James Broderick: $500K spent not convicting cop adds to $10M wasted on failed murder case
Justice can be expensive -- but the cost of injustice is often even higher. Case in point: the horrifically botched investigation into the 1987 murder of Fort Collins' Peggy Hettrick. Thus far, the case has cost authorities at least $10.5 million -- the latest $500,000 as a result of a failed prosecution aimed at Detective James Broderick, who allegedly helped railroad an innocent man.
The anatomy of this ongoing disaster began on February 11, 1987, when the body of Hettrick, 37, was discovered in a field. As noted on the Wikipedia page devoted to this grisly act, Hettrick's body had been sexually mutilated at the left breast and vagina.
Before long, suspicion fell upon Tim Masters, a fifteen year old who'd seen the corpse on his way to school but thought it was a mannequin. After searching his home with his father's okay, investigators discovered a knife collection, violent artwork (he was a horror-movie aficionado) and a suitcase filled with pornography -- enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that he might have been Hettrick's killer. Yet it took prosecutors a dozen years, until 1999, to finally convict him of the crime.
Nine years later, Masters was finally set free, thanks to DNA evidence that exonerated him -- and he promptly filed multiple suits for wrongful conviction. In 2010, he received a $5.9 million settlement from the City of Fort Collins and another $4.1 million from the Larimer County judicial district.
Also in 2010, Detective James Broderick was indicted for perjury in the Hettrick matter -- a development that put him at the top of a top five police blunders list featured on True Crime Report, a website owned, like Westword, by Voice Media.
Tim Masters at the time of his release.
Here's how writer Chris Parker described the allegations against Broderick:
Under oath, Broderick denied having any contact with the case since 1987, conveniently forgetting the failed surveillance operation. Nor did he reveal any of the available contrary information (such as the surveillance failure) to the "expert." Broderick withheld, and later destroyed other evidence that may have connected the crime to a sexual deviant who also lived near the crime scene, and who committed suicide when arrested on other charges. (The suicide case had been a doctor, which would have gone a long way in explaining the surgical precision of the sexual mutilation of Hettrick's body.)Parker's conclusion?
Perhaps it's better late than never, but the whole case just makes you feel dirty. It's hard to find any redeeming message, like be careful who you move in next-to because you might be blamed, though perhaps there's something in the fact that an innocent man was eventually freed. It only took nine years. That's practically fifteen minutes in bureaucratic time.This description makes the conviction of Broderick seem like a slam dunk, but it proved anything but.
Continue for more about the failed prosecution of Detective James Broderick, including a video and a court document.