A former soldier has been ar rested and charged with beating his wife to death in Jersey City, authorities said yesterday.

Edward Casco, 28, of Sip Ave nue, allegedly beat his wife uncon scious early Saturday, then waited several hours before calling 911, Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said.

Teris Casco, 33, died at Jersey City Medical Center yesterday morning, and Casco, who had been arrested Saturday, is now charged with murder, DeFazio said.

Investigators suspect an argu ment early Saturday ended with Edward Casco severely beating her around the head and chest, the prosecutor said. No weapon appeared to have been used in the incident, he said.

"They argued and then things apparently escalated to this level of violence," DeFazio said. "It was a quite tragic incident, leaving the two children, ages 1 and 5. Fortunately, they were not witnesses to the event."

DeFazio said the children were with grandparents at the time of the fight.

At 11 a.m., investigators said, Edward Casco called 911 and firefighters arrived from the Sip Ave nue Firehouse, located just across the street. When firefighters ar rived, the victim appeared to be lifeless, sources said. They immediately called police because of her condition, and Edward Casco was arrested on aggravated assault charges, sources said.

She was taken to Jersey City Medical Center, where she clung to life in critical condition until yesterday morning, when she died from her injuries. Edward Casco will now be charged with murder, DeFazio said. If he is found guilty, Casco could face life in prison.

An autopsy yesterday afternoon determined blunt force trauma to her head and body caused her death, the prosecutor said. She also had fractured ribs and other marks, he said.

"It was a very brutal beating, based on what was determined by viewing the victim and the result of autopsy," DeFazio said.