A veteran deputy sheriff who is accused of smoking cocaine with a prostitute was arrested for investigation of murdering three hookers in an area where at least nine prostitutes have been killed, police said Friday.

Rickey Ross, 40, a narcotics investigator who has been with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for 18 years, was spotted with the woman in his car early Thursday by police officers patrolling south-central Los Angeles, Police Chief Daryl Gates said at a news conference.Police have been investigating the slayings in the area of at least nine and possibly as many as a dozen "strawberries," women who trade sex for drugs, since August 1985.