PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A man has been arrested on a murder indictment by police who reopened an eight-year-old fatal car-crash case and exhumed the victim's body, the attorney general's office announced Saturday.

Officials said Edward H. Sullivan, 39, of Newport, was arrested Friday after a grand jury indicted him on charges of murder and conspiracy to murder.

He is accused of killing his girlfriend, Carol Ann Barlow, 29, said Suda Prohaska, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Arlene Violet.

Ms. Prohaska said Ms. Barlow was pronounced dead in June 1977 a few hours after a car crash. Police, while admitting there were unanswered questions, termed the death an accident and closed the case.

But an investigation began in October after police received a tip that her injuries resulted from a beating earlier on the night of the accident, Ms. Prohaska said.

She said the probe included exhumation of Ms. Barlow's body and a second autopsy.

That examination, while affirming that multiple chest injuries and a spinal fracture were the cause of death, determined that Ms. Barlow might have survived if immediately treated for her injuries.

Police would not comment on the case, referring all questions to Ms. Prohaska.

In the accident, a car presumed to have been driven by Ms. Barlow crossed four lanes of traffic and struck another vehicle on Main Street in Middletown. She was found alone in the passenger seat of the car in a parking lot more than 200 feet from the accident scene, Ms. Prohaska said.

Ms. Prohaska would not comment further on the details. She would not say whether police believe Sullivan was driving the car at the time of the accident, saying only, ''the circumstances were suspicious enough to warrrant serious questions.''

Sullivan, 39, is being held at the Middletown Police station pending arraignment Monday in Newport Superior Court, police said.