It was the first day of her first job and 17-year-old Karen Scarbrough was excited, her family said yesterday.

She changed outfits three times Saturday morning before settling on a knee-length, black flowered dress, brushing her long, silky hair before the mirror and nervously applying makeup, according to her older sister, Janet. Her brown eyes were magnified by a large pair of eyeglasses ("She hated wearing glasses"), which she reluctantly donned before walking out the front door for the last time.

"She was the most beautiful girl in the world," her father said.

The Scarbrough family was sitting in the living room of their rural home here yesterday, trying to make sense of what happened next. They couldn't.

The Scarbroughs drove Karen to work at a trailer used as a housing development office in Dale City, and dropped by with a sandwich at 1 p.m.

Later that day Karen's mother, Joan Scarbrough, a nurse's aide at Quantico Naval Hospital, came by to pick her daughter up after work. She waited outside the trailer, her husband said yesterday, not wanting to be "a nosy mother," until a man came out of the trailer and told her what had happened.

Joan Scarbrough rushed inside, saw the three victims lying on the floor, and started taking their pulses. All three women had been shot in the back of the head. Joan Scarbrough held her daughter's wrist and detected a pulse, but within minutes, Karen Scarbrough was dead.

"I know it sounds weird," Janet Scarbrough, Karen's 18-year-old sister said, "but I want to know whether she was the first one shot - or the last."

Karen Scarbrough had just graduated from high school, received $300 in gifts and wanted to save money to buy a car, according to the family. She heard about the job at Dale City through a friend, Leonard (Hardy) Bolling, who the Scarbroughs said, works for the company. She would have been making $3.50 an hour.

"She was teasing me that morning," her sister Janet remembered. "She said she'd be making more money than me."

Now Karen's savings ("she was a tightwad," her sister said) will go toward a scholarship fund set up in her name at Stafford County High School.

Yesterday the phone was ringing off the hook: calls from newspaper, television, offers of money and flowers for the funeral to be calls from friends were few.

"She didn't have many friends," her father said. "She was Little Miss Independent. One day she came home and told me the kids were calling her names. They called her 'Isis' and 'Wonder Woman.' She loved people and she loved animals, but she wouldn't let nobody get attached to her."

Janet Scarbrough, who dropped out of school and now works at a Pizza Hut, was close to her sister.

"She wanted to marry a millionaire," she said. "She wanted to be a stewardess, to travel. Karen was the baby. She always tried to please my parents. She was so pretty, she studied so hard. I was so god-darn jealous of her. She had a gorgeous wardrobe, always had to be perfectly dressed. She hardly ever wore jeans."

But Karen Scarbrough was a victim of her own beauty, her sister said. "One night I found her crying in her room," Janet remembered. "She was so afraid to make friends. People thought she was snooty, but she wasn't. She lived inside a shell."

By all accounts, Karen Scarbrough didn't have time for the boys she met.

"I think she only went out with three boys the whole time we lived here," Janet said. The Scarbroughs moved to Falmouth last November when Jim Scarbrough was offered a job as a supervisor with Washington's new Metro subway system.

The last boy Karen dated was Bolling, according to her family. Jim Scarbrough said he answered an ad in the newspaper a few months ago for a Siberian husky. Scarbrough bought the dog from Bolling, who showed up one day at the family's house.

"He took one look at Karen," Janet said, "and fell madly in love." Bolling went out with Karen a couple of times, but the relationship never really blossomed, said Janet. "I think she snubbed him," Janet said. "I think boys bored her to death."

Karen Scarbrough liked the Bee Gees rock group, her dog "Pola" and the sanctuary of her yellow bedroom. "It's a mess now," her father said. "The police have gone through her belongings." The room is crowded with a TV, stereo, digital clock, posters, records, two closets full of size 7 clothes and a jewellry box overflowing with memories.

On the desk are two Spanish dolls, souvenirs of the two years the Scarbroughs spent in Spain. Karen Scarbrough, her family said, "didn't have an enemy in the world."