A 50-year-old Silver Spring man who had been trying to persuade his estranged wife not to file for divorce yesterday shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide, Montgomery County police reported.

Medardo Leon was pronounced dead at Suburban Hospital yesterday of two gunshot wounds in the chest. His 40-year-old wife, Elsa, died on the walkway to her home on Chestnut Street in Bethesda, where she had fallen as she tried to flee her husband, police said.

She had been shot once in the head and twice in the chest with a handgun, according to police.

For years before the couple's separation last March, their marriage had been stormy, according to neighbors and friends.

The couple had come to Montgomery County from Cuba about 19 years ago, and shortly thereafter Mrs. Leon had opened a small beauty salon in the basement of her home.

Later she bought her own beauty shop in downtown Bethesda, but she gave up the business, neighbors and friends said yesterday, when she began having marital difficulties.

The business was taken over by Pu Chen Mih, who continued to employ Mrs. Leon there.

Mih said that Leon often would call the beauty salon and threaten his wife's life. "It worried me that he would do it in here," Mih said yesterday as she sat in the empty beauty salon that still bears Mrs. Leon's name.

On the wall hung several framed certificates noting the hairstyling and beauty shows and seminars in which Mrs. Leon had participated over the years. Customers who had heard the news on the radio were calling to ask if the reports of the murder-suicide were true.

Mrs. Leon was popular among the salon's Spanish-speaking clientele, according to her co-worker, Marcia Naranjo. But in their neighborhood -- an area of small brick and stone homes built at the time of World War II -- the Leons were the only Cuban family.

Mrs. Leon was to have been out of town yesterday, but she returned three days early on Sunday from a trip to Florida, where she attended a nephew's wedding. Since she already was in town, she told Mih she would report to work at 8 a.m. At 7:59 a.m. police were called to the Leon home by neighbors who said they heard gunshots.