PALM BAY, Fla. (AP) _ A man charged with murdering six people and wounding 10 in a shooting rampage at two shopping centers April 23 was disturbed that people considered him homosexual, says a woman held hostage in the attack.

Retired librarian William Cruse, 59, believed ''everybody was laughing at him,'' said Robin Brown, a grocery store clerk who police said was Cruse's hostage for about six hours.

Cruse said his troubles began with prostate problems and what he described as accusations by doctors and others that he is homosexual, Ms. Brown said Thursday.

''He told me he's never had intercourse with another man, but that has a lot to do with it,'' she said.

Ms. Brown, who was released unharmed shortly before police captured Cruse early on the morning of April 24, said Cruse told her people had bothered him, children had teased him and ''everybody knew him and was talking about him.''

Investigators have refused to comment on what might have triggered the rampage. Cruse's brother, C.R. Thompson of Lexington, Ky., said he did not know of any health problems that Cruse might have, other than two hernia operations.

Cruse is charged with six counts of murder, 10 of attempted murder, kidnapping and related offenses. Public Defender James Russo has said a plea of insanity is among the defenses considered for Cruse, who is to be arraigned May 15.

Ray Dozier, a developer who bought an apartment building from Cruse in Lexington in 1985, said Cruse abruptly told him he had been diagnosed as a homosexual at a private psychiatric hospital in 1985.

Officials at the hospital, Charter Ridge, would not say whether Cruse had been a patient there.

A week before the shootings, neighbor Ray Stearn called police to report that Cruse had been making sexual comments to his young sons and a neighbor. Police investigated. Cruse was not arrested.

Twelve-year-old Robert Ayres said that about an hour before the shootings, Cruse had made sexual remarks to him and another boy. Cruse called them ''jerks'' and ''started saying all those bad words,'' the youngster said.

Marguerite Hall, Cruse's next-door neighbor, said she had earlier heard the boys yelling and teasing Cruse. Police said Cruse fired gunshots at the boys and missed, but hit a 14-year-old playing basketball across the street.

At that point, Cruse jumped in his car and drove to a grocery store, where he began the shooting spree, police. He then moved across the street to another supermarket, where he was captured, according to police.

Cruse was described earlier this week as ''complacent'' by Brevard County jailers. ''He has just been sitting in his cell and has given us no problems whatsoever,'' said Sgt. Jack Parker.