Presumed Guilty

The wrongful conviction of Tim Masters is one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in Colorado history.

January 2012

Death and Dismemberment

Back then, 15-year-old Tim Masters lived in a trailer with his father, Clyde, at the top of a hill overlooking the field where the body was discovered. While canvassing the area that February morning of the murder, Fort Collins detective Linda Wheeler-Holloway learned from Clyde Masters that he had seen his son veer toward the spot where the body was found while walking to the school bus that morning. A short time later that same day, a detective pulled Masters out of typing class at Fort Collins High School. Yes, the teenager said, he’d seen the body, but he’d initially thought it was a Resusci Anne doll, like the ones used at school to teach CPR. He figured that classmates had planted it there to play a joke on him, and he didn’t wonder whether it was a body until he was on the bus.

The next day, while Masters was in school, two detectives showed up at the trailer and asked Clyde Masters if they could look around. One of the cops was a rising star: bright, personable, tireless, and as observant and detailed as the department had ever seen. This officer, detective Jim Broderick, filled out a consent-to-search form, which Clyde Masters willingly signed. The detective entered the teen’s bedroom and saw the knives. All these many years later, Broderick can still remember each of those knives. They were lined up side by side, some naked and gleaming, a few in sheaths, some right on top of Tim’s dresser. Gravity knives. Switchblades. Butterfly knives. A Rambo knife. One with a scalpel embedded in the side. A large survival knife, a machete, and a homemade sword were also discovered in the room.

Broderick carried himself with an easy confidence. At 5 feet, 11 inches tall with dark black hair and a mustache, he resembled Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. That morning, he methodically searched the teen’s room. There were numerous notebooks with writings by Tim Masters that, as Broderick wrote in his police report, “dealt with death and dismemberment of body parts and other graphic portrayals of people being killed and narratives [that] describe it.” On the shelf of a bookcase, Broderick found drawings and binders with stories and pictures that graphically depicted grisly death scenes. There was a ninja mask made out of an old black T-shirt, a flashlight with a red lens cap, and gore magazines, including one with a picture of an ear sliced from a body. There was a sketch of an old lady being shot and detailed drawings of skulls, hangings, and the workings of mechanical knives. The detective also found a stash of pornography, and took into evidence Tim’s Bible, which had passages from the Book of Revelation about angels, immorality, and the “wrath of God Almighty” underlined in the teen’s hand. The police also seized a yearbook in which Masters had written “Welcome to Hell” in Olde English lettering across the title page over a picture of his school.

“Virtually everything I looked through that was written by Timothy Masters was about violence, killing, death or suicide,” Broderick wrote in his report. In one story, titled “Reds and Recons,” Masters assumed the identity of a rampaging killer he called “Mace” who worked with a partner, Ice, to fight female gang members in battles of good versus evil. The teen wrote:

My name is Mace. I live in a time where there are no adults anymore. There was some kind of virus that killed them all.

After a few years of kids living peacefully, the chickies started taking over, and, for some reason, imprisoned all the males.

Fifty boys about my age, 11 to 15, kicked some ass and left blood stains from chicks all over the place.

So, when they got to us, 2,000 guns opened fire on the bitches and painted the hills red.

By the way, we called the chicks ‘Reds” because their dress uniforms are red, and they call us ‘Recons,” because we like to use guerilla warfare tactics.

I’m about 5-6 and medium build for my age. I just turned 14 about a month ago. I have blue eyes and blonde-brown hair.

I don’t seem to care about anything anymore, and I’m pretty famous for being violent and cold. People say that I hate the world, and I guess, in a way, I do.

All I know is that if I don’t kill, I will be killed.