Severe financial pressures may have pushed Leonard J. Fleeger "off the deep end" that led him to shoot his wife and three children before he took his own life Sunday night, Fairfax County police said yesterday.

After poring over family financial records and other documents, police investigators said the family's financial problems may have been part of the motive behind the murder-suicide, Police Chief Carroll D. Buracker said.

Buracker said police found a short note, signed by Fleeger, on the kitchen counter of the family's waterfront home in the Lake Barcroft community. In the note, Fleeger said he could no longer cope with the pressures and was sorry for what he was doing, police said. The note did not elaborate on the "pressures," police said.

A preliminary report by the county medical examiner yesterday concluded that each of the five family members died from "a gunshot wound to the head," police said.

Buracker said Fleeger, 46, a civilian Army employe, apparently shot his wife, Mary Sue Fleeger, 43, and their three children, Brian, 10, Kimberly, 6, and Susan, 4, during the night while they were asleep in their bedrooms. Fleeger was found sprawled beside his wife in the master bedroom. A .38-caliber revolver was found near Fleeger's body, police said.

Police refused to give details of the family's financial problems, but said their investigation was continuing. "It appears the guy went off the deep end," said Buracker. "Individuals can tolerate stress at different levels--you don't know what chemical triggers something like this."

Fleeger, an analyst in the systems development division of the office of the adjutant general of the Army at the Pentagon, was at a government grade 13 pay-scale level of about $39,536 to $45,406. Mary Sue Fleeger worked at night for the data-processing office of the Fairfax City office of the law firm of Boothe, Prichard and Dudley.

The Fleeger family lived in a $210,000 split-level house at 3804 Lakeview Ter. in the Lake Barcroft community. The house was built for Mary Sue Fleeger's parents. She moved into the house with her husband after her father's death, neighbors said.

Neighbors said they saw no evidence of problems within the family, which they characterized as "happy, cheerful and pleasant." Police said that although they have ruled the incident a murder-suicide, two investigators will continue sifting through the family's personal belongs, bills and other records.

Buracker said the department's findings will be turned over to the county prosecutor's office, a routine step in case the prosecutor wants to call for further investigation.