half man, half machine, with the gait of a cat," Seal said. "And was able to run on these blades, and not only run, but to win."

Pistorius would win races around the world and became an iconic symbol to his country -- and to the disabled community everywhere.

"He set the track on fire. It was the most amazing thing," Samkelo Radebe told Patta.

Radebe, who lost his hands in an electrical accident, was Pistorius' teammate.

"He was never a star in the team, but he was just one of us," he said. "He's just one of the teammates."

pistoriusmedalhero.jpg
Oscar Pistorius poses with his gold medal during the ceremony after winning the men's 400 meters T44 category final at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
AP Photo/Matt Dunham

London 2012 marked achievements like no other.

Oscar Pistorius poses with his gold medal during the ceremony after winning the men's 400 meters T44 category final at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

"This was history," Van Sant noted.

"That's it, yeah," said Van Der Watt.

Pistorius and Radebe competed in the Paralympic Games for the disabled and won gold.

"All of us were hugging," said Radebe of the win.

There was also a very different type of victory -- a legal one.

"This day's gonna go down in the history for the equality for disabled people," said Pistorius at a press conference.

The little boy with no legs won the right to compete in the Olympic Games against the best able-bodied athletes in the world.

"When he's on that running track at the Olympics ... that says it all. It says 'I'm here. I've overcome these odds,'" said Seal.

While he didn't win an Olympic medal, the world crowned Oscar Pistorius 100-percent champion.

"And it's such a blessing this experience for me," Pistorius said. "I've learned a lot, and just being able to come out here and represent my country has been very, very humbling for me..."

But in the swirl of international attention, staying humble was a challenge for Oscar Pistorius, superstar. From "The Tonight Show" to commercials, "Everywhere you looked it was Oscar, Oscar Oscar!" said Seal.

Beautiful and smart, model and aspiring actress Reeva Steenkamp was part of the celebrity society Pistorius had run his way right into.

"And everybody just said, 'Wow, you know. Who is that? Who is that woman?'" said Seal.

Reeva Steenkamp
Reeva Steenkamp
Ice Model Management/Splash

Modeling was now leading to a reality TV show. Steenkamp modeled from age 14, but she would also study law. She was ambitious, compassionate and politically aware.

"... she and her mother were longtime advocates of women suffering violence and domestic abuse," said Seal.

Just four days before she was shot dead, Steenkamp was tweeting:

Gina Myers and Reeva became roommates and best friends.

"She is the most amazing human being,' Myers said."Everything about her. Her belief system. Her -- the integrity she had."

"She was a rising star of tremendous magnitude," Seal said.

Just like Oscar Pistorius. It wouldn't take long for the two supernovas to find each other.

"Oscar's a very, very sexy boy," Reeva said on a red carpet interview. "But he doesn't do it in an arrogant, obnoxious way. ...he's a gentleman."

"He was definitely in love," said the couple's friend, Jen Su.

But where some saw a magical couple, others saw an Oscar Pistorius changed by fame.

"People said he went from the humble, friendly loveable Oscar to Oscar the Invincible. Like, 'I'm Oscar Pistorius. The world owes me,'" said Seal.

"He was always still the same Oscar that I knew in the first time I met him," said Van Der Watt.

Except for one crucial thing: Pistorius was now afraid, not of the competition on the track, but of the crime celebrity can attract.

"When I visited him and stayed in his house, and he turns on the alarm system, and he tells me ... 'I'm sleeping with my 9 millimeter next to my bed," said Van Der Watt.

"With his gun?" Van Sant asked.

"With his gun, yes," Van Der Watt replied.

Two weeks before Oscar Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp to death the glittering couple had dinner with their good friend Jen Su.

"We had a great, great night 101," Su said. "Oscar was just different with Reeva ... Reeva was for keeps."

EX-GIRLFRIEND SPEAKS OUT

Oscar Pistorius, the golden boy, always had a woman on his arm. But just before Reeva Steenkamp, there was Samantha Taylor, with a look that was strikingly similar.

