1999 murder conviction tossed, Masters set free
Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) ” A smiling Timothy Masters walked out of court a free man for the first time in nearly a decade on Tuesday, his 1999 murder conviction wiped out by DNA evidence that points to another suspect.
Masters had been sentenced to life in prison in the killing of a 37-year-old woman, but new tests announced last week showed DNA found on the victim’s clothing was not from Masters but from someone else.
Larimer County District Judge Joseph Weatherby set aside the conviction, vacated the prison sentence and released Masters on a personal recognizance bond.
Masters, 36, showed little emotion but hugged members of his defense team.
Dressed in a dark jacket, a white shirt and yellow tie instead of the orange prison clothes he has worn for the past 8 1-2 years, Masters stood before a bank of cameras and rows of reporters and thanked his family and friends.
“Without their support, I don’t know if I could have made it through this,” he said.
Asked what he would do next, he said: “I want to go see my family.”
Masters is due back in court in early February. His attorney, David Wymore, said he’ll ask the district attorney to drop the case.
“We are going to ask the prosecutor to dismiss the charges ” to release him for good and forever from this taint,” he said.
Prosecutors promised to decide quickly.
Masters had been convicted of killing Peggy Hettrick, a manager at a woman’s clothing store. She was found stabbed and sexually mutilated in a field south of Fort Collins in 1987, but police investigated for more than a decade before arresting Masters.
He was 15 when Hettrick was killed and lived near the field where her body was found.
Masters’ new attorneys have said detectives wrongly focused on Masters instead of other suspects.
During an appeal heard over the past few months, the defense and special prosecutors assigned to the case said crucial information had been withheld from Masters’ trial lawyers.
The special prosecutor announced last week the new DNA tests and said he would ask the judge to set aside the conviction.
Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson ” who was not the DA when Masters was convicted ” defended the court system Tuesday.
“It is not, in any way, an indictment of the criminal justice system,” he said. “It just means we have new evidence and we have to take a look at it.”
About 50 people packed the small courtroom Tuesday morning. Before the hearing began, smiling friends and family waited in a festive atmosphere.
“It’s hard to describe,” said Master’s uncle, John Masters. “It’s (like) saying there was a death, and all of a sudden, it turns out he is alive again.”
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