Timothy Masters was awarded$4.1 million by the Eighth Judicial District of Larimer County
and received$5.9 million from the City of Fort Collins
after being wrongly convicted in the1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick
. But he's now received something just as valuable -- he's been officially exonerated in the case by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.
In a statement, Suthers said, "Pursuant to the mandate from the Governor's Office, our team undertook a comprehensive review of the entire Hettrick homicide. Our team conducted more than 170 interviews and conducted further DNA analysis. Throughout the past year, the Statewide Grand Jury heard evidence and testimony from numerous witnesses. Based on the testimony, the forensic analysis and the crime scene analysis, the overwhelming conclusion is that Timothy Masters was not involved in the murder of Peggy Hettrick.
"Masters cooperated fully with our investigation, including the Grand Jury proceedings. Given the nature and extent of the Grand Jury investigation, the time has come for law enforcement to officially exonerate Timothy Masters," he added.
Suthers emphasized that the Hettrick case remains open and mentions "significant progress" in the investigation -- a likely reference to new evidence announced last September that was obtained via a touch-DNA technique not available at the time of Hettrick's murder or Masters's 1999 conviction.
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Of course, DNA, as well as the reporting of news organizations led by the Denver Post, eventually helped free Masters -- a fact referenced by Fort Collins' interim police chief, Jerry Schiager, in comments issued in the wake of Suthers' announcement. "I am grateful that the physical evidence in this case was kept secure long after the legal requirements for retention passed which allowed for newly developed, more sophisticated DNA evidence processing to be done which ultimately helped free Tim Masters, he said.
Schiager also offered this: "On behalf of the City of Fort Collins and Fort Collins Police Services, we apologize to Tim Masters, his family and friends for all that he has endured. We are very sorry that Mr. Masters spent nearly ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit. We appreciate the dedicated and thorough work of the Attorney General's Office. It brings clarity to this situation and we hope it brings closure for Mr. Masters."
Now, that just leaves closure for the Hettrick family.
More from our Media archive: "48 Hours Mystery takes on the Timothy Masters case."