Charges of attempted murder were dropped yesterday against a Brentwood man who police alleged shot and critically wounded his ex-wife and her husband in the couple's apartment near Laurel over a child-custody battle.

Prince George's County police Detective Wilson Collins said the charges against James Wallace Watson III were dropped in District Court "basically because of a lack of evidence at this time to get a conviction." Collins said the investigation of the double shooting is continuing, and Watson is still a suspect.

Watson was charged last month after county police interviewed dozens of friends and relatives of Eugene Prowant Jr., 30, and his wife, Pamela, 26, who were awakened by an intruder and shot as each of them sat up in bed.

The Prowants' 2-year-old son, who was asleep between them, also was injured.

Police found nothing missing from the couple's apartment, where there was $700 in cash on a dresser in the room where the shooting occurred and expensive stereo equipment.

Joseph DePaul, Watson's attorney, said his client has maintained his innocence since he was arrested early last month.

"As far as I am concerned," DePaul said, "he did not do it and should not have been charged. The man was inconvenienced a great deal."

In the statement of charges against Watson, police referred to a custody battle in Howard County last summer for Watson's and Pamela Prowant's two children, who were in the custody of Pamela Prowant's mother in Jessup, Md.

According to the statement, a judge awarded custody to Prowant "over the objection of and against the will" of Watson.

Police said Watson, 30, of 3704 Taylor St., did not want custody of the children, but did not want Pamela Prowant to have custody of them.

Pamela Prowant was supposed to take custody of the two children the day of the shooting, police said. But at 3:30 that morning, police said, an intruder pried open a patio door at the Prowants' apartment at 11721 S. Laurel Dr. The intruder awakened the couple and shot each of them twice with a handgun, police said.

The Prowants have been released from Prince George's General Hospital, a hospital spokesman said. Charges against Watson could be reinstated, police said.