William Bensen Young of Bethesda telephoned his wife from a pay phone an hour before he was shot dead with a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle on Nov. 27, 1981.

" 'I think three men are following me,' " Jacqueline Young said her husband told her when he called on the way to his Alexandria office, where he was shot. "Bill told me, 'Don't open your doors, even for somebody who says they're the police,' " the victim's wife said yesterday.

Mrs. Young had related the same story to Alexandria police just after the slaying. Yesterday, after an investigation that lasted more than three years, police told her that they had arrested her husband's former business partner, Frederick H. Ramsay, for allegedly hiring three men to kill Bill Young. Mrs. Young remembers Ramsay as having wept uncontrollably at her husband's funeral.

Ramsay, 40, the former president of Suburban Electric Co., was indicted by an Alexandria grand jury late Monday and charged with murdering Young, 54, the vice president of the business at 4114 Wheeler Ave. The commmonwealth's attorney's office delayed announcing the indictment until yesterday, when Ramsay had been placed in Alexandria jail without bond.

Ramsay, of 6609 Hackberry St., Springfield, purchased a $150,000 life insurance policy on Young in 1981 with the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. The policy had a double indemnity clause for accidental death.

Officials of the company said yesterday that in 1982 they filed an unsuccessful civil suit against Ramsay attempting to prevent him from collecting the proceeds. Officials said in the suit that they suspected Ramsay was involved in Young's death. Half of the money went to creditors of the company, which was having financial difficulties at the time, according to court records. The electrical contracting firm is no longer in business.

William E. Kelly, a financial consultant who audited Suburban Electric after Young's death, said the company was a "financial shambles" at the time.

"Bill came over to my house two days before he was killed," Kelly said. "He was extremely nervous and barely said a word as he ate two bowls of stew. I thought it was because of his money problems, but now I wonder if he knew someone was after him."

"We heard on the street a few days after the shooting that it was a contract killing," said police Capt. Andre Salvas, commander of the Alexandria criminal investigation unit. "But it was frustrating. We had no evidence. We kept running into dead ends."

Finally, Salvas said, the police tracked down a "street person" in 1983 who was not involved in the case, but who brought them information that eventually led to the arrests of Ramsay, an alleged middleman and two men allegedly hired to kill Young.

Two District men, Thomas Ebron, 25, and Charles Joseph, 35, were indicted in October and charged with killing Young in a murder-for-hire scheme. Both are in Alexandria jail, Ebron held without bond, and Joseph in lieu of $10,000 bond.

A third man, Ralph E. Threatt, 44, of 148 W St. NW, was arrested in April 1984 on charges of hiring Ebron and Joseph in a 14th Street NW bar to kill Young. Joseph told police that Threatt offered him $2,000 for the killing. Threatt was released on $15,000 bond pending trial.

"Ebron was the shooter, and Joseph was with him when they went into the back office of Suburban Electric," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Constance Frogale said yesterday. The two District men entered the office where Young, Ramsay and another employe, James Shebest, were preparing the payroll, Frogale said.

Ebron shouted to all three employes, "Give me your money." Then, without even taking the payroll envelopes scattered on the desk, prosecutors say, he shot Young.

Ramsay "was such a doll, a very friendly man," Jacqueline Young remembered. "We all used to go out together. He must have gotten into very deep financial trouble . . . . I can't say I'm sorry he's behind bars."

Frogale said she will request at Ramsay's arraignment, scheduled for today, that he be held without bail. She said she will seek the death penalty on the murder-for-hire charge.

"When I think of how Ramsay acted at Dad's funeral, I get so angry," said Lawrence Young, 36, a systems analyst in Vienna. "He cried and cried and cried, and even told me he'd pay for the funeral expenses."