Richard Lee Earman, acquitted two years ago of the execution-style murders of a young Arlington couple, told a Virginia judge yesterday that he calmly shot the couple to death for the promise of $15,000.

"It didn't bother me," Earman, a former real estate salesman, testified at a preliminary hearing for a man charged with conspiring to kill the couple for $56,000 in life insurance proceeds.

Earman's detailed account of the murders of Alan Foreman and Donna Shoemaker was the first time he has publicly described the crime, called one of the most brutal in Northern Virginia.

In a calm, matter-of-fact voice, Earman, 36, retraced the May 1977 shootings and described his return to the garage where he had fired a .32 caliber revolver point blank into the couple's heads.

The first time he returned, Earman said he emptied his pistol's chambers directly into the couple's heads, fearful that his first shots had not killed them. He then returned a second time to make it appear the murders had occurred during a robbery, an action he said was designed to confuse police.

Throughout his afternoon of testimony in Arlington General District Court, the tanned, blond Earman, a former tennis instructor, was confident, and coldly detached about his decision to murder the couple. It was, Earman said, something of a business decision. If he killed the couple he could have all of the $15,000 he was offered as the total price of setting up the murders.

Under cross-examination, Earman conceded that he had lied frequently to police and others about the case. His credibility as a witness is expected to be a key issue in the case, which will resume this afternoon.

Earman cannot be retried on the murder charges despite his testimony yesterday because of the Constitutional protection against double jeopardy. He has pleaded guilty to a related charge of conspiring to murder the couple and other charges and is to be sentenced June 27. His testimony yesterday came as a result of a plea bargain agreement on those charges.

During three hours of testimony, Earman said a key man behind the murders was Joseph N. Martin, 28, a former Northern Virginia life insurance salesman.

Martin had been charged with murder along with Earman in the couple's deaths, but midway in Earman's 1977 trial, Arlington prosecutor William S. Burroughs dropped the charges against Martin.

Until recently a Las Vegas office equipment salesman, Martin was back in court yesterday for a preliminary hearing on charges that he conspired with Earman to murder the couple in order to collect money on a life insurance policy he had sold Foreman.

"Joe called me in January 1977 and said he had something important to talk to me about," Earman, a convicted burglar, told Judge Richard W. Corman. "I joked and said, "You want a color TV? and he said, 'No it's more serious than that."

The next month, during a gambling junket to the Bahamas, Earman said Martin told him he had a friend who wanted Foreman, also a real estate agent, killed because he had defaulted on a debt.

"He (Martin) asked me if I could procure a hit man," Earman testified, "and said I was to get $15,000 and pay the hit man out of that."

Earman said that after his trip with Martin, he called several men and offered them the "contract" for $5,000.

Those acquaintances, Earman said, turned him down because there was no "front money" for the murder. "Joe kept asking me how things were coming along." Earman said he repeatedly told Martin over the next two months that he was trying to arrange a murder. During lunch meetings at various Tysons Corner restaurants, Earman said he and Martin would discuss how best to murder Foreman.

"(Joe) said it would be best if it looked liked an accident," Earman said. "We talked about setting the house on fire, different things thngs lke that.

At one point Earman said, the discussion making the killings look as though they were linked to the Hanafi Muslims "as a red herring to throw [police] off the insurance policy."

Martin who has pleaded innocent to the charge, alternately stared at Earman and scribbled notes on a yellow legal pad during the hearings, which resume today.

Earman said he lied to Martin and told him that "two black guys" he knew would commit the murders. However, three weeks before the murders, Earman said, he decided to kill Foreman himself. He never explained yesterday why Shoemaker also was killed.

Posing as a house-hunting college professor from Colorado, Earman said he first called Foreman and arranged a meeting. He had read a murder mystery called "The First Deadly Sin," in which victims die after being hit with mountain climbers' picks.

"So I bought a climbing pick at Tysons Corner and planned to hit him in the top of the head" as the two were looking at a house, Earman said. "It seemed a very efficient way of killing someone."

Earman said he donned a baggy suit, straw hat, sunglasses and yellow gloves, and arranged to meet Foreman to look at houses.

Earman said that when Foreman brought his mother to their meeting he decided against killing Foreman that day.

Several days before the May 6, 1977, murders, Earman said he called Foreman and admitted posing as a college professor. "I told him I wanted to find out his success story [as a real estate agent] and I wanted to find him to help me on a land deal up at Tysons."

Earman said Foreman seemed flattered and after a meeting at Foreman's office, they made a Friday night date to go the Georgetown.

Earman said he arrived late Friday, May 6, at Foreman's home at 1201 N. George Mason Dr., armed with the revolver.He had "a few drinks and smoked a joint" with Foreman and Shoemaker and the three then drove to Tramps, in Foreman's yellow Jaguar. Tramps is a Georgetown disco. Earman said the three "got very drunk."

Shortly before 2 a.m., Earman testified, as the three pulled into the garage of Foreman's home. Earman said he was sitting in the back seat and pulled out the pistol and quickly shot the couple once each in the head. He said he then drove half a mile to Arlington Hospital in his own car, and "sat there for 15 or 20 minutes.

"I wondered if one shot was going to kill them, so I thought I'd better go back and make sure. I emptied the rest of the gun into their faces until there were no more bullets."

Earman said he returned to his Falls Church home and went to sleep. "The next morning I called Joe and said something like "the ball game's over, everything's been taken care of." Earman said he told Martin "that two black guys had done it and that they'd split for Florida."

"Joe said the money would come in about a month," said Earman, who added the he never got the $15,000 he was promised because he and Martin were arrested and charged with the murders.

Under cross-examination by Martin's attorney Louis Koutoulakos, Earman said that he had lied to Arlington detectives about the involvement of others in the murder conspiracy. "I wanted to make the story sound more convincing," Earman said, "There was no evidence so there was nothing they could do to them."

Earman said that he had collaborated on a book about the killings with Polish-born writer Kaya Ploss. "The better the story sounds the better the profit, right?" asked Koutoulakos. Earman said yes. CAPTION: Picture, RICHARD LEE EARMAN . . . retraces 1977 shootings