BEIJING, JAN. 25 -- Police are investigating the possibility of murder in the death of an American teacher in the northeastern city of Shenyang, Chinese sources said today.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman here, Sylvia Rifkin, identified the victim as Erin Elizabeth Johnston of Boone, N.C. She said an autopsy was being conducted and that the cause of death has not yet been officially determined.

Johnston was found by another American on Saturday morning at the apartment that she shared with her parents on a university campus in Shenyang, Rifkin said.

Johnston, 18, had been teaching English in Shenyang at the Northeast University of Technology, where her parents, Allen and Mary Pindt, also teach.

It was the second death of an American in China due to possible violent causes in less than a year. A Chinese-American, Ewald Cheer, 61, was robbed and murdered while traveling on a train between Beijing and Guangzhou June 20. Two Chinese workers were convicted of the murder and executed.

A police spokesman in Shenyang confirmed today that police were investigating the possible murder of an American in the city but gave no details.

Shenyang is a grim, gray industrial city of about 3 million people. One of the four American consulates in China is located in Shenyang, and approximately 40 Americans are registered with the consulate as residents. They include consular representatives, business executives and teachers.

Although no recent statistics for the nation as a whole are available, there are indications that the number of violent crimes has increased in several major Chinese cities.

Last year, in Shanghai, the country's largest city, police officials reported that the number of people being murdered during robberies had increased.

In Beijing, four taxi drivers have been murdered over the past four months and robbers armed with knives killed two cashiers during a bank hold-up, police said.

Six men were executed last September after they were convicted of armed robbery and attacking taxi drivers in Beijing, according to reports.