Tim Masters, who was convicted in the 1999 of murdering Peggy Hettrick, was set free today. Masters had been serving a lifelong prison term for her in 1987 that happened when he was just 15-years-old. Her mutilated body was found in a field near Fort Collins, Colorado close to Masters’s trailer.
Fort Collins police worked on the case for over 10 years before arresting Masters. He has served more than nine years of his sentence. Masters has always maintained that he was innocent.
It wasn’t until the last few months that special prosecutors and defense attorneys brought to light the fact that key information had been withheld from Masters’ attorneys during his 1999 trial.
Evidence reportedly withheld by police and prosecutors included a plastic surgeon who had said that a teenager could not have made the meticulous cuts that were done to remove Hettrick’s body parts and an FBI profiler’s warning to police that just because Masters liked to draw horror scenes did not mean he murdered Hettrick.
The sketches, a collection of knives, and a series of narratives helped persuade a Colorado jury that Masters was guilty. There was never any physical evidence tying him to the murder.
Masters is now 36 years old. A judge overturned his conviction and set aside his sentence after new DNA evidence showed that the DNA found on Hettrick’s clothing did not belong to Masters. He was released on a $200,000 personal recognizance bond.
Prosecutors say they will decide by February 5 whether to try him again.
Except for identical twins who can have identical DNAs, no one else has the same exact DNA. DNA is Deoxyribonucleic acid. It is the main building block for a person’s genetic makeup. The person has the same DNA in every cell of the body and this never changes.
During crime investigations, DNA evidence is collected to identify a suspect or eliminate a possible suspect. DNA evidence can also be useful in reopening closed criminal cases or solving unsolved crimes.
A person who was wrongly convicted can be set free based on new DNA evidence proving his or her innocence.
Related Web Resources:
Defense Demands New Trial for Masters, October 23, 2007 (PDF)