When D.C. homicide detectives answered a call to 281 Newcomb St. SE last night, they encountered an unusually scene: an elderly couple in their 70s, both dead, both apparently of natural causes.

"I've seen it once in the last six years." said Det Jeff Greene. "It's reconstruct fully what happened until a coroner's report is finished today, but the story appears to be poignant one.

Melvin Elton Railey, 78, was a part-time cab driver. He died early this week, perhaps Mondau, detectives said.

His wife, Willia, whose exact age is unknown, was semi-invalid who could moved around with the help of a walker. She apparently died two or three days late, detectives said.

"It's hard to say what happened." Greene said. "He might have died, and she might not have been able to do anything about it. Or maybe she wasn't even sure what had happened at first and had a heart attack when she realized he was dead."

Railey was found in his bed and his wife was afew feet away on the floor of the bottom of their red brick now-house apartment not far from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

mrs. Railey's walker was lying beside her, and she may be have tried to reach a telephone down the hallway before she collapsed, detectives theorized.

The Raileys have no living children, and their nearest relative was Railey's 80-year-old brother who lives in Florida, detectives said.

Neighbors told police that the Raileys had lived in the Newcomb Street apartment about 12 years but that little was known about the elderly couple.