FROM THE OUTSET 14 YEARS AGO, POLICE thought they knew who had murdered Bob Crane, the jaunty star of the '60s TV sitcom Hogan's Heroes. On June 29, 1978, the 49-year-old actor had been found clad only in boxer shorts in his posh apartment in Scottsdale, Ariz., his skull crushed by two blows with a blunt instrument and an electrical cord neatly tied around his neck. In the days prior to his death Crane had been seen arguing with John Carpenter, now 64, a fan and an acquaintance who had sold him some video equipment. Several smears of blood found on the inside of Carpenter's rental car were found to be the same type as Crane's. Still, authorities had long refused to charge Carpenter, for lack of real proof.

Last week, though, officials in Scottsdale had Carpenter arrested in Carson, Calif., and announced that they now had enough evidence to link him to the crime. According to a court filing, investigators reviewing the case had looked at pictures of the interior of Carpenter's car and noticed a speck of what appeared to be human tissue, presumably left by the murder weapon, which is believed to be a camera tripod missing from the murder scene. Inexplicably no sample had been taken at the time of the killing. "The tissue evidence was simply overlooked," said prosecutor Myrna Parker. Now forensic experts had declared that when examined closely, the image in the pictures matched a small piece of tissue recovered from the bloody pillow on which Crane had been sleeping when he was attacked. One former county attorney, Charles Hyder, who earlier declined to prosecute the case, has criticized the Scottsdale police for botching the original case. And Carpenter's attorney, Gary Fleischman, insisted that the police were hounding his client on the basis of the same flimsy circumstantial evidence as before. "How can you sit on this for 14 years and expect this man to defend himself," he said. Carpenter, who denies the charge, is now awaiting extradition to Arizona.

As for the possible motive, authorities were mum. Some of the facts that came out during the original investigation painted Crane as a fairly kinky character, who lived the life of a swinger while performing in supper clubs around the country. One thing missing from Crane's apartment was a photo album containing pornographic pictures. It also turned out that the twice-married Crane had an extensive collection of videotapes showing himself having sex with various women.

Eager as he is to see the culprit caught, even Werner Klemperer, who costarred with Crane on Hogan's Heroes, which ran from 1965 to 1971, thinks the case is still a long way from being solved. "I don't believe that what the police have is substantial," he says. "It's the same old stuff."