A Columbia man has been charged with the stabbing death of Richard C. Willard, 36, a distributor for The Washington Post whose body was found about 5 a.m. yesterday in front of a High's convenience store in Columbia, Howard County police said. They said a note had been left on the body challenging them to solve the murder.

Police arrested Donald Rudolph Dehaney Jr., 19, of Many Days Lane, Columbia, about a mile from the slaying scene, and charged him with first-degree murder.

Police spokesman Martin Gavin said an employe arriving for work found the body on the front sidewalk of the store at 6810 Cradlerock Way. The engine of Willard's truck, parked a few feet from the body, was still running when police arrived. His wallet and jewelry were found on the body, they said.

Gavin said the unsigned, three-line note was addressed to "You Howard County Police Pigs," and contained "sexually and racially explicit language directed at the police department and against whites." Gavin said the letter served "as a challenge to the police . . . like . . . 'I did this, now come find me.' "

Gavin said the letter prompted police to consider "a few suspects." Dehaney, who lives with his parents, was arrested without a struggle, police said.

Willard, an independent distributor for nine years in Columbia, was making a routine drop at the store, which a Post circulation manager said would have been made about 3 a.m.

Joe Pensinger, suburban and country circulation manager for The Post, said Willard "was very well-liked by his carriers and had good rapport with them. This is just quite a shock."