An elderly Washington woman was beaten to death in her Adams-Morgan apartment yesterday morning, according to District of Columbia police.

Police said Beatrice Newhall's body was found by a neighbor who went to Newhall's apartment after she failed to leave the morning paper in front of her neighbors' apartment door, a courtesy she regularly performed for the tenants of the other six apartments in the building.

Because the apartment was in disarray when Newhall's body was discovered police initially suspected robbery was the motive for the attack. But police said they have not been able to determine if anything is missing from the ransacked apartment.

Among the clues police have to work with, according to Newhall's neighbors at 1623 Lanier PL. NW, is that Newhall did put The Washington Post in front of some apartment doors yesterday morning but failed to pick up and deliver the Washington Star which arrived at the apartment building lobby about a half hour later at 7:30 a.m.

The undelivered newspapers have led police to suspect that Newhall was killed between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.

Fannie Granton, one of Newhall's neighbors, and the Washington society editor of Jet magazine, said Newhall would have been 82 Thursday.

"She was a very intelligent and educated lady," said Fannie Granton. "She graduated from Smith College 62 years ago and then she same to Washington and worked as an interpreter, I think, at the Pan American Union."

Another neighbor said Newhall had been preparing a history of the co-op apartment house, which is located at Lanier Place and Argonne Street.

"She'd lived here for 20 to 25 years," said Chris Richardson, a 35-year resident of the building. "It's a shock but I guess these things can happen anywhere, anytime."

The slaying took place on a curving, tree-lined street that is undergoing massive renovations and share increases in property values, and experiencing an influx of young couples. Several neatly kept medium-sized apartment buildings, housing mostly young persons, are located in the heavily populated and racially mixed Adams-Morgan area.

"Things are changing around here," said a young man who was walking a German shepherd. "But they haven't changed altogether. Robberies are pretty frequent around here."

Neighbors said Newhall, who was retired, was a voracious reader who loved fiction, poetry and newspapers. She would get up early every day and wait for the newspaper delivery in a green studio director's chair in the marble vestibule of the building. Then she would carry her neighbors' newspapers to the front of their doors, before returning to her apartment to read her paper.

Yesterday the green cloth chair lay folded up on the ground.

Special correspondent Joe Calderone contributed to this story.