A 35-year-old emergency medical technician for the D.C. ambulance service was charged yesterday with strangling a Southeast woman in an unobtrusive Northeast motel in June, D.C. police said.

Wilmer Thomas Jr., of 6252 Maxwell Dr. in Camp Springs, was extradited to the District yesterday after being arrested Wednesday at his apartment in Prince George's County.

He was charged with murdering Veronica Sylvia Bunch, 28, of 885 Chesapeake St. SE, who was found unconscious shortly before 2 p.m. June 30 in a room at the J and D Motel, 1007 Rhode Island Ave.

Bunch, who entered the room on a three-hour rental, was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later at the Washington Hospital Center's Medstar unit.

Michael Dubose, the clerk who was working at the motel on the day of the slaying, said he saw the man later identified as Thomas choking a terrified Bunch in the hallway of the motel -- but he left to attend to some customers back at the front desk.

"I said, 'Stop messing with her like that,' and they didn't pay no attention. They just went back into the room," Dubose said.

"Now that I think about it, it was kind of weird," Dubose said. "I could have saved her. I've been thinking about it a lot lately."

D.C. Superior Court records confirmed that a witness told police he saw Thomas choking Bunch at the motel.

Police said the motel is one of several in the area to be frequented by prostitutes, an allegation the management denied. No sign outside the building designates it as a motel, but a notice posted on the front door says, "The establishment does not condone the use of drugs or prostitution."

Dubose and the motel's manager, who asked not to be identified, said the man later identified as Thomas was a regular there. "He came by like once a month," each time with a different woman, Dubose said. "He always had a dog with him -- a cocker spaniel -- that's how I recognized him."

About 11 a.m. on the day of the slaying, Dubose rented room No. 4 in the motel basement to the man later identified as Thomas. The man was accompanied by Bunch and a dog, Dubose said. Police sources said the man used an illegible signature when registering.

An hour later, Dubose said, he heard noises from downstairs. "I went down to the room and knocked on the door and said, 'Could you stop the noise? You're disturbing the others.' "

Dubose said he returned to customers upstairs and after another half hour the noises began again, so he returned downstairs.

Both the man and woman were nude in the hallway, Dubose said. "I said, 'Stop messing with the lady like that.' " Dubose said the woman looked terrified and kept muttering, "Oh my God."

Despite that, Dubose said, he returned upstairs to attend to a group of customers who were waiting, and he called no one for help.

Dubose said after another half hour the man left with the dog, telling Dubose that the woman was asleep and that he had to go to work. When Dubose later went to check on the woman, he found her lying unconscious on the floor without any clothes on.

"We thought it was an {drug} overdose," the manager said.

The manager of the hotel said the man later identified as Thomas has been frequenting the motel for "a year or two." The man would check into the motel as much as twice a month, then disappear for several months.

Thomas has been a city ambulance technician for 11 years, D.C. Fire Department spokesman Leo Givs said, and is assigned to Ambulance 21, housed at 101 Atlantic St. SE.

Givs said that Thomas is on sick leave and that the department will initiate suspension proceedings against him after he is arraigned in D.C. Superior Court, but he declined further comment.

Sources indicate that Thomas was arrested on drug charges in 1983. Since that time, they said, Thomas came under suspicion from fire officials for drug use and subsequently took part in a drug rehabilitation and monitoring program that was sponsored by the fire department.

Although 5th District police officers said the motel is one of several in the area that is frequently used by prostitutes, the manager denied that.

Noting that one television news report dubbed the motel a "one-hour trick house," he said, "I don't know nothing about no trick house," adding, "What could you do in one hour?"