A 71-year-old Northwest woman getting ready to drive home from a church service was shot to death yesterday afternoon by her 80-year-old estranged husband as two horrified passengers in her car looked on, District police said.

Olivia Rachel Gilbert was shot repeatedly in her head and upper body outside the Salem Baptist Church at 917 N St. NW. According to police, she had attended church services and gone to her car about 12:50 p.m., when a man, who police identified as John Lewis Gilbert of 1451 Park Rd. NW, approached the driver's side and fired repeatedly through the closed window with a .32 caliber revolver.

Olivia Gilbert of 1330 Rittenhouse St. NW was transported to Howard University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 1:27 p.m., police said.

The suspect made no attempt to flee from the scene of the assault, police said. He was taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder, police said.

According to a police source, John Gilbert told police in a videotaped statement that he had planned the assault since December. According to the source, he told police she had "destroyed" his life, saying that she had taken their house during divorce proceedings.

Family members confirmed that the couple had separated, but they said a divorce had not become final.

According to police, Gilbert, who retired from his job as a security officer at the Washington Hospital Center in 1975, fired "possibly five" shots at his wife, a retired upholsterer. The two women passengers in her car were not injured, police said.

Ethel Harris, a friend of almost 10 years who was in Olivia Gilbert's passenger seat, said that the gunman approached the car and demanded that the victim lower the window. When Olivia Gilbert refused to talk to him, Harris said, he fired at her.

Harris said that none of the three women saw the gunman's approach until he was just outside the car. "It all happened so fast," she said.

According to Christine Wharton, Olivia Gilbert's sister, the couple had not completed their divorce and had a hearing scheduled for next month. Wharton said that her sister had obtained a restraining order against her husband because of a pattern of abusive behavior.

Marcus Barnes, a neighbor of the victim, said that she was "just as sweet a person as you could meet in your life."

Barnes said John Gilbert was frequently hostile toward his wife and that Barnes "could hear them arguing from my back yard." The husband was "always trying to be a bully," he said.