A Gaithersburg woman was indicted on a murder charge yesterday in the Nov. 24 shooting death of a young woman at the woman's apartment.

Judy A. Clark, 32, also was indicted on charges of manslaughter, reckless endangerment, assault, battery and use of a handgun in a violent crime.

She is accused of killing Alethea Tate, 18, who was shot once in the throat as she walked into Clark's third-floor apartment on Frederick Avenue. Tate was pronounced dead a short time later at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.

Clark told authorities that she believed the gun was unloaded when she pulled the trigger, according to police.

A preliminary investigation indicated that the shooting was accidental, Montgomery County police said. However, they referred the case to the grand jury on the advice of the State's Attorney's Office.

Tate's family reacted in anger when police did not immediately charge Clark. The victim's twin, Oletha Tate, said, "My sister had never been to that house before . . . never met the lady that killed her. {Clark} pulled the trigger three times."

In an interview in November, Clark said she had never handled a gun before the shooting. After her boyfriend cleaned and took bullets from his .38-caliber revolver, Clark asked to hold the gun, she said.

About that time, Clark said, Tate and a mutual friend knocked on her door. Clark said she told her visitors, who were walking into the apartment, that the weapon was unloaded as she held it in her left hand. She said that to prove it was unloaded, she pulled the trigger several times.

"The gun clicked, then a second click . . . the third click, there was fire, a shot," said Clark, a legal secretary. "Everybody stood in shock."

An apologetic Clark said the shooting was "a true freak accident in every way, shape and form. I'm going to have to live with this for the rest of my life."

Clark could face a sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment if convicted.