The jury trial of an American University official charged with murder in the strangulation of his wife of 43 years at the couple's horse country estate begins tomorrow in Loudoun County Circuit Court.

William (Bull) Evans-Smith was indicted by a grand jury April 23 -- seven days after his wife Barbara was found dead, a nylon stocking wound around her neck, in a bedroom of the couple's brick and field stone house near rural Hamilton.

News of the subsequent arrest stunned friends and neighbors, one of whom described the Evans-Smiths as "lovely, lovely people" who seemed to enjoy a "close" and "affectionate" relationship. They were often seen together, volunteering for western Loudoun civic activities or working to maintain the fastidious appearance of Crooked Run Farm, a 70-acre estate that is assessed at $367,000.

William Evans-Smith, 64, a retired Army colonel, avid fox hunter and director of American University's Foreign Area Studies program, has maintained his innocence since his arrest and has been free on a $100,000 property bond. Although he has been placed on administrative leave at the university, he has been working there part time, according to defense lawyer Blair Howard.

Howard described the case against his client as a "classic circumstantial" one. The trial is expected to run two weeks, and it will be heard by Judge Carleton Penn, who early last week ordered all case records sealed to reduce pretrial publicity.

Howard, who is one of three defense attorneys, declined to say how many persons will testify or whether William Evans-Smith will take the stand. "I anticipate the defendant's case will take a day or so," he said.

William T. Burch, the Loudoun prosecutor, has already subpoenaed 46 people. He would not elaborate on the case that the county intends to present except to confirm that one person who is expected to testify is Frederica Bunge of Berkeley, Calif. -- described by the defense as having had a "personal relationship" with William Evans-Smith.

Barbara Evans-Smith, 64, was found slain on the morning of April 15 in the couple's house, which is hidden from the main dirt road and overlooks acres of fenced pasture, woods and a creek.

Preliminary evidence indicated that the Evans-Smith house had been burglarized of jewels and cash and that the victim had been raped before she died, according to the Loudoun sheriff's office. But police said further investigation and a medical examiner's report showed that neither burglary nor rape had occurred.

In an interview shortly after his arrest, William Evans-Smith described his wife as a "very, very fine woman" -- an artist, gardener, musician, intellectual, bird watcher, the mother of his three grown children and his childhood sweetheart.

At her funeral, held at the Goose Creek Friends Meeting House in nearby Lincoln, he rose to give what was later described by some of those who attended as an emotional speech about his long relationship with his wife.

Friends described Barbara Evans-Smith as energetic, a civic activist known for her practical ways, her spotless horse barn and her well-tended garden.

Friends and business associates have described William Evans-Smith as "very professional," an "ideal" and "affectionate" husband who could, at times, be blunt and strong-willed.