Ten Montgomery County deputy sheriffs have been assigned to search for Michael Anthony Lazas, the Burtonsville father convicted of smothering his 23-month-old son in January 1993 who has been missing from a Silver Spring group home, officials said yesterday.

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose said yesterday that his officers are assisting the sheriff's department in searching for Lazas, who has not been seen since Oct. 2, when he was arrested and charged with drunken driving. Later that day, he retrieved his truck, which was impounded when he was stopped at Montrose Road and East Jefferson Street in Rockville.

He remained free last night, though officials said they had received reports of numerous sightings of him in the Washington area.

Meantime, police defended not making public announcements that Lazas was missing.

"The fact that he decided not to come home one night isn't a big concern. He was working in the community. He's proven himself. That's why there were no lights and sirens," police spokeswoman Ann Evans said yesterday.

Lazas, 32, had been living at the West Farms Home, 12000 Swallow Falls Ct. He was released from the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in June 1998, having spent five years there after he pleaded guilty to killing his son but was found not criminally responsible because of mental illness.

Under an order by Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Paul H. Weinstein, any violation of the conditions imposed for Lazas's release to a group home were to be reported immediately to the state's attorney's office. Lazas was reported missing Oct. 5. A warrant ordering him to be returned to Perkins was issued by Weinstein on Thursday.

State and county health officials declined to comment on whether additional conditions had been placed on Lazas at the group home, saying they were legally barred from talking about specific aspects of Lazas's case.

West Farms, which Lazas was allowed to leave each day to work in a mail room at the University of Maryland, is the second facility where he has lived since he was released from Perkins. The first was the high-security Parkwood home in Kensington. Officials said he was a model patient who successfully fulfilled his treatment requirements and, as a result, was moved to the less restrictive West Farms House.

According to court documents filed when Lazas was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his son, Michael A. Lazas Jr., Lazas told Montgomery County police detectives that he'd been caring for the child while the child's mother was at work and that, in an attempt to stop the toddler's crying, he slipped his hands over the boy's mouth and nose until he stopped breathing.

Voices, Lazas said, told him to kill his son.

"I did it. I was lying down and the baby was crying. I couldn't take it anymore," the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Lazas told detectives, according to court records.

The child's mother, after returning home, called paramedics, who took the child by ambulance to Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In 1991, Lazas pleaded guilty to stabbing a man in the neck and ear with a steak knife at an Olney picnic. Doctors who examined Lazas diagnosed schizophrenia, alcoholism and cocaine addiction, and he received two years' probation and an 18-month suspended sentence.