The bodies of three elementary school girls, each of whom had been stabbed repeatedly in the back, were found yesterday morning floating face down in a muddy culvert a few hundred yards from their homes in a northern Anne Arundel County subdivision.

The bodies of 10-year-old Debbie Hogan, her sister Terry, 8, and their playmate, 8-year-old Ann Brzeszkiewicz, were found by an Anne Arundel County police officer shortly-alter 8 o'clock, 12 hours after the girls' parents had started calling around their Southgate neighborhood trying to discover why the girls had not returned home.

The three girls, who were found fully clad in slacks, parkas and boots, had been attacked with a knife, according to assistant state medical examiner Ann Dixon. Dixon added that there was no evidence that any of the three had been sexually molested.

The discovery of the bodies ended an all-night search during which neighbors, county police, and State Police using a bloodhound combed a wooded area behind the subdivision and waded through knee-deep mud in an effort to find the girls.

"Quite a few children in this neighborhood play in those woods," said John Hoolihan, whose house on Royal Arms Dale is half a block from the Hogan's and the Brzeszkiewiczes' homes, both located on the 7900 block of Cross Creek Drive.

Hoolihan's 10-year-old daughter, Debbie, was a frequent playmate of Debbie Hogan's and was one of the last of the neighborhood children to see them alive late Sunday afternoon.

"We went and talked for a while at Debbie's house," said Debbie Hoolihan, who had visited the Hogans' house to play with the girls midway through the rainy Sunday afternoon. When the skies cleared, she said, "We went down (into the woods) to the creek to see if we could get over the bridge and into the (play) forts (built by neighborhood children).

"But the bridge was flooded out. We tried to get there going down the hills and then going around by the power lines, but it was pretty muddy and yucky, so we went back," she said. At about 6 o'clock Debbie Hoolihan's parents called her home for supper.

About an hour later, according to neighbors of the three slain girls, Terry and Debbie Hogan went over to Ann Brzeszkiewicz's house. The playmates then clambered over a back fence of the Brzeszkiewicz home - kept locked because of the family dog in it - and headed for the woods, neighbors said.

The two Hogan girls, both of whom had light blonde hair and stood just over 4 feet tall, were daughters of a retired army colonel, Richard F. Hogan, and his wife, Ingrid.

Neighbors said yesterday that the Hogans had moved to this Glen Burnie subdivision, 12 miles south of Baltimore, about two years ago, after being stationed for several years at nearby Ft. Meade. The Hogans have two other children, Michele, 13, and 4-year-old Ricky.

Jack and Carol Brzeszkiewicz, who lived three houses down Cross Creek Drive, had moved to the neighborhood from Milwaukee just after Christmas. Brzeszkiewicz a maintenance supervisor, had been transferred by his employer, the Continental Oil Company, according to a neighbor, William Kirkey.

Ann, called Annie or Muffy by her family, was the fifth of their six children, and the youngest daughter. Their neighbor, Kirkey, said Ann and Terry Hogan had become nearly inseparable friends shortly after Ann moved in last year and started second grade at Southgate Elementary School.

The flags were flying at half-mast yesterday at the school, where Debbie had been a fifth-grader and Ann and Terry had recently started third grade.

While friends and neighbors of the girls in this 13-year-old community tried to come to grips with the news yesterday, a group of about 50 county and State Police, some of them off-duty officers working on their own time, searched the large wooded areas all day for a murder weapon or any other possible clues.

The search was called off at dusk, a police spokesman said late yesterday afternoon.

In the meantime, residents of this subdivision of $50,000 and $60,000 homes huddled in small knots on their front lawns, sharing their fears and their suspicious.

"We have no suspects and no motive," police spokesman Jack Rayhart said yesterday. But, even after he was told this, the Brzeszkiewicz's nextdoor neighbor, Kirkey said, "I have this sick feeling in my stomach that it might be someone in this neighborhood."

"It's just got to be someone sick," he added, as he watched Jack Brzeszkiewicz pace back and forth, back and forth in this small backyard. "Poor Jack. He's worn a path back there today," Kirkey said.

Around the corner, John Hoolihan sat on his stairs and held his own 10-year-old Debbie on his lap as he said. "Three kids that age are a pretty big project, a handful for any one person - particularly if it's a stranger."

Pointing in the direction of the woods, he added, "That's not a stranger area. Theres no reason for strangers to be there, no shopping centers nearby."

"I think if they find someone, it'll be someone from the neighborhood," he added.

"The only thing we usually worry about in this neighborhood is cars speeding down the road," said Virginia Flamino, whose 9-year-old daughter Stephanie had played with Debbie Hogan for several hours in the middle of the day Sunday.

Mrs. Flamino's husband, Paul, joined the search that was organized at about 10 Sunday night, when the two families called the police and formally notified them of the girls' disappearance.

"All night," said Mrs. Flamino, "I thought that they would find the girls, that they'd just pop out from somewhere." Then she paused. "No . . . I didn't really think that. But that's what I wanted to believe."

Her daughter Stephanie, who remembered that Debbie Hogan had played the flute and sung in the school chorus, had telephoned Debbie Sunday evening, after her playmate had gone home.

"She didn't say anything much," Stephanie recalled. "She just said she was going to play with someone else; she was going to go somewhere. Then she said goodbye. That was all."