FORT COLLINS, Colo. – A judge on Tuesday ordered the release of a man convicted of murder after DNA evidence pointed to another suspect.
Timothy Masters had been sentenced to life in prison in 1999, but new tests announced last week showed DNA found on the victim's clothing was not from Masters but from someone else.
The judge overturned the conviction on Tuesday and set aside Masters' life prison sentence.
Masters, 35, was ordered released on a personal recognizance bond. Prosecutors promised to decide quickly whether to try him again, but a legal analyst has said that's unlikely, given the DNA evidence.
Applause broke out in the courtroom as the hearing ended.
Masters, dressed in a blue suit, white shirt and yellow tie, showed little emotion but hugged members of his defense team.
Peggy Hettrick, a manager at a woman's clothing store, was found stabbed and sexually mutilated in a field south of Fort Collins in 1987, but police investigated for more than a decade before arresting Masters. He was 15 at the time she died and lived near the field where her body was found.
Masters' new attorneys have said detectives wrongly focused on Masters instead of other suspects.
During an appeal heard over the past few months in Larimer County District Court, the defense and special prosecutors assigned to the case said crucial information had been withheld from Masters' trial lawyers.
About 50 people packed the small courtroom Tuesday morning. Before the hearing began, smiling friends and family waited in a festive atmosphere.
"It's hard to describe," said Master's uncle, John Masters. "It's (like) saying there was a death, and all of a sudden, it turns out he is alive again."