Masterful Masters on Our Masters

Meet Tim Masters, an American of superior insight. After DNA evidence forced the State of Colorado to overturn his conviction for murder and free him from its cage, Mr. Masters knew precisely whom to blame for his ruined, stunted life. When CNN asked, "Any hard feelings toward the Fort Collins Police Department or the prosecutors in the case?", Mr. Masters responded, "Oh, absolutely. They locked me up for a decade for something I didn’t do."

Yeah, take a moment to recover from such stunning brilliance. I, too, sat thunderstruck as I thought, Wow, someone finally gets it! But the perspicacious Mr. Masters wasn’t done: he holds government accountable not only for the years it stole but also for depriving him of basic human relationships ("I think they’re very much responsible for me not having a family right now, a wife and kids"), of employment ("The first thing that comes up on a background check is u2018charges dismissed — first-degree murder'”), and of his youth ("…my high school days when they labeled me a murder suspect among all my peers and my teachers and everything"). He even blames the State for tormenting the murdered woman’s family ("It’s a damned shame that [the police] did this to them, too, telling them they got the guy when they didn’t have the right person").

Contrast that with the pass Leviathan’s other victims almost always grant the beast. The economy’s tanking thanks to Wall Street’s greed and your spendthrift neighbors rather than politicians who print money willy-nilly while taxing everybody and everything — including the air. Three thousand Americans died on 9/11 because Muslims are crazy Islamofascists; the Feds’ unconstitutional, unconscionable meddling in the Middle East had nothing to do with it. Government’s minions incinerated families at Waco, not out of psychopathic brutality but to save abused children. Public schools graduate illiterates because selfish homeowners refuse to fork over enough taxes for decent classrooms and teachers.

Et cetera, ad nauseam. However laborious or far-fetched, the sheeple prefer to excuse rather than indict their god, the State.

Not Tim Masters. He was a boy of 15 in Fort Collins, Colorado, when someone murdered vivacious, redheaded, 37-year-old Peggy Hettrick on February 11, 1987. The killer knifed her from behind with such force that it "splintered" one of her ribs, then mutilated her corpse with a "partial vulvectomy." Dr. Warren James, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Fort Collins, would later describe this desecration as "requir[ing] u2018a high degree of surgical skill and high-grade surgical instrument. … I find it highly unlikely that a 15-year-old could perform this precise surgical procedure.'” Ms. Hettrick’s butcher also "carefully removed" her "left nipple and areola" before sponging the blood from her body and dragging its 115 pounds into a field near the trailer where Tim lived with his widowed father.

Neither you nor I would figure a 110-pound teen-ager for a suspect in a crime calling for extensive knowledge of anatomy, surgical skills, expensive equipment, and Samson’s strength. That’s one reason we don’t leech off taxpayers at the Fort Collins Police Department. The whiz-bang sleuths who do fixated on Tim largely because he passed the corpse as he cut through the field on his usual route to school that morning. He even paused to look at the body. But the lady’s naturally pale coloring combined with her loss of blood had rendered her so white Tim thought she was a mannequin someone had dumped there as a prank. So did the bicyclist who saw her from the road about 30 yards away a few minutes later — until he noticed a puddle of gore at the curb. Then 38-year-old Linwood Hodgdon called 911.

Tim didn’t. He continued on to school. He was a quiet boy who "was known to keep to himself" — perhaps because his redheaded mother had died four years earlier almost to the day. Yet Fort Collins’ Finest let neither sympathy nor common sense impede them. They wondered why Tim hadn’t reacted as did the older Hodgdon, who glimpsed the body from a different angle and immediately reported it.

Worse, another older man who should have protected the boy didn’t, thanks to his faith in government. Tim’s father, Clyde, had been in the Navy for 22 years "’and felt you should obey authority,’" as Tim explained in an interview with CNN. Clyde "thought police were there to help." So he "initially told [his son] to cooperate with police, a decision that ultimately would be his undoing. … u2018We’ll cooperate with them and give them anything they want and then they’ll see that you didn’t have anything to do with this and they’ll move on,’ Masters recalled his father telling him in 1987. u2018It turns out that by cooperating with them it just encouraged them, because I was the easiest suspect to go after. … It’s just a shame Dad didn’t know how the system was.’"

Clyde so worshipped the State that he allowed cops to search his home. They found the sort of stuff in Tim’s room that typically fascinates teen-aged boys: six survival knives as well as "violent" sketches Tim had drawn and stories he’d written. His "artwork," including depictions "of dinosaurs with arrows through them, gruesome war scenes described by his Vietnam veteran dad and horror flicks such as u2018Nightmare on Elm Street’ that father and son watched together," had so "disturbed" a teacher that Tim wound up in a "special-ed class …. The younger Masters loved to write, and his goal was to be another Stephen King. Judith Challes, the special-ed teacher who knew him best, told his reading teacher, u2018You know, I’m not at all concerned about them (his writings and drawings).’ Most of her kids scrawled horrific images."

But Tim’s creativity and his knives had the cops off and running. “It’s just unbelievable," Tim says, "because here’s all these stories and drawings that have no nexus with the crime. There’s no one being stabbed in the back. There’s no one being sexually mutilated. The only thing they had in common with this crime is there was violence.”

