Meet the Exonerees

Timothy Masters

State: Colorado
Date of Birth: 26109
Incident Date: 02/11/1987
Age at Arrest: 15
Conviction Date: 03/26/1999
Age When Exonerated: 36
Exonerated Date: 01/28/2008
Time Served: 9
Conviction: First degree murder
False Confession: No
Implicated by Another Youth: No

Case Details

Timothy Masters was only fifteen years old when Peggy Lee Hettrick was murdered in Fort Collins, CO on February 11, 1987. Almost a year later, police had still not developed any leads, so they planted a false story in the newspaper signaling that their investigation was coming to a close and that they had uncovered significant evidence against a particular suspect. Still, it wasn't until 1998 that authorities arrested Timothy Masters, who had been under constant police investigation as the prime suspect in the case. Masters was the first person to find the body, though he did not report his discovery to police until they questioned him. Masters pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder and said in an interview, “I will go to my grave swearing that I never killed that girl.” He was prosecuted as an adult, despite his age at the time of the murder. The evidence against him consisted of several grisly drawings he had made when he was a child, and some weapons, which included scalpels and combat-style knives. No direct physical evidence linked Masters, but one anonymous juror said, "It was a multitude of small items that all together were too overwhelming to ignore...Things that in another person living in another place would not have meant much." On March 26, 1999, Masters was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, despite allegations from family members that police had lied during the trial. The murder conviction was upheld after an appeal in 2001, but in 2007 a movement which had continually fought for Masters's release alleged that the prosecution withheld valuable evidence. DNA evidence also pointed to another suspect, a former boyfriend of the victim. On January 18, 2008, Masters was freed and his sentence overturned. He had served 9 ½ years in jail. In 2010, Masters settled with the city of Fort Collins for $5.8 million, and Masters's defense has opened an indictment against Jim Broderick, the man whom they believe is most directly responsible for Masters's wrongful conviction. Broderick is being charged with eight counts of perjury.