A TV movie airing this week shines a light on a real-life murder case that has haunted a Canadian writer for some three decades.

"Of Murder and Memory" is loosely based on Linda Spalding's 2006 book "Who Named the Knife," which chronicled her long-ago involvement in the trial of Maryann Acker.

"I read the book and I thought it was such a powerful story," said Toronto-based Semi Chellas, who wrote the script for the TV movie.

In 1978, Acker, an 18-year-old Mormon, and her new husband, an ex-con, were arrested in California in connection with a robbery and murder spree there and in Hawaii.

Spalding was living in Hawaii at the time and served on the jury of Acker's trial, but was dismissed on the last day after showing up to court five minutes late.

Acker was convicted of first-degree murder in Hawaii in 1982 - largely because of testimony given by her husband - but Spalding was unconvinced of the woman's guilt and felt hers may have been the lone voice of dissent had she remained on the jury.

Some 20 years later, after Spalding found the diary she'd kept during the trial, she tracked down Acker in a Chino, Calif., women's prison and started corresponding with her. Acker was convicted in California as well and is currently serving two life sentences.

Chellas said she was intrigued by the prospect of bringing the story to the screen.

"It really makes you ask: 'What do you believe, and when is justice served, and when has someone paid the price?"'

Acker is currently awaiting a retrial in Hawaii due to begin next week.

The movie features American actress Annabeth Gish as Sally Linden, the character inspired by Spalding. Edmonton-born actress Chandra West plays Theresa Nichol, a fictional character inspired by Acker.

"There are certain characters I've played over the years that resonate with you and for me, this is definitely one of them," said West, who read Spalding's book and researched Acker's case before filming started in Toronto, Hamilton and Peterborough, Ont.

"I think about her sometimes," added West, whose husband in the film is played by Hugh Dillon.

"Of Murder and Memory" airs Wednesday on CTV.

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