(Note: Thanks to Forensic Psych, Karen Franklin and her great blog for flagging this first case)
In 1987, a woman named Peggy Hettrick was stabbed to death, sexually mutilated, her body then left in a field in Fort Collins, Colorado. That same year, Tim Masters was a skinny, fifteen-year-old whose mother had died four years before. He was living in a mobile home with his military, over-busy father, was a bit of a loner, had a collection of survival knives, and a penchant for drawing. Some of his drawings were quite violent. It also happened that the boy’s home was a baseball’s throw from the field where Hettrick’s body was discovered, and he had seen her body on his way to school but failed to report it.
After Detective Jim Broderick met and interviewed Masters, he soon became convinced that the fifteen-year-old was the murderer.
It didn’t seem to matter that no physical evidence pointed toward Tim Masters. In fact, all of it seemed to point away from the kid: fingerprints on Hettrick’s purse (not his), shoe prints near the body (not his), two foreign hairs on Hettrick (not his), and the mutilation itself, which physicians have now described as so unusually technical and difficult to perform that a 15-year-old could not have done it. (Years later DNA would also point away from Masters.)
Moreover, there was another likely prospect for the murder, a criminally kinky eye surgeon who also lived near the crime scene. But the surgeon was never investigated, and evidence that might or might not have linked him to the case was ordered destroyed. Meanwhile, Detective Broderick clung to his theory that the killer was young Masters. However without any kind of solid proof or motive, the case went cold. Then ten years later, still sure that the now-grown Masters was the guy, the detective gave Masters’ drawings and interviews to a forensic psychologist in San Diego named Reid Meloy. With a 278 page analysis that is now seen as riddled with inconsistencies and absurd leaps of logic, Meloy concluded that Tim Masters had murdered Hettrick. A jury agreed.
Masters was arrested in 1998, tried, convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison.
Eight years later, the doubts about Masters’ guilt have continued to build and an agressive new defense team plus some solid investigative work by reporters at the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News have turned up a pile of evidence and a list of prosecutorial errors that were presented in hearings last week that will continued this month. All this will hopefully lead to a new trial.
It’s an upsetting and complicated tale. But what is the most disturbing is that there appears to be nothing in the case that ever pointed to Masters in the first place—-other than the fact that he was a shy kid in the throes of a hard adolescence and still affected by the loss of his mom. He also appears to have had some violent fantasies, plus he had a collection of survival knives, many of which were given him by relatives. All of this, I’m sorry to say, is not too different than a lot of temporarily-troubled teenage boys who go through a bad patch after a large trauma, such as losing a parent or a nasty divorce. Yet most of them eventually get through it without murdering anyone. Or being convicted of murder.
And then there’s this..
CASE TWO – NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF HALLIBURTON/KBR
The story behind this case will be broadcast on an upcoming 20/20. It’s about a 22-year old named Jamie Leigh Jones who says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.
The details of the alleged crime are quite harrowing. However, as yet, there’s been no legal action taken against the alleged rapists. None. Zero. Zip. No charges, no sanctions, no nada. It’s as if the men who are accused of attacking Jones were operating in a Free Rape Zone, and no one—not Halliburton, not KBR, not the U.S. Department of Justice—is prepared to do a damned thing about it.
Over two years later, the Justice Department has brought no criminal charges in the matter. In fact, ABC News could not confirm any federal agency was investigating the case.
Legal experts say Jones’ alleged assailants will likely never face a judge and jury, due to an enormous loophole that has effectively left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of United States law.
Incredible. Completely incredible.