Samantha taylor and Oscar Pistorius
Samantha Taylor and Oscar Pistorius

Samantha was only 17 when they met; Oscar was 24. Life was instantly glamorous. For two years, they were an item.

Samantha, now 20, and her mother, Trish Taylor, talked with "48 Hours" about what life was like with Oscar Pistorius. They met at rugby match.

"Our relationship, it happened quite fast," Samantha told Debora Patta. "He was very charming and respectful."

"In a way, her first big love really," Patta noted to Trish.

"Yes, I was happy with it, they were happy together. He would come to our place quite often," she replied. "We had some really fun times with Oscar. We had some great, great times with him."

"We loved each other so much," said Samantha.

"He treated her well, he treated her with respect," added Trish.

But life with Oscar soon became complicated.

Asked when she started noticing changes in Oscar, Samantha told Patta, "within about three months of our relationship ... he got very agitated quickly."

What set him off?

"A lot of things that usually wouldn't set someone off," Samantha explained. "If we had fought about something that I was wearing, I would have to go change. ... He was very controlling. He always wanted to know where I was, who I was with. If he didn't believe me, he would phone my family."

"If she was somewhere where he didn't want her to be, then it -- then all hell broke loose," added Trish.

"He would ask me to send photos of what I'm wearing and the person I'm sitting next to," Samantha continued," he would think I'm out partying. So I'd have to send him a photo."

"It was definitely emotional, total manipulation, it was very abusive," said Trish.

"Did you advise her to leave him?" Patta asked.

"I didn't," Trish replied. "I didn't want to be the one to say, 'this has gotta end forever,' because it doesn't ever end forever when a mother says that."

Another issue for Trish was Oscar's preoccupation with guns. "I hated the guns. I don't like guns," she said.

"He definitely had an obsession with guns. So, he was always at the shooting range, always with his boys, either racing cars or--shooting," said Samantha.

"I think as time went on, we became used to the gun. So, I -- which is crazy," Trish exclaimed.

"There were two times where I did hide his gun from him because I did feel very feared," Samantha said. "There was one time when he was -- he had been drinking and he fell and he thought that I had beat him up. So things like, he would say, you know, 'You -- you bitch, you beat me in the face.' Things like that where you don't know how to react."

"He was kind of, like, 'Where's my gun? I need my gun. I can't go to bed without the gun,'" she continued. "And I just thought, 'You know, if there's a gun around, anything can go wrong.' So I just prevented it as much as I could."

Samantha was a witness for the prosecution at Pistorius' murder trial. She testified about his recklessness with guns, describing one incident when he and a friend were pulled over for speeding -- then minutes after they drove away, "Oscar got very angry," she testified. "About two minutes after I saw Oscar take his gun and shoot out of the car roof."

But the day that it actually happened, Samantha told her mom about the incident. Nobody said a word.

"I was living in fear," Trish told Patta. "Because we thought at that stage that Oscar was, the golden boy. And even though we could've spoken out about him, I think we would have come out as these ridiculous people trying to cause trouble and I don't think anyone would have taken note of it."

By the summer of 2012, with Pistorius' historic race against able-bodied Olympians looming, the pressure mounted and Oscar leaned more and more on Trish for support.

"He started calling me and crying on the phone. Sometimes it was daily," she said.

"Did you suggest he goes and seek s-- has therapy?" Patta asked Trish.

"Yeah, a lot of times," she replied. "I begged him on numerous occasions to go for counseling. And he always promised to. And he just never did."

"What did he need help for?" Patta asked.

"His behavior. His everything. You know, he had -- I don't think he ever -- came to terms with losing his mom. I think it was a huge thing in his life. I think he was -- in so many ways, a little boy that needed to be cared for. And he had never grown out of that. And in other ways, he could conquer the world," said Trish.

Just before Pistorius was to leave for the Olympic Games in London, he made a stunning call to Trish.

