HOUSTON (AP) _ A suicide ruling in the death of a 23-year-old woman may be changed to homicide because new evidence indicates she was force-fed barbiturates by three people who wanted to sell her baby, officials say.

Cheryl Ann Jones, of New Orleans, died March 8, 1980, in a Houston hotel room of a drug overdose. One of her wrists had been slashed and a bloody razor blade and a suicide note were found near her body, police said.

But a 40-year-old man arrested in January in Reno, Nev., told authorities he and two women tricked Ms. Jones into coming to Houston with her infant daughter, Amanda, said police Detective Gil Schultz.

Schultz said Ms. Jones apparently was killed and her daughter kidnapped by the three, who had planned to sell the child for $2,000.

Medical Examiner Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk said Thursday he wants to read the man's statement before he officially changes the ruling.

Jachimchzyk said he made the suicide ruling because the FBI had determined that the note was written by Ms. Jones. But he said it is ''feasible'' that Ms. Jones was drugged and forced to write the note.

The man who confessed to the killing said he, his wife and another woman took Ms. Jones to Houston under the pretense that she would partcipate in a ''shopping spree'' contest, Schultz said.

The three allegedly received $2,000 in advance to deliver Amanda to another person believed to live in Houston. But after Ms. Jones died, the couple's accomplice took the child back to her father in New Orleans, the detective said.

Neither the couple's accomplice nor the person who paid the money for the child has been found, Schultz said.