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Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Masters Trial -- Was A Car Involved?

FORT COLLINS — A forensic pathologist spontaneously surmised that a car had been used in the murder of Peggy Hettrick, a former police detective testified today.

And that is significant.

If a car was, indeed, used to transport Hettrick's body to the field where it was dumped, it throws into question the theory of the crime advanced by prosecutors when Tim Masters was convicted of the grisly killing.

Ray Martinez, a longtime Fort Collins police officer who later served as the city's mayor, testified about interaction with Larimer County coroner Patrick Allen after Hettrick's body was discovered in a vacant field on the morning of Feb. 11, 1987.

"I just remember one of his comments that there had to be a car involved," Martinez said while being questioned by David Wymore, who is leading the fight to win Masters a new trial.

The statement came as part of a series of questions by Wymore aimed at poking holes in the theory of the murder advanced by prosecutors.

Hettrick's body, with her pants pulled down and her shirt pushed up, was discovered in a field about 100 feet from the curb of Landings Drive. A blood stain was discovered at the curb by a bicyclist, and a "drag trail" in the field led to her body.

Since Masters was only 15 and did not have a car, the use of a motor vehicle in the crime would have him less attractive as a suspect in the killing.

Masters quickly became the focus of investigators. The home where he lived with his widower father overlooked the field where the body was discovered and he walked by and looked at the corpse on his way to school and didn't report it to authorities because, he said, he thought it was a mannequin.

Masters was not arrested until 1998, and he was convicted the following year, largely on the basis of a forensic psychologist's interpretation of his violent writings and drawings.

Now Masters is trying to convince a judge that he deserves a new trial, and his attorneys have alleged that police and prosecutors withheld evidence that would have helped his defense.

Among the evidence never given to the defense was information about Dr. Richard Hammond, an ophthalmologist who lived just a few hundred feet from the field where Hettrick's body was discovered. Hammond was arrested in March 1995 after a house-sitter discovered an elaborate, secret videotaping system in a basement bathroom and a trove of tapes.

Many of them depicted extreme close-ups of women's genitals.

Hettrick's killer sliced away flesh from her genitals and left breast.

Martinez also had a small role in the Hammond investigation, responding to his home the day the taping system was discovered.

At one point, Wymore asked Martinez whether Hammond should have been considered a suspect in Hettrick's killing.

"The thought certainly crossed our minds," Martinez said. "We were at the house and saw some of these tapes to make a determination to get probable cause for a search warrant. ... It came up in conversation — we should be looking at him in the Hettrick case."

Michael Goodbee, a special prosecutor in the case from the Adams County District Attorney's Office, pressed Martinez for his "best" recollection about what was discussed at Hammond's home.

"That honestly is the best — just that it came up in conversation," Martinez said. "Who mentioned it first? I have no clue.

"I think the most that was said was someone ought to let the detectives know."

Wymore also questioned Martinez extensively about documents that were never turned over to the defense, including a Jan. 8, 1988, memo that detailed an elaborate plan to try to get Masters to do something to tie himself to the crime. That plan included planting a story in the local paper and delivering it to Masters' house, and it included copying the obituary of the boy's mother and placing it on the windshield of a friend's car.

That memo was never turned over to Masters' original attorneys and, in fact, was only recently discovered by Wymore.

Martinez said it should have bene included in the case file and should have been sent to the prosecutors for the case.

"I don't think there's anything to hide," Martinez said.

Rocky Mountain News

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