Clyde left his son alone with the cops and their videotaped interrogation for ten hours. If that isn’t child abuse, it’s tragically close. And it demonstrates that those who blind themselves to the State’s evil unleash catastrophe, not only on themselves but on the innocents around them. Meanwhile, Tim’s dignified, heroic silence as the cops badger, insinuate, accuse, and threaten him earns this boy my nomination for "Man of the Year." He simply, searingly shows them for the bullies they are.

And I’ll bet the cops knew it. Perhaps that’s why Tim remained their chief suspect for twelve years. Their obsession kept them from investigating other leads and far likelier killers.

In 1999, after Lt. Jim Broderick unearthed "a forensic psychiatrist who testified that Masters’ boyhood doodles were evidence of a u2018fantasy rehearsal’ for the murder," Tim finally stood trial. Supposedly, he had "single-handedly murdered Hettrick in an ambush while she was walking past Masters’ house after a night of drinking. He killed her at the curb on Landings Drive, then dragged her into an adjacent field where he mutilated her genitals and breast by the light of a military flashlight. He managed this without leaving a trace of evidence behind, or bringing back into his house any evidence from the scene. Police never found any blood, body parts, hair or fibers that could connect Masters to the crime." Instead, they relied on "circumstantial evidence to paint a picture of an anti-social youngster so wracked by abandonment from the untimely death of his mother that he took sadistic revenge on a passing woman who resembled her." That was enough to convict Tim and sentence him to life in prison.

“They won their case by assassinating my character,” Tim says. Once again seeing officials as they are rather than as they want us to, he added, "My opinion is that Jim Broderick, the guy in charge of [the investigation of the murder], has a very big ego and would not allow anything or anyone to convince him that he was wrong. He made up his mind in the beginning, from day one when he walked into my bedroom and saw my horror drawings and war stories, that I was guilty. Nothing would change his mind.”

From his cell, Tim filed appeals. Courts either affirmed his conviction or refused to hear his case. But when new DNA evidence exonerated him in 2007, a judge vacated his sentence — as Tim did prison in early 2008.

Ever the sore loser, Leviathan begrudged its prey his freedom. "Though out of prison, Masters still carries the label u2018suspect.’ District Attorney Larry Abrahamson made that clear in his order to dismiss charges against Masters. The new DNA doesn’t vindicate Masters, Abrahamson wrote, but it u2018clearly warrants a complete re-examination of the evidence related to the murder of Peggy Hettrick.’" Tim mentioned his "[relief that] the charges were dismissed" while also noting, "I didn’t care too much for the language of [Abrahamson’s] motion.” CNN reported that Tim’s "attorneys voiced a stronger reaction. u2018They’re still trying to keep him on a leash,’ said attorney Maria Liu. u2018They know there’s not one single shred of evidence against Tim Masters and they don’t have the backbone or integrity to acknowledge it.'”

Tim recently sued his local Leviathan for "unfair, malicious prosecution." While private citizens showered money and other gifts on this wronged man, the City of Fort Collins asked a federal judge to dismiss the claim — and, for good measure, also requested that the court force Tim to pay the city’s legal costs. That doesn’t faze the victim. At this point, he understands the devil so well he can quip about his horns and pitchfork: “Right now, it looks like [the City]’ll spend millions to not give me one.” Gitmo’s prisoners have received no compensation for the crimes committed against them, and Tim probably won’t either, though he estimates he lost half a million dollars in wages as well as his house, a ’46 Harley, and other property.

No, the best the State can do is investigate — and clear — Lt. Broderick, though he "illegally taped a conversation between Masters, then 15, and his dad, Clyde Masters, at police headquarters 20 years ago." (Which skullduggery backfired since "Masters repeatedly tells his dad he’s innocent." No problem: Broderick never divulged his recording’s results to Tim’s attorneys.) Leviathan iced this foul cake when it "censured" two of the prosecutors who secured Tim’s wrongful conviction. David Wymore, the attorney in charge of Tim’s victorious appeal, dismissed that as "a slap on the wrist. … This man spent 10 years in prison, and the prosecutors who put him there aren’t even being sentenced to an ethics class?”

Leviathan’s mauling of this motherless boy offers many lessons. First, it exposes the monster’s satanic ugliness. We should study it well despite the stench so we understand what we’re fighting.

The second lesson is for parents. When you teach your kids that poison, fire, playing in traffic, and strangers will hurt them, tell them the State will, too. Warn them that anyone on its payroll is the strangest of all strangers, a dire and often lethal enemy. Sure, government boasts a good guy now and then; some of them worked to clear Tim and win his release. But mixing sugar with cyanide only masks the fatal flavor, making it even more dangerous.

Then there’s the reminder that hundreds of thousands of Tims languish in prison, whether Leviathan frames them as it did him or whether they’re genuinely "guilty" of non-crimes. Barie Goetz, an investigator who helped prove Tim’s innocence, says, "Look, the system took his life and, in a way, his future. We all want him to make it. But … he’s got this stigma. The truth is that I’ve asked people, ‘Would you hire him?’ ‘Would you let him date your daughter?’ The answer’s always the same. You get this pause. . . ." Let those of us who have thus far escaped the fiend’s clutches employ and embrace, nourish and nurture those who haven’t.

Looking back at his dad’s veneration of Leviathan, at the years and grief it cost him, Tim advises, “You shouldn’t always submit to authority. Our country wouldn’t exist if everyone submitted to authority.”

Sheer genius.