NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) _ A man suspected of killing a dozen men, many of them homosexuals, went on trial today in one of the deaths.

When Elton Jackson was charged in May 1997 with a single killing, police would not say whether he was the serial killer who stalked Hampton Roads for a decade, linked to 12 deaths since 1987.

Then in March, Chesapeake Police Chief Richard A. Justice called the cases solved. And court papers made public revealed that the FBI back in 1996 considered Jackson the ``best suspect'' in the killings.

Jackson, however, remains charged only in the death of Andrew D. Smith, 38, of Portsmouth, whose body was found in July 1996 on the shoulder of a dead-end road in Chesapeake. Authorities believe Smith was strangled at Jackson's Portsmouth home. The trial was moved from Portsmouth to Newport News because of pretrial publicity; jury selection began this morning.

Jackson, through his attorneys, has denied killing anyone but said he and Smith had consensual sex shortly before Smith's death. He is in custody on $1 million bond.

Officer David Hughes, spokesman for the police department in Chesapeake, where most of the bodies were found, said the other cases still are considered open.

``We will see what happens with the outcome of this case, and then proceed with the other ones,'' Hughes said. He referred further questions to prosecutors.

Portsmouth Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Michael J. Massie said he could not discuss details of the case. He did say, however, that the reasons Jackson wasn't arrested until May 1997 will become apparent during the trial.

That question has disturbed gays, said Kirk Read, editor in chief of Our Own Community Press, a monthly gay newspaper in Norfolk.

``Elton Jackson is not an Einstein serial killer, even if he is a serial killer. ... This is a sort of low-rent murder,'' Read said.

``If the victims of these crimes where white, suburban teen-agers who were churchgoing folk, this thing would have been wrapped up a long time ago,'' Read said.

The bodies, all male, began turning up in 1987, dumped in streets or ditches in southeastern Virginia. Most were nude. Ten were strangled; the others were too decomposed to determine how they died.

Many of the victims were gay, nearly all were drifters or transients and some were hustlers. Nearly all were last seen in or near gay bars in Norfolk or Portsmouth.

After the 10th body was found, in May 1995, police acknowledged for the first time that they thought a serial killer was at work.

Attorneys expect Jackson's trial to last at least a week; more than 50 witnesses have been subpoenaed.

``If Elton Jackson is the killer, I think it will bring a sense of relief to folks in the gay community, but it's been a very long wait,'' Read said.