PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (AP) _ Nearly eight years after the slaying of a 12-year-old girl, authorities have arrested one of the original suspects in the case.

Bradley Philip Scott, 35, was arrested in West Palm Beach on Thursday and charged with the first-degree murder of Linda Pikuritz of Port Charlotte, said Charlotte County Sheriff John McDougall in Punta Gorda.

He said lawmen hadn't arrested Scott sooner because they weren't confident they could get a murder conviction with the evidence they had gathered. That changed in recent months after a new investigator was put on the case following pleas from the girl's parents, McDougall said.

''There's no doubt in my mind or that of members of the state attorney's office that I've spoken to that we've got the person who's committed the crime,'' McDougall said. ''I hope the parents of Linda Pikuritz can feel justice is served.''

Scott was being held without bond in the Palm Beach County Jail and was to be taken to Charlotte County today, the sheriff said.

Linda had left home on her bicycle on the evening of Oct. 12, 1978, telling her sister she was headed for a convenience store to buy bubble gum.

Lawmen extinguishing a small brush fire later that night discovered the girl's charred body. Lawmen theorized that she had been doused with a flammable substance and set ablaze, sparking the brush fire.

An autopsy showed she died of smoke inhalation. No evidence of sexual molestation was found.

McDougall assigned detective Sgt. Ken Barton to the case full time in June 1985. He declined to elborate on the information Barton gathered.

According to court records, Scott was arrested two months after Linda's death and charged with the attempted rape of another Port Charlotte girl. He was convicted of the lesser crime of battery and served a year in the Charlotte County Jail.

Scott moved to West Palm Beach shortly after he was released. His wife gave birth to their third child Tuesday, McDougall said.