Arlington County police are investigating the slaying of a woman found shot to death in her South Arlington town house Tuesday evening.

Police said a family member found the body of Sandra Burt Carrera, 41, in her home in the 2500 block of South Walter Reed Drive, a town house development near Route 7.

Arlington Police Chief William K. Stover said the homicide "has indications that it was domestic-related." Police "think we may" have a suspect in the slaying, he said.

Police said there was no sign of forced entry.

Friends and neighbors said Carrera's body had been found by her 11-year-old son about 6 p.m. A police spokesman said the slaying had occurred earlier that day. Friends and colleagues said police investigators had told them that Carrera apparently had just returned from taking her son to school when she was killed.

Carrera, a single parent, lived in Windgate One, a town house complex of 225 units adjacent to Four Mile Run Park in South Arlington. Real estate records showed that Carrera purchased the two-story town house in May 1988. She lived there with her son, Alex.

A friend who asked that her name not be used said that Carrera, a native of Pittsburgh, moved to the Washington area a few years ago after divorcing her husband.

Carrera was employed at the architecture firm of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassalbam in downtown Washington. Friends and co-workers said Carrera was a devoted mother, and described her as being vivacious and energetic.

"She had a kind of Goldie Hawn personality," one friend said.

"She didn't have an enemy in the world," said George Dickey, an architect at the firm where Carrera was employed as a business manager.

Dickey said it was Alex who found his mother's body Tuesday evening, and who called the firm yesterday morning to say that his mother had been killed.

"It was like a wall fell in when he called," Dickey said.

A department spokesman said Arlington police have launched an intense investigation. Neighbors reported that a half-dozen police cars descended on the home on Tuesday evening, and said that police spent several hours questioning Carrera's colleagues and neighbors.

Residents of Windgate said that crime of any sort, much less violent, is rare at the complex.

"I never expect those things to happen in my neighborhood," said Patricia Moreis, 25, a waitress who said she has lived in the complex for a year and a half. "After hearing about what happened, I didn't sleep too well last night."

Adrienne Johnston, president of an association of Windgate residents, said police investigators assured residents that the killing was "specific, and not random in nature."

The slaying is the first this year in Arlington, which had a record 12 homicides in 1990. It is the county's third killing in four weeks.

1. March 31: Anne Elizabeth Borghesani, 24, stabbed on bike trail just north of Rosslyn. Michael Charles Satcher, 22, indicted in the slaying.

2. May 26: Sherry K. Larman, 26, found dead in parking garage in 900 block of South Highland Street. Chander Matta, 22, charged.

3. May 27: Sandra Rene Johnson, 20, found dead in her apartment at 2400 S. Glebe Rd. Matta charged.

4. and 5. May 28: Geraldine Whitley, 22, fatally shot at bus stop in 2900 block of South Glebe Road by Keith Veney, 32, who then killed himself.

6. May 30: Jodie Marie Phillips, 16, found dead in west Alexandria. Police believe she was killed in Matta's home in the 1800 block of South Oakland Street. Matta charged.

7. July 9: John Pablo Velasquez, 20, killed in 900 block of South George Mason Drive.

8. Nov. 6: Mark Daniel Self, 27, shot in an exchange of gunfire with police at his apartment building in 700 block of North Nelson Street.

9. Nov. 12: Ana Moreno, 28, stabbed at her home in 2300 block of North 11th Street.

10. Nov. 30: Shannon Marie Weaver, 23, stabbed at her home in 1400 block of South 28th Street.

11. Dec. 20: Donald Carter, 23, shot at his home in 2700 block of South Wayne Street. Thelma D. Rainey, 20, charged.

12. Dec. 23: Gregory Bigsby, 32, shot in 2400 block of Shirlington Road. Hanee Madyun, 42, charged.

13. Jan. 15: Sandra Carrera, 34, shot at her home in 2500 block of South Walter Reed Drive.