The Virginia attorney general has ordered state police to look into possible violations of the law in the way Arlington's chief prosecutor and police are handling the investigation of the year-old murder of a country real estate agent and his fiancee.

"It has been alleged that there hasn't been follow-up, or that there hasn't been a prosecution when there should have been," said Assistant Attorney general Anson Franklin. "Everyone involved (in handling the investigation) will be talked to . . . The rumors will be laid to rest once and for all."

In asking for the investigation, Franklin said, the state "is not accusing anybody of anything." A state police investigation of the handling of a local criminal case, however, is highly unusual, according to Virginia officials.

Commonwealth's Attorney William S. Burroughs Jr. expressed surprise and irritation over the investigation. "I haven't been notified by anybody other than the press," he said yesterday. He then said he welcomed "an independent investigation of the facts."

Arlington police chief Roy C. McLaren said he did not know about the state investigation, but that he was not surprised.

The attorney general's office set the investigation into motion Monday following a meeting two weeks ago with Arlington detectives, who claimed Burroughs is "interfering" in the investigation and is refusing to seek an indictment that police want.

Burroughs, asked yesterday if he had interfered in any way with the proper investigation of the case, said, "Absolutely not."

Franklin said that the scope of the investigation could include violations of the law, including malfeasance and obstruction of justice.

Burroughs and the police have been locked in a bitter dispute over the proper way to handle the murder investigation of Alan W. Foreman, 26, and Donna Shoemaker, 25. The couple was found shot to death in Foreman's garage last May.

The attorney general's office became involved recently after an aide to Gov. John N Dalton passed along to them a number of complaints about the handling of the investigation sent by residents of Northern Virginia, according to the governor's spokesman.

Four Arlington detectives involved in the case were summoned to Richmond on April 12 for a meeting with a deputy attorney general, and on April 14 according to informed sources, the detectives met with Burroughs and demanded that he either indict a particular suspect or remove himself from the case.

Burroughs refused to do either.

The attorney general's office did not talk with Burroughs before beginning the investigation, Franklin said yesterday. He declined to explain why.

"Certainly hope eventually someone will ask me about this case," Burroughs said icily. "They (the attorney general's office) have not estimated how long the investigation might take. In normal cases, if the state police decide to bring charges, than the local commonwealth's attorney would prosecute, he said. If the commonwealth's attorney should be the subject of the charges, than the local circuit court can appoint a special prosecutor to prosecute the prosecutor.

Burroughs originally obtained murder indictments against three men in the case, then dropped charges against two of them. The third was acquitted after a trial ending last October.

Police are known to be particularly concerned about reaxamining the role of one of these men, Joseph N. Martin, and are complaining that Burroughs refuses to allow them to properly interrogate him.

Burroughs has been especially close to the case from the beginning of the investigation, conducting a number of interviews and on-scene examinations, and generally directing all details of the investigations.

Martin acknowledges that police are following and "harassing" him, but he says that he is innocent. Burroughs, in dropping charges against Martin last fall, said that he believed him "to be innocent." He has since had a number of discussions with Martin.