A club-wielding attacker crept into a sorority house at Florida State University early yesterday and brutally beat four young women while they slept, raped one and strangled her and another, police said.

A short time later, three blocks away, another Florida State University student who was not a member of the sorority was severely beaten.

"We haven't found any link between the two atttacks," said Carl Swanson, a Tallahassee police spokesman. "There doesn't seem to be any tie-in, but we're still investigating that possibility."

After autopsies were performed on the dead women, who had been sleeping in separate rooms, a sheriff's official said both were chocked to death, at least one by bare hands, and one had been raped. Two of the beaten women were in critical condition; one was listed as "fair."

Police said all the women in the Chi Omega sorority house were asleep during the attacks against the four residents, but the assailant was spotted by one woman as she returned shortly after 3 a.m. from a date.

"She saw a man running down the stairs and out the front door. He was carrying a club or a limb or a piece of wood of some sort," said Swanson.

The intruder apparently entered through an unlocked side door.

Swanson said the student who saw the attacker described him as clean-shaven, in his early 20s, about 6 feet tall, and wearing blue pants and a blue jacket and possibly a stocking cap.

Police and sheriff's officers called out all available investigators and called in bloodhounds to search the quiet, tree-lined residential neighborhood.