Fairfax County prosecutors dropped extortion charges yesterday against a North Carolina man after they failed for the second time in a week to produce their key witness, Jamie A. Scarborough, who was acquitted last month of arranging the murder of her estranged husband.

"To put it bluntly, it stinks," Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Steven A. Merril told Circuit Court Judge Lewis D. Morris when it became evident that Scarborough again had failed to appear for the case against Daniel M. Coleman.

Coleman's trial on charges that he attempted to extort $5,000 from Scarborough shortly after her husband was shot to death January 31 had originally been scheduled to begin last Monday.

When Scarborough, a Fairfax resident, did not appear, Merril won a one-week delay from Morris, although he then was warned by the judge that a second no-show would probably result in dismissal of the charges.

Yesterday Scarborough's lawyer, Guy Farley, told reporters that he had no idea of his client's whereabouts, although he believed she had recently been traveling in Wyoming.

"I did inform her the case was set for today, and she said she was not coming back," said Farley, who defended the woman against the murder-for-hire charge. Farley said that the county prosecutors had had ample opportunity to subpoena her last month during her five-day trial in Fairfax Circuit Court.

"I know if she had been subpoenaed, she would be here," Farley said.

"There was no requirement to subpoena her," Merril said, although he agreed the "policy" of his office was to subpoena witnesses. Merril said that during Scarborough's trial, the commonwealth's attorney's office could never locate Coleman, and they could not locate Scarborough for the Coleman trial.

Fairfax County police said last May they furnished Scarborough with extortion money to allegedly meet the backmail demands of Coleman. They arrested Coleman and another man when they attempted to take possession of the funds at the Springfield Mall. Charges against the second man later were dropped.