In January 2012, Mitch Gelman explored how two lives connected by one fateful event could take drastically different routes in “Presumed Guilty.” The article focused on how Tim Masters was convicted in the 1987 murder of Fort Collins store clerk, Peggy Hettrick, when enough circumstantial evidence was complied by detective Jim Broderick. But Broderick was wrong and Masters spent nearly 10 years sitting in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, until he was released in January 2008.
Compelling, right? Even more so because the story continues. Broderick, now a lieutenant, has been on paid leave from the Fort Collins Police Department since the summer of 2010 as he awaited decisions regarding perjury charges in connection with the wrongful conviction of Masters. Gelman reported that if convicted on all counts, Broderick could have faced up to 40 years in prison and $4 million in fines.
Recently, after charges had been filed and partly dismissed twice against Broderick, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck dropped the entire case—but not without speaking out. The Coloradoan reported Buck’s response: “The people who did this to (Tim Masters) were more than just incompetent. An injustice was done. It was simply an injustice. As we got more into this case, I was astounded by what I saw.”
That could signal the end of the story—or at least part of it. But, considering how many twists have happened in the more than two decades that have passed since Hettrick’s body was found in a vacant field, we don’t think Colorado will ever forget Masters’ wrongful conviction. Nor should we.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Follow editorial assistant Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter at @LindseyRMcK.