"He didn't wanna go," she said. "He -- the day he was meant to fly, he phoned me and he said, 'I'm not going. I'm not going to the Olympics.' And then he was just sobbing and sobbing and sobbing."

"So he was -- he was quite childlike," Patta noted.

"Very childlike. Very, very childlike. Yeah," said Trish.

"Why did you stay with him for so long?" Patta asked Samantha.

"I think beyond our imperfections and our fights and arguments, we loved each other so much," she said.

Samantha rode the highs and lows with Pistorius until there were acts of betrayal she could not forgive. First with the glamorous Russian model Anastassia Khozissova and then one evening Samantha looked up at the TV and saw Oscar with Reeva Steenkamp.

"I was heartbroken, definitely. I mean, you're sorting out your relationship with someone and he's on screen with another lady. And from then, we just never contacted each other again," said Samantha.

"What were your thoughts when -- when Reeva Steenkamp was shot and killed?" Patta asked Trish.

"I was devastated," she replied.

"Did you believe his story, that he shot her thinking she was an intruder?" Patta asked.

"It's so difficult to say," she replied. "All I can say is that by the time Oscar was out of our lives, I believed nothing he said anymore. Absolutely nothing."

"Did you ... think when you heard that it was Reeva who was shot, that it could've been you?" Patta asked Samantha.

"Yeah, definitely," she replied.

"If you could see him now, what would you say to him?" Patta asked Trish.

"I did see him in court ... and he made eye contact with me," Trish replied. "And the first feeling was ... I needed to look after him, I needed to protect him ... But then the next day, the very next day, he got on the stand. And after sort of trying to reach out for me in a way, he stood there with a straight face and said, 'Samantha Taylor is a liar.' ... And I thought, 'That is just him. That is just him.' He will put anyone down ... He's got no scruples."

ATHLETES & VIOLENCE

Athletes and experts know that the roar of a crowd can change a person for better or worse.

"You get treated differently. You get -- you get more things handed to you," Mike Golic, who played defensive tackle for nine NFL seasons," told "48 Hours" correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

Golic understands the seduction of adulation firsthand. "You have a greater feeling of invincibility; that you can basically do anything you want and you're gonna get away with it," he said.

Golic now hosts ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" with his co-host, sports journalist Mike Greenberg.

"I think that that air of invincibility comes not just from physical dominance when you are playing, but also from a feeling that, 'Whatever happens, someone's gonna take care of it. 'Cause I'm me. I'm special,'" said Greenberg.

Not just special, but immune from or above the law. Football player Ray Rice, shown dragging his unconscious fiancé from an elevator on videotape, was almost forgiven by his fans and his employers with a two-game suspension...until a second videotape was aired on Sept. 8.

Rice has been fired by the Baltimore Ravens, lost all of his endorsement deals, and is now suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

This crime, like Oscar Pistorius' shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, has caught the world's attention and once again, linked athletes with violence in the public's mind.

"People often talk about athletes being a violent population, or they're more likely to be involved in criminal behavior. And there's really no research to support that," said Mitch Abrams, a sports psychologist and the author of "Anger Management in Sport."

"But the perception also is, 'Well, these guys are -- are almost mental cases on the field, and they can't shut it off, off the field.' So we expect the -- the gun charges, or we expect the abuse charges," said Golic.

Abrams says, frequently, athletes are their own worst enemies -- too proud, when faced with taunts or challenges on or off the field, to just walk away.

"The people that I think are at greater risk to snap are those full-blown narcissists, the ones that are so full of themselves..." he said."And where does it start from? Someone took a shot at your manhood."

How hard is it to just walk away?

"Oh -- oh, it's very difficult to walk away," Golic told Schlesinger. "It's very difficult when you get in that mode, in that mindset to turn it off. ...And unfortunately, that's what can get a lotta guys in trouble."

"Sports is a microcosm of society. There are men out there who commit horrible acts when they put their hands on a woman. There are some of them who are professional athletes and those wind up at the top of the newscast," added Greenberg.

