A 74-year-old woman, found dead in the kitchen of her house in an affluent Montgomery County neighborhood yesterday, appeared to have been killed during what may have been a burglary, police said.

The body of Rae Brown McConaghy, of 8708 Fenway Dr., was found yesterday morning by a neighbor who became concerned after being unable to reach her for nearly 24 hours, police said.

McConaghy, the widow of a retired Navy officer, lived alone on a two-block-long street of $200,000 and $300,000 homes abutting the grounds of the Congressional Country Club off River Road in West Bethesda.

Sgt. Harry Geehreng, a county police spokesman, said the cause of McConaghy's death was not immediately known but it appeared she had suffered head and facial injuries.

"The death is being investigated as a murder," said a police statement issued to the press.

McConaghy's death comes just a few weeks after the slaying of an 80-year-old widow in the Forest Glen area of Silver Spring. The body of Anna Teresa Kendricks was discovered July 25 after the burglary and ransacking of her home at 2119 Coleridge Dr., where she lived alone.

Kendricks was stabbed to death after someone entered the house through a rear window sometime between 10 p.m. Saturday, July 23, and 7:30 p.m. the following Monday, when the body was found, police said.

Police said that there were no signs of stabbing or shooting in yesterday's incident, but they provided few other details. They said an autopsy will be conducted by the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore to determine the cause of McConaghy's death.

McConaghy was last seen alive Saturday morning, when she picked up her newspaper outside her house, police said.

They said the home had apparently been broken into sometime between then and the time the body was found by the neighbor, who entered about 10:20 a.m. with a spare house key.

Police said the woman's attacker apparently entered the house by breaking a ground-floor window. They said the house had been ransacked, but that they were unable to say last night what, if anything, had been taken.

McConaghy was the widow of Harry A. McConaghy, a retired civilian engineer with the Navy Department, who died at the family home after a heart attack in September, 1981. He served as a Navy aviator in the Pacific during World War II, and was a retired commander in the Naval Reserves.

The couple had a daughter and two grandchildren.

Neighbors yesterday expressed fondness for McConaghy. "She was a very nice neighbor and a very lovely person," said Harvey Bolton, who lives a few doors from the McConaghy house. "We were quite shocked and dismayed," he said.

"I'm scared to death," said Margaret Dunkley, who also lives in the area. "It's just shocking. Awful."