Human hair consistent with that of 5-year-old Melissa Brannen was found in the car of Caleb Hughes, the Woodbridge groundskeeper accused of abducting her, Fairfax County's chief prosecutor said in a court hearing yesterday.

It was the second consecutive day in which prosecutors revealed pieces of forensic evidence that are considered crucial to a circumstantial case they have built against Hughes. On Tuesday, Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said blue fibers found in Hughes's car appear to match fibers from a Big Bird sweater that Melissa was wearing the night she disappeared.

Hughes, 25, was charged with abduction in the December 1989 disappearance of Melissa, who vanished from a Lorton area Christmas party in a case that rocked the Washington area. She has not been found.

The prosecution's evidence, which was closely guarded even after Hughes's indictment in November, has emerged in a series of hearings this week in which defense lawyer Peter D. Greenspun has sought to determine the evidence and witnesses being assembled against his client.

Hughes is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 25. He is being held without bond at the Fairfax County jail.

On Tuesday, Horan said one of the witnesses, an FBI analyst, would testify that fibers found in Hughes's car shortly after Melissa's disappearance appeared to match a "Sesame Street" outfit worn by the child. Horan said investigators were able to contact manufacturers for fiber and dye samples.

After yesterday's hearing, Greenspun said that "hair identification is inconclusive for personal identification . . . . There is significant reason to doubt much of this evidence."

Horan, in response to additional motions, said yesterday that several hairs were found on the floorboard of a car Hughes drove from the Woodside Apartment complex on Dec. 3, 1989, the night Melissa vanished.

According to Horan, FBI analysts said one of the hairs was found to be consistent with Melissa's. Police investigators asked Melissa's mother, Tammy Brannen, for the girl's hairbrush, comb and some clothing to compare her hair with the sample from Hughes's car, according to sources familiar with the case.

Generally, forensic analysts cannot say for certain that hair or other fiber samples are identical to one another. Rather, they can say only that microscopic analysis shows their properties are consistent.

Horan said he would not discuss, in advance of the trial, the likelihood that the hair or fibers belonged to Melissa.

Yesterday's hearing was prompted by Greenspun's request to remove physical evidence from Fairfax's police laboratory so that he could conduct independent tests. Horan objected to the motion, saying, "There is only one {hair sample}. If that hair disappears, I don't know what we would do."

Greenspun received permission from Circuit Court Judge Johanna Fitzpatrick to conduct independent tests, but Fitzpatrick said the tests would have to be conducted inside Virginia's state forensics laboratory.

Greenspun complained to Fitzpatrick that prosecutors had limited his access to physical evidence in the case. "The police and Commonwealth are again simply wasting counsel's time and resources with the obvious intent to preclude his being prepared for trial," Greenspun wrote in a motion.

Although it took prosecutors nearly a year to bring charges against Hughes, much of the evidence described in this week's hearings was gathered by police shortly after the girl's disappearance, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

After Hughes was seen talking with Melissa during the Christmas party, police investigators went to his Woodbridge town house and searched his car and other belongings, the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit, they also found fur in the car consistent with a rabbit coat worn by Melissa's mother. In addition, police found a protein on Hughes's tennis shoes that they said was consistent with human blood -- evidence that is not expected to be introduced at trial, sources said.