"I think that when we talk about professional athletes we should be comparing them to celebrities, not to the average Joe," said Abrams.

Athletes attract the same kind of attention as other celebrities. Sometimes, it's the wrong kind of attention.

"How vulnerable are these guys to attacks on themselves?" Schlesinger asked Greenberg.

"I think judging from their own actions, they feel very vulnerable," he replied.

And sometimes, they are vulnerable. Sean Taylor, a player for the Washington Redskins, was shot and killed in his own home in 2007.

Pistorius has said he slept with his gun because he was afraid of a home invasion.

"You're gonna have a whole separate argument of whether that's a good idea or a bad idea. But I think that -- forget about what they say. Listen, look at what they do. These guys are carrying guns. And they're not doing it for no reason," said Golic.

Often, fear is part of fame. Arrogance can be too, and arrogance can convince an athlete that off the field, he doesn't have to play by the rules.

"The Pistorius case is a case of domestic violence. A lot of the cases in this country are domestic violence. What does that tell you?" Schlesinger asked Golic.

"I don't think it's separate from the sports world to society. There are a lotta people who do it in regular society as well. I call them cowards all the time," he replied. "I don't know what triggers somebody to do that. It's hard for me to speak of it. But to me, there's no excuse for it at all. Zero. None."

A JUDGE'S DECISION

The headlines said it all: "Oscar Dodges Bullet." With a guilty verdict of culpable homicide and not guilty of premeditated murder, Judge Masipa said her decision was based on Pistorius' state of mind.

"The version of the accused was that he fired shots at the toilet door... the conduct of the accused shortly after the incident is inconsistent with the conduct of someone who had intention to commit murder. He shouted for help, he called 911, he called security, he was seen trying to resuscitate the deceased, and he was distraught," said Masipa.

"I think the verdict was one I would classify as disciplined," said Judge Robert Holdman, who served on the New York State Supreme Court. "I think from her perspective, maybe not from the court of public opinion, but her perspective, she believed Oscar Pistorius' version of the facts -- his viewpoint -- that he did not know that was her and did not intend to kill anyone."

The judge's ruling was a crushing blow to prosecutor Gerrie Nel's case.

"This is an example of a defendant getting the benefit of the State not proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt," said Mark O'Mara, a defense attorney and CNN legal analyst who successfully defended George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

"What she said to Pistorius with her verdict was, 'You're responsible because you caused a death in a negligent way. You should've avoided it, you could've avoided it, and you didn't,'" he said.

Dr. David Klatzow, who specializes in forensic science, strongly disagrees with the judge.

"It comes as a major surprise to me, the judgment," Klatzow said. "Given the circumstances, given the fact that he admitted to firing the four shots, I can't see how she can escape the conclusion that he intended to kill somebody behind that toilet door."

"So she's made an error?" Patta asked.

"I think so," Klatzow replied. "But I can tell you this, that every single person in a legal capacity that I've spoken to, and I've spoken to many in the last 24 hours, has expressed extreme surprise at the outcome of this trial."

The judge rejected the prosecution claims the couple argued that night.

"I think she completely disregarded all of the neighbors' testimony," Holdman said. "In essence in a box, saying, "they were all wrong, they all got their information wrong..."

Neighbors testified they heard crying and screaming:

Annette Stipp: M'lady the screams that I heard was petrified. The female screams. Just before the gunshots.

Michelle Berger: ... it was blood curdling. ... It was something that leaves you cold.

Barry Roux: Was the crying soft, loud?

Neighbor: The screaming was like (mimics high-pitched scream she heard that night)

"They simply reported what they thought," Masipa said. "The evidence of the witnesses must be rejected in its entirety..."

And the judge didn't believe Oscar's excitable tones in court could have been mistaken for a woman's screams:

Gerrie Nel: "What did you shout?"

