TACOMA, Wash. (AP) _ A former day-care operator who was harassed for years after being found innocent of child molesting shouted, ''I didn't do it 3/8'' just before he was shot to death in his back yard, police said.

Police said Sunday that Kaare Sortland apparently knew his killer, but he died before giving them specifics. No immediate arrests were made.

The 49-year-old was shot in the chest Saturday as he went outside to investigate suspicious sounds.

His wife, Judy, told police she heard him ''yell something to the effect of 'I didn't do it 3/8' and then she heard what she thought was about four gunshots,'' Sgt. Stanley Moore said.

Six empty shells were found on the back porch, and neighbors saw a man running between houses, Sgt. Jim Walker said.

The Sortlands were accused of molesting three boys who attended the Hugs and Kisses Day Center in the 1980s.

Mrs. Sortland told investigators the couple had been harassed since their acquittal in a trial involving one of the boys in 1990. The nature of the harassment was not immediately known.

A judge threw out charges involving the two other youngsters, saying their testimony was unreliable because they initially denied they had been abused and then changed their story following therapy and interviews with investigators.

After he was shot with a large-caliber handgun Saturday, Sortland stumbled through his house and police found him lying in the front yard, Officer Larry Smith said. He died at a hospital.

''He made some brief, one-line statements,'' Sgt. Mike Miller said. ''I have a hunch he knew who it was. Unfortunately, he didn't give us anything that specific.'

Miller said the killer may have been someone upset over the acquittals, an angry business acquaintance - Sortland was a supervisor at a construction company - or a surprised vandal. He said the home had been vandalized some time before the shooting.

''They had went through a lot,'' said Ozzie Velez, a friend. ''The harassment went on for some time and was just beginning to subside and they were just getting themselves organized back to living and all of a sudden this comes up.''