The wife of the D.C. police lieutenant found shot to death in the garage of his half-million-dollar Bowie home in September hired a hit man to kill her husband, Prince George's County police said yesterday.

Nicolle Baxter, 31, a former exotic dancer, was arrested Thursday and charged with first-degree murder. Police said she hired an acquaintance to kill her husband, Lt. Garret Allen Baxter, 34.

Her alleged accomplice, Hayes Capers Jr., 31, of Oxon Hill, was arrested Friday. Both are being held in the Prince George's County Detention Center without bond.

"It's our understanding it was a murder-for-hire case. . . . She hired Hayes Capers to kill Garret Baxter," said Capt. Andrew Ellis of the Prince George's police department. "Capers was there when Baxter was killed, but I can't definitively say he was the triggerman."

Ellis declined to say how Baxter knew Capers, citing the "active investigation."

Garret Baxter's relatives said they were surprised by the news but relieved that arrests had been made.

"Oh my God, they arrested Nicolle," said Garret Baxter's nephew, Durell Baxter 28, an electrician from Clinton. "I can't believe this."

Police have said little about the Baxters' relationship, but public records paint a portrait of a couple that, in the months before his death, was embroiled in a series of financial and personal difficulties. Those travails ranged from bankruptcy and tax liens to the recent foreclosure on their $550,383 house.

Durell Baxter said his uncle met Nicolle, who worked as a stripper to support herself during college, in 1999, when Garret Baxter was in the midst of a messy divorce. She danced at the Skylark Lounge, a club in Northeast Washington that Garret Baxter frequented, owner Robert Bell said.

The couple married in July 2001. Their five children from previous relationships frequently stayed with them at their home on Stan Fey Drive.

Court records show that the couple had a lavish lifestyle far beyond their means. He earned $75,000 a year as a police lieutenant in Northeast Washington; she is a real estate agent. Both were fond of luxury cars, Durell Baxter said. Nicolle Baxter drove a late-model BMW and a black Corvette, he said.

Nicolle Baxter had been in the process of declaring bankruptcy but abruptly withdrew the bankruptcy petition Sept. 11, days before her husband was found shot to death.

Garret Baxter had taken a leave of absence from his job as a patrol commander of a rough section of Northeast in early summer, citing personal and financial difficulties.

On the morning of Sept. 20, a shaky Nicolle Baxter telephoned police to report finding her husband's bloody corpse lying amid spent shell casings in the garage of the couple's two-story brick home.

Durell Baxter said he initially suspected Nicolle might have been involved in the killing but changed his mind. He said she seemed grief-stricken at the funeral, an emotional ceremony at Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Washington attended by hundreds of police officers in dress blue uniforms.

Later, at the cemetery, she laid a single red rose on Baxter's casket.

"She was emotionally upset, crying and shaking," he said. "I guess if she did it, she did a hell of a job acting. . . . She seemed genuinely hurt by it."

Hayes Capers Jr., 31, top, and Nicolle Baxter, 31, are charged in the killing of Baxter's husband.Garret Baxter, at a meeting in 2000. He was killed in September.