Terry Leon Boyd, 22, who was wanted in the killing of a 53-year-old woman in a Northwest Washington row house, shot himself in the head yesterday at a highway exit ramp near Roanoke, after being confronted by state police. He underwent surgery last night at a Roanoke hospital, authorities said.

Police had been seeking Boyd in the death of Harold Ann East since shortly after her body was discovered Oct. 1 in a house in the 600 block of Hamilton Street NW. The body of a second woman, Dorothy Redd, 65, was also found in the house that day. Redd, who considered Boyd her grandson, shared the house with him and East.

Boyd was confronted shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday on an exit ramp from Interstate 81 in Roanoke County where he had pulled over with a flat tire. When state police arrived, Boyd, reportedly carrying a 9mm pistol under his shirt, was walking toward a car that had stopped to help, and was accompanied by occupants of that vehicle.

The officers, who recognized Boyd from radioed descriptions, drew their guns and shouted a warning. The occupants of the other vehicle ran to their car. Boyd dashed back to his, and the officers ordered him out. At that point, state police said, he fired one shot into his head.

Police in the District and Virginia said yesterday's dramatic turn in the case apparently was prompted by a segment Saturday night about the women's deaths on the Fox network show "America's Most Wanted." The show is broadcast locally at 9 p.m. on WTTG Channel 5.

At 3:30 a.m. yesterday, state police Capt. Charles Compton said, police in Virginia received a lookout for Boyd that described an automobile he was believed to be driving--a 1998 maroon Chevrolet Cavalier with Maryland tags.

Lt. Alvin Brown, head of the violent crimes section in Washington's 4th Police District, said the car had been stolen in a carjacking in Montgomery County the day of the killing.

State police received a report of a disabled vehicle on I-81 at 2:08 p.m. yesterday, and Trooper Jeffery Rasnick and Sgt. Larry Findley went to Exit 141. The disabled vehicle appeared to match the description of the one Boyd was said to be driving. The man they saw near the vehicle matched the description given for Boyd, state police said.

They shouted to the people who had stopped to help that "he may be armed," Compton said. In fact, he said, one of them later told police that she had spotted the pistol under Boyd's shirt, and was filled with apprehension.

Brown, who expressed gratitude last night for tips telephoned in after the television show and for the Virginia authorities' aid, said D.C. detectives were continuing their investigation of the women's deaths. He said it remained unclear whether Boyd was Redd's biological grandson, or whether she merely considered him so.

Her death has been attributed to strangulation. Police said the motive in East's killing appeared to be robbery. She may also have been sexually assaulted, police said.

Controversy arose from the handling of the case at the outset. Redd had been suffering from cancer and for an hour or so, until East's body was found in the Hamilton Street house, police had been treating Redd's death as arising from natural causes. Brown said last night that the warrant obtained for Boyd on Oct. 3 charged him with murder only in the death of East. But he said investigators will present information about the death of Redd to the U.S. attorney's office.

Boyd reportedly began living with Redd when he was 14. He had been in the Army but was dishonorably discharged during the summer.

It was not immediately clear last night where he had been since the bodies of the two women were discovered 10 days ago.

Brown declined to say whether police believed that the 9mm pistol found with Boyd yesterday was involved in East's killing.

Two other women were killed in recent weeks in houses in Northwest Washington. Brown has said that police have found nothing to connect the deaths on Hamilton Street to those killings. But he said police were "still looking at every aspect of each."

CAPTION: BOYD