Barbara Evans-Smith, 64, was found, gagged and strangled with pantyhose, at her 70-acre Crooked Run Farm in Loudoun County on April 15. Her second-floor bedroom was in disarray and a table downstairs was overturned, a Loudoun prosecutor said yesterday.

But during the first day of the trial of the dead woman's husband, retired Army Col. William (Bull) Evans-Smith, 64, who is charged with murder, the prosecutor, Commonwealth's Attorney William Burch, said it appeared to investigators that Mrs. Evans-Smith's slayer had attempted to "set the stage."

A flower arrangement was on the floor near the table, he said, but signs were lacking that they had fallen from the table, which still contained a drawer. He also told a Loudoun Circuit Court jury that blood that matched the defendant's was found on Mrs. Evans-Smith's robe.

"We don't have a smoking gun, a witness," said Burch, who told the eight-man, four-woman jury that his case was circumstantial.

"I believe from the evidence, the evidence will show that the defendant strangled his wife . . . and, having realized what he had done, he had to set the stage," he said.

David Moyes, one of three defense attorneys for Evans-Smith, the director of American University's Foreign Area Studies, countered by saying that a circumstantial case is "the imaginary application of evidence to a theory."

Yes, he said, there were small drops of the defendant's blood on the robe of Evans-Smith's wife of 43 years. But he said Evans-Smith, who frequently worked with his wife on his farm, had rubbed a scab too hard and his wife had helped him clean up the blood.

Police originally thought that Barbara Evans-Smith had been raped before she was strangled and the house had been burglarized, according to the prosecutor. But a medical examiner's report showed that she had not been raped, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department.

Both attorneys described the Evans-Smith farm, which is off Rte. 725 near Rte. 704 and has been valued at $367,000, as immaculate and "picture perfect." Moyes said the couple, who had three grown daughters, was very politically active and had an avid interest in horses and historical preservation.

Burch said William Evans-Smith had been having an affair with a woman named Frederica Bunge. He told the jury that the woman broke off the relationship, sold her house in Poolesville and went to Berkeley, Calif.

The prosecutor said William Evans-Smith, who sat very straight at the table in a khaki-colored suit with his fingers intertwined, became irritable after the breakup.

The defense attorney acknowledges the affair. "The marriage wasn't perfect . . . . It had its ups and downs," Moyes said.

He said the relationship with Bunge had developed at work and had become intimate. But, he maintained, that does not mean Evans-Smith killed his wife.

The prosecution will call its first witness at 9:30 a.m. today when the trial -- described by one courtroom spectator as "our own Von Bulow trial in Loudoun County" -- resumes in Judge Carlton Penn's courtroom in Loudoun County Circuit Court.