In a letter he wrote before fleeing police, O.J. Simpson said he loved his ex-wife and insisted, "All her friends will confirm that I have been totally loving and understanding."

They don't."She was the ultimate possession. That's how he saw her," a friend of Nicole Brown Simpson told The Associated Press. "He didn't see her as his wife. He didn't see her as the mother of his children. He saw her as the ultimate possession."

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Nicole Simpson's friends describe Simpson as a possessive and obsessed man prone to physical and psychological violence against his ex-wife.

Their statements, if allowed in court, could help prosecutors argue that Simpson killed Nicole Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, out of jealousy and rage.

The source said Simpson hired people to follow her and get information from restaurant employees who worked where she was dining.

"He would always know where she was," said the friend. "He would know in advance, and then he'd be hiding in her bushes before she got home sometimes."

Simpson, 47, has pleaded innocent to two murder charges. Trial is scheduled Sept. 19. Simpson's attorney, Robert Shapiro, didn't immediately return a telephone call for comment.

Sources confirmed that police are interviewing Nicole Simpson's friends about the couple's relationship and that they are trying to establish a pattern of stalking.

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that police have seized tapes from Nicole Simpson's answering machine, which she reportedly used to screen unwanted calls from Simpson.

The friends' statements mirror those made to a grand jury by Nicole Simpson's ex-boyfriend, Keith Zlomsowitch. He described how Simpson showed up unannounced on the couple's dates and once spied on them having sex.

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Combine that with the dramatic 911 tapes - in which Nicole Simpson pleads for help while Simpson can be heard swearing in the background - and prosecutors could make a strong case that Simpson exhibited a pattern of abusive behavior.

And a pattern is just what they need to show.

Prosecutors are not allowed to introduce a defendant's past misdeeds, or even convictions sometimes, unless the information is relevant enough to make up for the shock value it will have on the jury.

Meanwhile, court records suggest Simpson and his ex-wife had not lived separately while working out their differences, as had been reported. Instead, they were living together in Simpson's mansion up until 19 days before the June 12 murders.

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