The special prosecutor in the Tim Masters case is blaming the Fort Collins police department for numerous evidence violations.
On at least four occasions, Fort Collins detectives failed to turn over documents to the attorneys who tried the case - and those lawyers failed to ferret out all relevant information, Adams County District Attorney Don Quick concluded in a report filed in court Friday.
But Quick stopped short of concluding that the omissions amounted to an "intentional hiding" of evidence that could have helped Masters win an acquittal after he was charged in the Feb. 11, 1987, killing of Peggy Hettrick.
Masters, who spent 91/2 years in prison in the slaying, had his conviction tossed out last month after the discovery that skin-cell DNA on the dead woman's clothing was linked to her former boyfriend.
A Fort Collins police spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment.
Hettrick, a 37-year-old manager at a Fort Collins Fashion Bar clothing store, walked to a bar late the night of Feb. 10, 1987. After leaving, she was accosted, stabbed in the back and sexually mutilated. Her body was discovered the next morning in a south Fort Collins field.
Masters, arrested 11 years later, was convicted in 1999.
In recent years, attorneys for Masters mounted a case for a new trial, finding hundreds of pages of documents that were not turned over to his original defense team.
They argued that the materials would have boosted his acquittal chances.
But before a judge decided that issue, the DNA evidence came to light, and Masters walked out of court a free man Jan. 22.
In Friday's report, Quick wrote that "the trial prosecutors were not given the four items of evidence described above by the Fort Collins police department."
"Nevertheless, the law imposes upon the prosecution the duty to disclose even if they are unaware of the evidence," the report said.
Quick found no evidence that Fort Collins police Lt. Jim Broderick, one of the lead investigators in the case, intentionally hid information. But it noted that he "did not convert some of his notes to formal reports on matters that should have been disclosed to both the prosecution and defense."
Rocky Mountain News