It was in February 1987 when the mutilated body of 37-year-old Peggy Hettrick was found in a southern Fort Collins field, leading police to suspect Timothy Masters, a then 15-year-old high school sophomore.
Now, almost a decade and a half later, after being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, Masters has been exonerated â€” ending the 24-year ordeal.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Attorney General John Suthers said Masters is no longer a suspect in the case.
â€œAmerica has the best criminal justice system in the world; however, no system is perfect. It is a tragedy for any person to be prosecuted for a crime they did not commit,â€ District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said in a press release.
â€œThe tragedy is compounded when that person is convicted and incarcerated. It is worth noting that the same criminal justice system which led to the conviction of Timothy Masters, also led to his release from custody and the setting aside of his conviction.â€
After being imprisoned in 1999, and filing a series of appeals, a Colorado judge finally vacated Mastersâ€™ conviction and he was released in 2008 after DNA evidence proved he was not involved in the murder.
â€œWe are thankful that physical evidence obtained in 1987 was dutifully preserved by law enforcementâ€¦Our officeâ€™s decision to dismiss the criminal charges against Timothy Masters was a direct result of this new DNA evidence obtained from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation,â€ Abrahamson said.
In June 2010, Fort Collins awarded Masters a $5.9 million civil rights lawsuit settlement following a $4.1 settlement from Larimer County.
Abrahamson said his hope is that after many years, Masters and his family can put the ordeal behind them and â€œmove forward in hopes of eventually obtaining finality and resolution for Peggy Hettrick and her family.â€
News Editor Erin Udell can be reached at email@example.com.