Police are searching for a fugitive sex offender who checked out of a run-down Times Square hotel on Wednesday and may have left a woman's dead body behind in his room.

The corpse, wrapped in plastic bags, was discovered Thursday by a chambermaid at the Hotel Carter who reached beneath a bed and felt a foot.

Investigators were still trying to learn the woman's identity. Police described her as a white female, nearly 6 feet tall and very thin — about 130 pounds.

The woman was missing her right index finger, but police said it was an old injury. She was beaten and strangled, and her death was ruled a homicide, said Ellen Borakove, city medical examiner's office spokeswoman.

Police officials announced that they were looking for the room's last registered occupant, Clarence Dean, who departed abruptly Wednesday afternoon after a nearly two-week stay.

Dean, 35, is no stranger to police. He was required to register as a sex offender at his last known address, a motel in Alabaster, Ala., because of an attempted lewd act involving a child under age 12, committed in the mid-1990s in Palm Beach, Florida.

He's been a wanted man in Shelby County, Ala., since March, when sheriff's deputies performed a check and realized he had moved out without informing officials. He also failed to appear in court in a property theft case, according to sheriff's department Capt. Chris Corbell.

Police Department spokesmen in New York did not name Dean as a suspect in the woman's death but said he was wanted for questioning.

The death wasn't a first for the Hotel Carter, a threadbare accommodation that stands as a throwback to Times Square's seedy past.

A clerk at the Carter was charged in 1999 with killing a co-worker with a knife and a hammer during a brawl at the front desk. A half-undressed woman with her hands tied behind her back was pushed out a window and fell to her death in 1987.

Over the years there have been small fires and arrests. A building engineer was killed during a freak elevator accident in 2005. FBI agents once went to the hotel to rescue a 4-year-old boy who had been kidnapped from a day care center in Connecticut as part of a ransom plot.

The Carter was closed abruptly by the city 1998 for safety code violations but later reopened.

Still, it remains an option for budget travelers who don't mind insects, grimy bathrooms, stained furniture and broken telephones.

And there is at least some celebrity cache; the ground floors of the hotel once held the nightclub that Sean Combs and Jennifer Lopez famously fled after a shooting in 1999.

Attempts to reach the hotel's owner were unsuccessful Friday. The Carter's business phone rang unanswered.

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