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Man convicted of murder expected to be freed

By Eliott C. McLaughlin CNN

FORT COLLINS, Colorado (CNN) — Tim Masters is expected to walk out of prison Tuesday after spending more than nine years incarcerated for murder — and despite the promise of a new trial, a local district attorney says Masters may no longer be a suspect.

After a special prosecutor announced Friday that new DNA evidence in the case warranted a retrial, District Attorney Larry Abrahamson issued a statement Monday explaining it might be unnecessary to try Masters again.

In light of newly discovered evidence revealed to me on Friday, Abrahamson wrote, I will be moving as expeditiously as possible to make the determination of whether all charges against Timothy Masters will be dismissed.

Masters was 15 when a passing cyclist discovered the mutilated body of Peggy Hettrick, 37, near his home. Masters has said since February 12, 1987 — the day after the murder — that he did not commit the crime.

Police mounted an investigation that ultimately saw Masters jailed in 1998 and sentenced to life in prison for murder in 1999. See the key players in the case

On Friday, after months of hearings in which Masters’ new defense team alleged police and prosecutorial misdeeds in the investigation and trial, special prosecutor Don Quick delivered what was likely the best news of Masters’ life.

A defense-commissioned DNA test — subsequently backed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation — pointed to a potential suspect in the early investigation of Peggy Hettrick’s murder, Quick said in a news conference.

However, Quick did not say the evidence vindicated Masters, only that it met the constitutional requirements for a new trial. Watch Masters talk about what he’ll do when he’s likely released

In a Monday phone interview, Quick said it was up to the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which had recused itself from the latest hearings, to determine the next step.

Abrahamson of the Eighth Judicial Circuit said not only was he trying to decide whether to scrap the case against Masters but also that he wanted to review all contested convictions in which advances in DNA testing may prove useful.

He also said he wanted to review the discovery process and that he had met with the Fort Collins police chief and his officers to discuss the critical flow of information with assurance that all information is available to our office and the defense.

The statement is noteworthy because the crux of the new defense team’s allegations against the Fort Collins police and Eighth Judicial Circuit is that they withheld evidence favorable to Masters during his 1999 trial.

Quick filed a motion this month citing four instances in which police and prosecutors should have handed over evidence to Masters’ original defense team.

Among them was a police interview with a plastic surgeon who said it was improbable that a teen could have made the meticulous cuts necessary to remove Hettrick’s body parts. Also, according to Quick’s motion, police failed to divulge that a renowned FBI profiler warned police that Masters’ penchant for doodling gruesome horror scenes did not tie him to the crime.

Those sketches, along with a collection of narratives and knives, helped convince the jury of Masters’ guilt. No physical evidence was found tying Masters to the crime.

Masters’ defense attorneys David Wymore and Maria Liu said they are confident their client will walk out of the Larimer County Justice Center on Tuesday. So confident, said Liu, that they took him street clothes Monday night — a navy sports coat with tan pants and a yellow tie.

Quick is confident, too. He said he wants the paperwork for Masters’ release prepared before Tuesday’s 9:30 a.m. MT (11:30 a.m ET) hearing. He predicted the proceedings will take no more than 45 minutes, barring any anomalies.

Masters, however, is still skeptical, Liu said.

He’s not convinced it’s happening, that it’s true, until it actually happens, she said.

While Liu is confident Masters will walk out of the courthouse, she appears more cynical about the prospect of Abrahamson dropping the charges against her client.

Until I see it in writing and verbally presented in court, I’m not going to get my hopes up, she said. We’re going to keep plugging as if we’re preparing for trial.

If Abrahamson drops the charges against Masters, the investigation likely will focus on the new DNA evidence, Quick said. Authorities have the partial DNA profiles of three men, one of them matching a full DNA profile provided by the defense.

But even with the DNA evidence, many questions remain: To whom do the other partial profiles belong? How did the physical evidence arrive on Hettrick’s clothing? How long has it been there? And ultimately, who killed her?

I’m hoping for both Mr. Masters and the Hettrick family that we can answer those questions, Quick said.
Man convicted of murder expected to be freed – found here.


January 22, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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