A D.C. Superior Court judge said yesterday there is insufficient evidence to support a second-degree murder charge against a Northeast Washington man accused of allowing his 9-month-old son to starve to death and ordered him bound over to a grand jury on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors last week charged Keith Lynn Roddy, 29, with second-degree murder, signaling that the government would try to prove that Roddy committed the alleged offense with "malice aforethought," knowing that his infant son would die if he did not feed him.

Public Defender Arthur Leavens, representing Roddy, told Judge Timothy C. Murphy at a hearing yesterday that Roddy was incapable of taking care of the children and had done everything he could, unsuccessfully, to seek help for them.

Murphy ruled that the government had not provided sufficient evidence to show that Roddy acted with malice, and he reduced the charge to involuntary manslaughter.

The new charge could mean a significant difference for Roddy. The maximum penalty for second-degree murder is life in prison. The maximum term for involuntary manslaughter is 15 years.

The case now goes to a grand jury that must decide whether Roddy should be indicted. The grand jury is not bound by the judge's decision, and could reduce, increase or drop the charges.

Roddy, who authorities said was unemployed and on probation for a drug conviction, was arrested last week after his infant son, Keith Roddy, was found dead in Roddy's apartment at 2029 Benning Rd. NE. According to a police affidavit entered in court, Roddy said after his arrest that he had not fed his son for six days.

After an autopsy, D.C. Medical Examiner James Luke ruled that the infant died of starvation "due to neglect," the first such death in the city since 1971.

Another son, 2 1/2-year-old Lynn Roddy, was found suffering from malnutrition and dehydration, but has been listed in good condition after treatment at Children's Hospital.

Last October, Murphy released Roddy on probation after a heroin possession conviction. Murphy ruled yesterday that there is probable cause to hold a hearing to revoke Roddy's probation and ordered him held without bond.