An 89-year-old Fredericksburg woman was stabbed to death in her home yesterday, allegedly by a stranger who then stole her car and used her money to buy wine coolers at a nearby supermarket, police said.

Neighbors who stopped by the woman's house to shovel her walk noticed that her front door was ajar and that a window had been broken, police said. Fredericksburg police Sgt. Ken Sekuterski said neighbors called police about 2:30 p.m. when they found blood near the door.

"It looked like there was a major, major struggle" between the woman and her attacker, Sekuterski said. "In the 15 years I've been in this community, I've never seen anything like it. This was just grisly."

Police believe that Ashby Hall, 29, of no fixed address, targeted the elderly woman and either knocked on her front door or rang her doorbell before pushing her into the hallway and stabbing her at least twice in the upper body. The woman was found dead in a living room adjacent to the front foyer. Police had not released the victim's name, pending notification of family members.

Hall was taken into custody less than three hours after police were alerted about the attack.

Sekuterski said Spotsylvania County sheriff's deputies found the woman's 1989 Ford Taurus station wagon in a Giant Food parking lot on Route 3 about 4:30 p.m. A cashier at the store said she had seen a man with blood on his hands and clothes in the store, and surveillance tapes gave police a "very clear picture" of the suspect buying wine coolers, Sekuterski said.

As police prepared to leave the scene, a Spotsylvania sheriff's deputy saw the suspect on a nearby corner. Police took Hall into custody, Sekuterski said.

Hall has been charged with capital murder and was being held at Rappahannock Regional Security Center. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.