Chander "Bobby" Matta, charged in the slayings of three prostitutes, tearfully described to investigators how he strangled one of them in a taped statement played in an Arlington County court yesterday.

"I strangled her," said Matta on the tape. He then described in detail the choke hold he said he learned while at a military academy. "The last thing she said was, 'You lied,' " Matta said, between sobs.

The tape was played during a court hearing called by Matta's attorneys to urge that his statement be suppressed in his upcoming murder trials. Circuit Court Judge Paul F. Sheridan denied the motion.

On the tape, Matta also described how he picked up one of the prostitutes who was killed after driving to section of downtown Washington on 14th Street NW known as "The Stroll."

"She asked, 'Do you want to go out?' and I said 'Yeah,' " Matta said.

Matta said the woman got into the car, and he drove her to the Matta home in the 1800 block of South Oakland Street in Arlington.

"We made out . . . . We laughed and talked for a while," he said on the tape. "We were just talking and stuff like that," Matta said, "just like she was my girlfriend or something."

Matta made his statement June 10 at Alexandria police headquarters, where he was interrogated by an Arlington detective, Stephen Carter, and an Alexandria detective, Derrill Scott.

According to both detectives' testimony yesterday, Matta at first denied killing the three women. He broke down and acknowledged having committed the crimes after being told by detectives that he had failed a polygraph examination and that police had other evidence linking him to the slayings.

After making the statement Matta, 21, was charged in the robberies and slayings of Sandra Rene Johnson, 20, Jody Marie Phillips, 16, and Sherry Kim Larman, 26.

The women, all prostitutes who were active near Thomas Circle, were killed by asphyxiation within 36 hours of one another during the Memorial Day weekend.

Matta's attorneys, Arthur Reynolds Jr. and Paul H. Zukerberg, argued that the taped statement should not be entered into evidence at Matta's trials for the slayings, the first of which is set for Nov. 26.

In the taped statement, Matta said that after one of the slayings, "I went home and I just got drunk."

According to court testimony, police arrived at the Matta home about 11:30 a.m. on June 10, a Sunday, and found Chander Matta there with his younger brother. Matta was questioned several times over an eight-hour period until he made a statement about 7 p.m.

Arlington Detective Ed Gabrielson, who oversaw the investigation for the county police, said that initially Matta was one of a few suspects considered in the slayings.

He became the prime suspect after the first part of the interrogation, Gabrielson said, when police drove him back home and saw a telephone answering machine in the family living room, just like one that was stolen from Johnson's apartment, where police believe Johnson was killed.

Detectives Carter and Scott described how they tried to console Matta, who they said sobbed uncontrollably while talking about the slayings.

"He threw {photos of the three women} into the air and said, 'Okay, I did it,' " Carter testified. Then Matta put his head on Scott's shoulder and "started crying," he said.

Matta, who appeared in the courtroom wearing a mauve sweater, faded jeans and sneakers, hung his head and sat silently throughout the proceedings.

Reynolds argued yesterday that Matta had waived his Miranda rights, not knowing he was a murder suspect.

Reynolds also complained that the police detectives handling the investigation had led his client to believe "that if he got things off his chest, things would go better for him in court."

Judge Sheridan sealed the transcript of the statement, which had been admitted into evidence during the hearing. A 10-minute segment of the statement played in court yesterday remains unsealed.