A tearful and agitated Chander Matta told a therapist at the Arlington County jail last month that for more than a year voices have commanded him to harm others and to commit suicide.

The therapist, who examined Matta on July 29 in the jail after he was involved in a fight with another inmate, reported in an internal memo that Matta has been experiencing "auditory hallucinations" for more than a year.

Matta, 21, has been charged with the slayings of three Washington area prostitutes, each of whom was asphyxiated during the Memorial Day weekend.

David Bogard, director of corrections for the Arlington County jail, said Matta "had a minor scuffle over a TV program" with a cellmate. Bogard said Matta has been moved to a single jail cell.

After the altercation, Bogard said, "the supervisor on duty made a decision that it would be helpful to Mr. Matta to speak to one of the mental health therapists on staff."

Arlington Human Services therapist Leslie Weisman reported that on the night of the fight Matta said the voices told him to throw the inmate to the floor. Matta, she wrote, is uncertain about whether the voices are real or imagined.

Matta told Weisman that since his arrest on murder charges two months ago, voices have commanded him to commit suicide by slashing his wrists.

She wrote that Matta said he considered suicide on at least two other occasions before his arrest, once by overdosing on Valium. On another occasion he contemplated killing himself by intentionally wrecking his car.

Weisman reported that while being examined by medics after the fight, Matta "became agitiated and screamed for the voices to stop." She found "no evidence of delusions, paranoia or a major thought disorder," although she wrote that he did appear to be tense, anxious and depressed.

According to the report, Matta said he had been seeing a psychologist before he was jailed. Weisman declined to comment.

The therapist's memo raises speculation that an insanity defense could be forthcoming from Matta's defense attorney.

Prosecutors for Arlington County say they have statements, polygraph test results and circumstantial evidence linking Matta to each of the slayings.

"A defense based on some mental health defect is one of the options we are evaluating," said Arthur M. Reynolds Jr., Matta's attorney. Reynolds has indicated that he would file a motion asking that some statements made by Matta to police when he was arrested on June 10 be ruled inadmissible as evidence.

The first of Matta's trials, for the slaying and robbery of 16-year-old Jodie Marie Phillips, is scheduled for Oct. 22. A trial for the slaying and robbery of Sandra Rene Johnson, 20, is set for Nov. 13. Trial for the slaying and robbery of Sherry Larman, 26, is set for Nov. 28.