In 1987, Colorado woman Peggy Hettrick was murdered and sexually mutilated. In 2008, the man Larimer County thought was her murderer was released from prison. Timothy Masters completed 10 years of his life sentence, a sentence that, as it turns out, Masters did not deserve. Masters and his attorney fought the murder conviction and sentence by arguing the following:
- Prosecutors presented insufficient physical evidence to prove his guilt.
- Prosecutors presented false evidence to prove his guilt.
- Prosecutors only presented evidence that supported a guilty verdict and concealed evidence that would prove otherwise.
Also aiding in challenging Masters' conviction was new DNA technology. DNA tests have advanced since Masters' murder trial, and the new, more effective tests did not identify Masters' DNA on any of the physical evidence.
The combined loss of life and loss of freedom in this case is truly tragic and makes for two victims in Peggy Hettrick's murder: Hettrick and Masters.
Fortunately for Masters, he has won a semblance of justice in his wrongful conviction case. He settled with Larimer County earlier this year for $4.1 million in damages, and yesterday, he settled for $5.9 million in damages from the city of Fort Collins.
But while the truth might have set Masters free, that truth is only partially revealed. Hettrick's murderer has still not been identified, and while some comfort can be found in an innocent man being set free, it is hard to celebrate when the horrifically brutal murder of a 37-year-old woman goes unsolved.