Tim Masters

Larimer County, Colorado
Date of Crime:  February 11, 1987

Tim Masters was convicted in 1999 of the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick. Hettrick's body had been found in a south Fort Collins field just hours after she was last seen leaving a nearby restaurant. This location was 100 feet north of the mobile home of Tim Masters. Masters' father told police that his 15-year-old son had walked through the field as he did every day to take a bus to school.

When police contacted Masters, he admitted seeing the body. He thought it might be a mannequin or that someone might have played a prank on him. However, he did not report the body and police were skeptical of the reasons he gave. In the margins of Masters' notebooks, police found sketches of dinosaurs with arrows through them, gruesome war scenes described by his Vietnam veteran dad, and horror flicks such as Nightmare on Elm Street. Masters loved to write, and his goal was to be another Stephen King. Masters' special-ed teacher said she was not at all concerned about his drawings as most of her kids scrawled horrific images.

In 1995, a prominent eye surgeon, Dr. Richard Hammond, briefly became a suspect in the crime after he was caught with numerous voyeuristic videotapes. Hammond, however, soon committed suicide. Noticing that Hammond lived across the street from the crime scene and that his tapes focused on female genitalia, some investigators wanted to review all of Hammond's tapes to see if Hettrick appeared in any of the videos. However, the lead investigator in the Hettrick case and his supervisor had the tapes destroyed. They were focused on Masters.

In 1998, eleven years after the crime, Masters was arrested for Hettrick's murder and brought to trial in 1999. An “expert” interpreted Masters' drawings and what they said about his psychological motives. The prosecution presented footprint evidence that Masters detoured from his usual path to his bus stop to walk within 6 feet of the body. This detour allegedly satisfied a psychological need of Masters to revisit the scene of his crime. Masters' attorneys were convinced of their client's innocence, but they saw fear in the jury's eyes. Masters had grown into a muscular man and was no longer the 110 lb. adolescent who doodled in his notebook.

A later examination of evidence showed that Hettrick's murderer had performed a partial vulvectomy on her. This procedure required good lighting, so it moved the crime scene away the darkened field where her body was found. It also required a surgical instrument and a high degree of surgical skill. It is very doubtful that Masters could have performed this procedure as he had no surgical training. A plastic surgeon who reviewed the evidence noted that even he would have difficulty inflicting the wounds found on Hettrick.

In Jan. 2008, Masters' conviction was overturned after advanced DNA tests exonerated him. He was released on bond.  [3/08]


References:  Denver Post, Update

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Colorado Cases, Failed to Report Body