POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (AP) _ A 27-year-old man was charged with killing a woman and police are investigating whether he may be connected to the disappearances of seven other women in the Poughkeepsie area.

Kendall Francois, a student at Dutchess County Community College, was arrested today and charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Catina Newmaster. Ms. Newmaster, 25, was reported missing last Wednesday.

She is the latest of eight women reported missing in the Poughkeepsie area since fall 1996. The first seven women all had histories of prostitution and drug use and police believe their disappearances are connected. Ms. Newmaster's background was unclear today.

Patricia Barone, the mother of one of the missing women, today said was contacted by Poughkeepsie police at about 3 a.m. about Francois' arrest.

``They came and told me that they made an arrest and that he admitted killing the last girl that disappeared,'' said Barone, whose daughter Gina has been missing since Nov. 29, 1996. Gina's daughter, now 4, lives with the grandmother.

She said she was not told whether her daughter Gina's body has been recovered on Francois' property, but ``we just know there are bodies in that house.''

Investigators wearing medical masks and clothing were seen entering and leaving Kendall's single-family home in Poughkeepsie today.

Francois was being held without bail at the Dutchess County Jail.