A Centreville woman who died after being stabbed in her house Tuesday night had obtained a protective order against her ex-husband last week, according to court records.

Lien T.B. Ho, 41, obtained a restraining order last week against Phuong Ngoc Ho, 46, after telling a Fairfax judge that her ex-husband had appeared unexpectedly in her garage on Dec. 2 and later tried to stab her in the chest. He was ordered to stay away from Lien Ho and their four children pending another hearing next week.

Phuong Ho was found at the home the night his ex-wife died, and he had stab wounds that appeared to be self-inflicted, according to police. He was listed in fair condition yesterday at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He had not been charged with any crimes, said police, who were still investigating.

Police said none of the Hos' four children, ages 9 to 20, were home about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, when the stabbing occurred in the family's two-level home in the 6500 block of Wheat Mill Way. But two nephews of the Hos, a teenager and a small child, were present, and one of them dashed next door to call frantically for help, a neighbor and police said yesterday.

"He was shaking, scared," said Kulwinder Singh, the next-door neighbor, describing the arrival of the teenage nephew. "He said, 'There's a robber in the house with a knife. He's going to kill my aunt,' " Singh said.

Police arrived quickly, Singh said, but Lien Ho was already dead. Family members declined to be interviewed yesterday.

Court records showed that the Hos were married in June 1979 in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States in 1981. They separated in February 1997 and completed an uncontested divorce in April 1999. Lien Ho had custody of the children, but Phuong Ho was allowed visitation. Neighbors said they saw him around the house after the divorce.

Lien Ho held two jobs to help support the family, said her attorney, Huy Nhat Bui. Her primary job was as a senior computer programmer in Ashburn for the health benefits plan of the National Association of Letter Carriers. She had worked in the office for six years, and "she was one of our top people," said Carol Greenlee, the plan's information services manager. "She was capable of taking on the most major projects we had."

Singh said his family and the Ho family both moved in June 1993 into what was then a new Centreville neighborhood. Lien Ho could often be seen playing tennis on the nearby courts and working in the yard. He said Phuong Ho was a talented handyman who single-handedly built an intricate deck behind the Hos' house. Phuong Ho works as a checkout clerk at the Safeway supermarket in Fairfax Towne Center on West Ox Road and was employed at the Safeway in Reston's Hunters Woods Center before that.