NEW YORK (AP) _ Suspects were being sought Wednesday in the murder of a retired police detective once was labeled a suspect in the theft of $78 million worth of ''French Connection'' heroin, police said.

The bullet-riddled body of Vincent Albano, 53, of Atlantic Beach, was found Friday in the parking lot of Staten Island Hospital. He had been shot in the face, chest and back, and left in his 1984 Oldsmobile.

Albano, who served time for tax evasion, had survived one previous murder attempt. He was shot six times by two gunmen who ambushed him outside a Bronx restaurant on July 17, 1969, while still a detective.

Albano joined the force in 1958 and became a narcotics detective before retiring from the department in 1970 and going into business on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Albano was convicted of income tax evasion in 1977 and sentenced to three years in prison. During the trial, prosecutor Thomas Puccio linked him to the theft of $78 million in heroin which had been seized in the notorious ''French Connection'' case. The drugs were stolen between 1969 and 1972.

He faced departmental charges unrelated to the drug disappearance when he retired; the charges later were dropped.