Police in the U.S. Virgin Islands have arrested Shadrack Brown and are holding him for the murder of his wife, Francine, whose badly decomposed body was found two months ago sealed behind a wall of the couple's Southeast Washington apartment.

Brown, also is known as Juni Brown, was arrested July 21 after he allegedly used a fake birth certificate to apply for food stamps in the islands, according to authorities there. A computer check subsequently revealed a warrant issued in the District of Columbia charging him with the murder of his wife.

He is being held in a correctional institution on St. Croix pending possible extradition proceedings. Charges lodged against him in the islands include presenting fraudulent documents and false claims of citizenship, offenses that carry a maxium sentence of five years imprisonment and a fine of $1,500.

Mark Milligan, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Virgin Islands, said this week he is undecided whether to try Brown on the local charges first, or send him immediately to Washington.

Francine Brown's body was discovered on June 2 sealed behind a wall of her kitchen pantry in her three-bed-room brick duplex at 3832 Ninth St. SE. A medical examiner ruled she had been bludgeoned to death. She was 24.

Neighbors reported that the couple had frequent fights and that Shadrack Brown had last been seen around May 1 as he left with the three children who lived with them.

Not long after that neighbors said they noted a foul smell coming from the apartment, which is part of the Highland Dwellings public housing complex in Congress Heights.

The property manager investigated neighbors' complaints but thought the smell might be a dead animal. Police, suspecting otherwise, eventually helped break through fresh plaster in the kitchen and found the body.

Police said that Shadrack Brown's three children, one by Francine Brown and two from another relationship, were with Brown in the Virgin Islands and have been placed in foster homes.

Authorities in the islands reported that Brown claimed he had been with his wife in Florida several days after her body was found here. After his arrest he complained of heart problems and checked into a local hospital, but doctors there could find nothing wrong, these authorities said.

Brown was arrested after a social worker noticed the birth certificate he presented was "obviously fraudulent . . . badly prepared," said Milligan.

Brown is a native of Antigua, British West Indies. Although not a U.S. citizen, he held an immigration green card and was a lawful permanent resident of this country, according to Virgin Islands authorities.

He is being held without bail.