CHEVY CHASE, MD — An 88-year-old woman died locked inside her car, with pleas for help scrawled in lipstick across a window, police said yesterday.

Helena Kadow was found Sunday morning, dead in the car in the driveway of her home in this Washington suburb. "Help me" was written in lipstick on a window pane.

The words "help me" were written in lipstick on one of the window panes.

Brian Kadow, the victim's son, smashed a window to try to rescue his mother, but it was too late, said Montgomery County police spokeswoman Joyce Barrow. Emergency workers pronounced her dead at the scene.

The car's doors and windows, which are electric-powered, were shut, according to a police report.

Barrow said it appeared Kadow had suffocated before anyone noticed she was trapped. It was not known how long the car had been in the driveway.

Outside temperatures that reached the mid-80s would have made it difficult to breathe inside a closed car, Barrow said.

Authorities were not sure if a medical condition prevented Kadow from getting out of the car, or if a mechanical failure kept her locked inside the 1995 sedan. The state medical examiner's office was investigating.