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Dead doctor in spotlight

Inmate's lawyer points finger in 1987 slaying
8-24-2007 Colorado

FORT COLLINS - Dr. Richard Hammond, 44, died (by his own hand injecting cyanide) in disgrace in 1995, but on Thursday he was essentially on trial in the grisly 1987 slaying of Fashion Bar manager Peggy Hettrick.

Hammond, an eye doctor who took his own life after he was arrested in a sexual exploitation case, is center stage in a long-running fight to win a new trial for Tim Masters, now serving a life sentence in Hettrick's slaying.

Hettrick, 36, was stabbed in the back in the early morning of Feb. 11, 1987, apparently as she walked alone. Her killer then sexually mutilated her.

Slowly and methodically, in a hearing that lasted all day and is far from finished, attorney David Wymore built his case against Hammond - showing that he had access to knives, that he was an insomniac who came and went at all hours of the night, that he led a secret life, and that he was obsessed with pornography.

In hours of questioning of Fort Collins police officer Tony Sanchez, Wymore repeatedly characterized Hammond as a "sex offender" and a "pervert."

He continually contrasted him with Masters, who was convicted largely on the testimony of an expert who examined his voluminous writings and drawings, many of them containing disturbing images.

"One guy was a doodler," Wymore said, "and the other guy was a sex offender."

Hammond was arrested after a house-sitter found a videotaping system in a bathroom that captured images of scores of women on the toilet and in the shower. Many had close-ups of women's genitals.

Wymore's assertion, spelled out in a series of court motions, has two parts. First, that Hammond was a sexual deviant who lived virtually across the street from the field where Hettrick's body was found, had a perverse fascination with women's genitals, and possessed medical training to carry out the almost surgical mutilation of Hettrick's breast and vagina.

And second, that the detectives who investigated Hammond and prosecutors failed to turn over information about the doctor to Masters' attorneys at his 1999 trial.

Special prosecutors in the case, Michael Goodbee and Tom Quammen of the Adams County District Attorney's Office, contended in a motion filed this week that the doctor could not legally have been considered an alternate suspect.

Masters, who was the prime suspect within hours of the slaying, was not arrested until 1998 and was convicted in 1999. An appeals court and the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the conviction.

Thursday's hearing brought an overflow crowd of family and friends who support Masters, and they broke into applause when he was led into the courtroom in shackles about 9:25 a.m.

He looked much different from the slender teenager interrogated for hours the day Hettrick's body was found. His hairline is receding, he has a mustache and goatee, and wears wire-framed glasses. He wore an orange jail jumpsuit - size XL - and his right hand was cuffed to a shackle that covered his waist.

Judge Joseph Weatherby made it clear that he will consider whether there is evidence to connect Hammond to the crime before he decides Masters' fate.

"He has to have some relationship to the case," Weatherby said. "It can't be just argument. He has to have some nexus to this case."

Wymore spent the rest of the day attempting to draw those lines. He elicited testimony from Sanchez that Hammond had compiled 391 videotapes of women in his bathroom, that he had a storage locker bulging with pornography, that he received mail in the name of Richard Hamitten, and that he made films of himself having sex with a woman.

He also elicited testimony from Sanchez that at least seven officers were involved in the investigations of Hettrick's killing and Hammond.

Wymore noted repeatedly that all of the evidence in the Hammond investigation was "burned" after the doctor's suicide.

At one point, Wymore pointed to an evidence log that showed that four pictures were among the items that were destroyed.

"You can't sit here and tell me these pictures are not Peggy Hettrick," he said to Sanchez.

Sanchez agreed. He couldn't.

What's next

• At least one more hearing will be held on a series of motions by Tim Masters' attorneys and then they are expected to file a formal motion seeking a new trial. No date for the hearing has been set. ..more.. by Kevin Vaughan, Rocky Mountain News

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