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When Worlds Collide: Criminal Investigative Analysis, Forensic Psychology, and the Timothy Masters Case

NCJ Number
Forensic Examiner Dated: Summer 2009 Pages: 52-68
Frank S. Perri J.D., M.B.A., C.P.A.; Terrance G. Lichtenwald Ph.D.
Date Published
17 pages
This article reviews the arrest and conviction of a man for sexual homicide based solely on the reasoning of a forensic psychologist and at the exclusion of the opinion of a criminal investigative analyst to the defense, and an analysis of the results and implications of the case for future consideration.
The question presented in this paper is what happens when forensic psychologists advance opinions about criminal matters based on the extrapolation of academic research on psychological concepts involving sexual homicide cases and reject the opinions of professional criminal profilers who incorporate law enforcement analysis along with criminal evidentiary considerations into their work? This question is addressed through the analysis of the case of Timothy Masters who spent over 9 years in a Colorado prison for the murder of Peggy Hettrick. Homicide charges were later dropped based on new DNA evidence pointing to other suspects. Masters was convicted largely on the testimony of a forensic psychologist who used Masters’ violent sketches and stories produced when he was an adolescent as evidence to arrest and convict him in the murder. Masters was convicted without a single shred of direct evidence. This paper offers an analysis of the series of events that occurred leading to the arrest and conviction of Timothy Masters for sexual murder based on the testimony of a forensic psychologist while the opinion of a criminal investigative analyst was ignored. Forensic analysis has its benefits; however, there is a precarious side to forensics that cannot be discounted. It is critical that if law enforcement does rely on profiling services or forensic psychologists to assist in their investigation, the evidentiary aspects of an investigation should not be ignored. Photographs, drawings, and references