Looking Back on Broderick

Posted September 5, 2010

Looking Back on Broderick
by Pat Hartman 

Here's a 1999 article from the Fort Collins Coloradoan, titled "Fort Collins investigator's diligence helped solve 1987 case." Jenn Farrell reports on the awards given by the Fort Collins Police Department, to Jim Broderick, Terry Gilmore, and Jolene Blair. The awards are for putting Tim Masters away.

Of course, the glory was somewhat dimmed, at award time, because Tim Masters, convicted four months before, was definitely filing an appeal. The prosecutors were worried that the conviction might not hold. The story ended with the line, "And if the case goes back to square one, that's where prosecutors and Broderick will pick it up."

Pretty funny, in a grotesque kind of way. The whole trouble with the case was that Broderick never was willing to start at Square One. He decided immediately that Tim Masters killed Peggy Hettrick, and never wavered, and used all his influence to drag the rest of the police department, and the DA's office, along into his delusion.

Farrell says,

For two months, he pored over thousands of gruesome narratives and sketches seeking evidence, piecing together a case from psychological and circumstantial evidence.

Exactly. Broderick spent googobs of time, not just when he was officially on the case fulltime, but his spare time for years, constructing a story to specifically condemn Tim Masters. The Chief of Police, Dennis Harrison, even said so. "He devoted countless hours of personal time to this investigation in addition to his normal duties…"

There is nothing wrong with a cop being obsessed by a case. Unless he starts out with the wrong suspect, and adamantly refuses to listen to anyone who suggests a different theory. Then it is no longer healthy professional determination, but mania.

"Building a case" is one of this story's subheads, and that is exactly what Broderick did. Starting with the ideas suggested by FBI agents during the first days after the murder, and adding what he read in books written by profiler Roy Hazelwood, Broderick concocted the interlocking cluster of stories about the supposed psychological motivations of Tim Masters.

When he eventually found a compliant forensic psychologist in Reid Meloy, Broderick just handed over to him the whole fairy tale he had invented, and paid Meloy thousands and thousands of dollars to put a stamp of approval on it, because an "expert" was needed for the courtroom.

Here is a very important quotation, regarding Blair and Gilmore. Broderick told the reporter,

For another 2 months, he was holed away in a room, working with prosecutors, and scoured that evidence, looking for ways to tear it down, then at how to defend it when he took it into the courtroom.

It says here that Broderick could never have done it without the help of the prosecutors, who put a lot of time and effort into the case. Translation: a whole team of people were dedicated not to finding the killer of Peggy Hettrick, but to nailing Tim Masters, above all else. Isn't that kind of like a conspiracy? Sure sounds like one.

In more recent days, when questioned by Special Prosecutors and the like, Blair and Gilmore have consistently testified that they never knew this, that, or the other thing, about the case. They would like us to believe that the police withheld information from them, or lied to them. This is not plausible deniability. With two intense months of working together fulltime, as well as all the other collaboration between Broderick and the prosecutors, how could there possibly have been a single thing about the case that Blair and Gilmore did NOT know? What were they doing all that time, holed up in the war room? Playing strip poker?

Broderick told the reporter that the older a case gets, the harder it is to solve, because witnesses move out of town, or die. Yeah, well, the moving away and dying worked out in Broderick's favor, didn't it? Especially when it came to Clyde Masters. Tim's father would have testified that Tim never left his trailer home, the night of the murder. He died in April of 1996. By July, Broderick was pestering Roy Hazelwood to be his expert witness. By October, the investigation was reopened, starring Tim Masters as the one and only suspect.

Broderick also lamented that old cases are difficult because you can't go back and collect new evidence. But as we have learned since then, Broderick didn't let that get in his way. He just manufactured it. Like William Butler Yeats said of poetry, he "made it out of a mouthful of air." Broderick is quoted as saying the team "made the decision that there wasn't likely to be anything else that was going to come forward." Decoded, that sounds like it means something like, "We'll never get any more physical evidence, so let's just make up some complicated, fantastical theory."

Which they proceeded to do. The theory about how Tim Masters must have killed Peggy Hettrick, because she had red hair and his mother had red hair, and his mother died and he was mad at her for dying, so he had to kill a red-haired woman to punish his mother for dying. Or something. And all the convoluted, wacky stuff he invented out of Tim's drawings and writings. Which, truth be told, were pretty unexceptional for that age group. All the stuff about rehearsal fantasy and displaced matricide and how a shy kid was actually a dangerous "loner," and on and on ad nauseum.

It says here that when Broderick's job was changed from supervisor of Crimes Against Persons, and he took over the Drug Task Force, he "took the Hettrick case - and all the work he'd done - with him to see it to the end." Sounds like maybe he wasn't giving his job his full attention, still mooning over this old case. "Developing ownership," as it says here. Not a very good example for the troops.

An interesting detail is that other officers, who at various times expressed ideas about the Hettrick homicide, were told to mind their own business, because they were in Crimes Against Property or out on patrol or whatever. But nobody chastised Jim Broderick for clinging to the case when he was supposedly assigned in a different field.

The reporter duly notes that Broderick "shied away from taking credit." What? He went and made a Cold Case Files TV show about the case, full of disinformation. That statement is just as memorable as the one in Jolene Blair's closing argument, where she said nobody else in the world could have done the murder.