A woman who had worked in three well-known French restaurants in Washington over the past 19 years was found shot to death in her Coral Hills apartment yesterday, Prince George's County police reported. Police said they had no suspects, leads or motive in the slaying.

The body of Joan A. Washington, 42, of 1226 Benning Rd. was found by a friend and her apartment building's property manager about 11 a.m., police said. The two men went to the apartment after being called by Jean Pierre Goyenvalle, owner of the Lion d'Or restaurant, 1150 Connecticut Ave. NW, who became concerned when Washington failed to show up for work for a second straight day.

When police arrived, they initially thought Washington had died of natural causes because there were no signs of blood or struggle. She had probably been dead for at least 24 hours, police sources said last night.

It was only later yesterday afternoon, police said, that the body was examined more closely and a bullet wound in Washington's stomach was discovered.

Goyenvalle, who was chef and part owner of the Jean Pierre and Rive Gauche restaurants before moving to Lion d'Or, said Washington had helped him prepare food in all three restaurants almost since he first arrived in Washington 19 years ago.

"She went with me from restaurant to restaurant," he said. "She was much more a friend than an employe. I just can't begin to understand something like this."

According to Goyenvalle, Washington had been divorced for a number of years and lived alone in her apartment.