SPRING HILL, Fla. (AP) _ Weeks of terror in this retirement haven ended with the arrest of a handyman who investigators said confessed to raping and killing four elderly widows because ''he had an urge.''

Police said Edwin Bernard Kaprat, a 29-year-old machinist, detailed how he met the victims by doing odd jobs, returned to kill them and tried to destroy the evidence by torching their homes.

News of Kaprat's arrest Friday relieved residents of the quiet community 60 miles northwest of Tampa. Many had installed alarms and purchased handguns, fearing that a serial killer was on the loose.

''It's wonderful,'' said 74-year-old Martha Cunningham, who had put double locks on her doors. ''This was the first time here I had been truly afraid to be alone.''

''I wasn't sleeping at night,'' said Stella Hurman, 69. ''Maybe now I can rest easier.''

The victims, who ranged in age from 72 to 87, were found in their burned homes in August and September. All lived alone and were attacked in the middle of the night, authorities said.

''All he said was he had an urge,'' said Hernando County Sheriff's Maj. G.Z. Smith. ''He said something would just come over him. He had to go do it. There was a need he had. He had to fulfill this need.''

Deputies had followed Kaprat since receiving a tip Sept. 29. They linked him to a fingerprint on a garage door of the last victim, 87-year-old Lorraine Dawe, whose home was the only one not destroyed by fire.

Kaprat, who worked at a machine shop in Tampa, often came to Hernando County to help with his father's business doing odd jobs and carpentry work.

In the slaying of Dawe, Kaprat told investigators he was sexually assaulting the woman when he thought she was having a heart attack.

''He said he stomped on her neck and broke her neck to put her out of her misery,'' Sgt. Frank Bierwiler said.

The other victims were Sophia Garrity, 80, Ruth Goldsmith, 72, and Lydia Riddell, 79.

Kaprat was being held without bond on four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, five counts of arson and four counts of sexual battery, among other charges.