Oscar Pistorius: I screamed. I said, "Get the f--- out of my house! Get the f--- out of my house!

Ultimately, Judge Masipa accepted defense attorney Barry Roux's description of the "Blade Runner" as a vulnerable, anxious man.

"You are a little boy without legs. You experience daily that disability that you cannot run away ... that constant reminder, 'I do not have legs... I am not the same, that's with him. He can't pretend," Roux addressed the court.

Steenkamp's family listened to the painful details as Pistorius tearfully told the court he heard a noise in the dark and feared for his life.

"...and then I heard a noise inside from inside the toilet. ...Before I knew it I'd fired four shots at the door and my ears were ringing, I couldn't hear anything," a crying Pistorius told the court during trial. "I sat over Reeva and I cried. I don't know how long she was there for (sobbing) she wasn't breathing."

However, the judge told the court even with a disability, his actions were not justified.

"Many have been victims of violent crime, but they have not resorted to sleeping with firearms under their pillows," said Masipa.

The judge dismissed the text messages exchanged between Oscar and Reeva as proof of where their relationship stood.

"In my view, none of this evidence from the State or from the defense proves anything," she said.

But end the end, one of Reeva's text messages read in court left a lasting and haunting impression:

"I can't be attacked by outsiders for dating you, and be attacked by you, the one person I deserve protection from."

WHAT'S NEXT?

The verdict is in and the trial is done, but the story is far from over.

"We still have to wait on the actual sentencing. We still don't know all the technicalities of what that culpable homicide verdict will mean for him," said Oscar Pistorius ' friend, Jen Su.

Pistorius is out on bail, awaiting a different decision on the personal price he'll pay for his crimes.

"The range of sentencing is huge, it's essentially from zero to 15 years," said Dr. Alexander Sasha Bardey.

Judge Masipa will be free to consider everything from the events of that bloody Valentine's Day to the character and mind of the man.

"At the sentencing phase now, the judge can consider a number of important factors, including his disability, including his life experience, his mother's experiences and the impact that incarceration will have on an individual like Oscar Pistorius," said Bardey.

Will Pistorius go to prison? Legal experts think it likely.

"My gut is he'll probably get somewhere between three and eight years," said Mark O'Mara.

"I don't see negligence in what he did. I see a reckless disregard for taking the life of another human being," said Dr. David Klatzow, who shared a building outrage over the verdict -- the feeling that Pistorius had gotten off to easy.

"Was justice served?" Debora Patta asked Klatzow.

"I don't think so. I think there's a problem," he replied.

The problem stems from the South African culture of guns Oscar Pistorius embraced.

"What about sending a message on the issue of domestic violence?" Patta asked.

"We have a huge incidence in this country of ... male-on-female violence, and a lot of male-on-spouse violence. And that is not a good message to send across to the country," said Klatzow.

That verdict hit Twitter like a bomb. The prevailing opinion: Pistorius got away with murder.

"Well he hasn't gotten away with it yet. We need to see what happens next," Klatzow said. "I can only continue to express extreme amazement."

"Amazement" has defined Pistorius. And today the child who courageously carved a legacy like no other, won another victory: not guilty of premeditated murder.

But something else was now evident. The man who conquered his disabilities was destroyed by his demons.

"For some, he'll always be Oscar Pistorius the hero. But for others, he's Oscar Pistorius the killer," said Mark Seal.

Long after the verdict was read, this story will likely resonate.

"It has everything. It has drama, two young attractive people, the gun culture of South Africa, and of course Oscar Pistorius, Olympic hero," said Seal.

Reeva Steenkamp
Reeva Steenkamp
Splash

"It's not going to change anything because my daughter is not coming back," said June Steenkamp.

This day, the mother of a daughter shot dead spoke for people around the world as if to say, "Take the spotlight off the killer... and remember my beautiful child".

"And we try to think about her immense talents, her warmth and sincerity," Su said. "Reeva was a person just full of goodness. And we try to continue to think about that in our memory."