'Forensic Files' uncovers dirt on old crime

I never throw anything out, and it drives my wife crazy. But sometimes it pays to be a packrat. On tonight's "Forensics Files" (8 p.m., Court TV), police find vital evidence in a vacuum cleaner bag kept in storage for 24 years.

The 1962 abduction and murder of 15-year-old Marlene Miller shocked the rural community of Hanford, outside of Fresno, Calif. Police quickly found circumstantial evidence tying nearby farm worker and onetime convicted rapist Booker T. Hillery to the crime scene.

After a jury convicted him of murder and sentenced him to death, Hillery used every appeal at his disposal. In the 1970s, the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty. By the 1980s, a court found that Hillery's grand jury might have been racially prejudiced and ordered a new trial.

Rather than base their case on 24-year-old testimony from witnesses who had long since died, prosecutors decided to take a new look at existing evidence using advanced technology. This is where the old vacuum cleaner bag came in handy. Inside, police found tiny white blobs that they couldn't explain back in 1962. By 1986, experts could identify them as microscopic drops formed when aerosol spray paint clung to fabric. Apparently, Miller's killer left a nearly invisible trail of such globs all over the carpet.

Amazingly, Hanford police still had Hillery's Plymouth in storage. And a quick look at the old heap revealed that someone had tried to redecorate the inside roof of the car using spray paint. Faced with this new evidence, a jury had no trouble re-convicting Hillery.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Bernie goes wild at a price club on "The Bernie Mac Show" (8 p.m., Fox).
  • Only six of the 10 will get roses at the end of a two-hour episode of "The Bachelor" (8 p.m., ABC).
  • On "Junkyard Wars" (8 p.m., TLC), two teams compete to build machines capable of catapulting washing machines.

Series notes

Fez dreams of Kelso on "That '70s Show" (7 p.m., Fox) ... Attacked by pirates on "Enterprise" (7 p.m., UPN) ... Joey and Eddie seek counseling on "Dawson's Creek" (7 p.m., WB).

A talisman may portend the end of the world on "The Twilight Zone" (8 p.m., UPN) ... Fred struggles to end Jasmine's spell on "Angel" (8 p.m., WB) ... Surprised but not pleased on "Wanda at Large" (8:30 p.m., Fox).

Late night

Michael Douglas and Todd Rundgren appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno welcomes Edward Burns and Tori Amos on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).

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