After 24 years, the search for the killer of a Fort Collins woman now has a united group of supporters: both the former convict and the victim's family.
"Yeah, I think they'll solve it," said John Hettrick.
Peggy Hettrick, his niece, was 37 when she was found stabbed and sexually mutilated in a field in the 3800 block of Landings Drive on Feb. 11, 1987.
Tim Masters happened to live only a few yards away and saw the body, but did not immediately report it to police.
It would take 12 years, but Fort Collins police would arrest Masters in August of 1998.
He was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison. But he would fight on and win a rare release from prison in January 2008.
On Tuesday, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced that the state grand jury concluded Masters was no longer a possible suspect in the ongoing murder probe.
"It feels like some of the shadow has been taken off of me. You know, that cloud of doubt," said Masters.
"I had hopes but, I mean, after what I've been through, I have a general mistrust for law enforcement. It would've been nice if they would have said it a few years ago."
He took a $10 million award to settle lawsuits against both the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County but told 7NEWS a simple apology may have saved the government money.
"I don't know. I wouldn't have felt like filing it. I think the attorneys probably would've pushed me into it," Masters said, adding he was glad he did though because he's found it difficult to find a full-time job with nearly 10 years lost to prison.
Masters looks more confident and relaxed after three years of freedom and said his new obsession is repairing and restoring old cars and trucks.
Despite his mistrust of authorities, he feels the Suthers investigation is very active and retains some optimism that Hettrick's real killer can be found.
"It'd be great to see the person that did it actually have to serve some time for what he did and what he caused Peggy's family and me and mine. So, I don't know if it'll ever happen," Masters said.
Fort Collins police ignored so many leads for so many years that it might be difficult to find a living suspect, he said.
Masters and John Hettrick are now both hoping for good news from Suthers.
"I think they're making progress. I don't know how soon that will be forthcoming, but certainly the sooner, the better, from our standpoint. We would like to get closure," Hettrick said in measured, reflective tones Wednesday.
He said the communication from the attorney general has been good, and he senses enthusiasm from investigators as they continue to pursue leads.
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