Posted September 24, 2010
(A while back, the local newspaper asked for reader submission on the subject of Unsung Heroes. This is what I sent in.
It was a long and difficult struggle to get wrongfully convicted Tim Masters out of prison. The victory was due to the combined efforts of many people, none more dedicated than Linda Wheeler-Holloway. Back in the early 1990s, as a member of the Fort Collins Police Department, Linda inherited the Peggy Hettrick homicide case and re-opened it as lead investigator. By declining to carry out an arrest warrant against Masters, she reaped the disapproval of supervisors and colleagues. With a "Masters or nobody" attitude, they refused to let her make a fresh start that would include other suspects. Consequently, the case was shelved for the second time.
Masters was arrested in 1998. Linda, retired by then from FCPD and working for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, again expressed her doubts to the prosecutors as they prepared for trial, but to no avail. After the conviction, she worked tirelessly and against great opposition to right
the wrong, always keeping in mind that the real murderer of Peggy Hettrick is still at large and unpunished. As an activist in the "Free Tim Masters" cause, she repeatedly risked her career and reputation.
Over the years and through many discouraging setbacks, she persisted, alienating the local law enforcement community of which she had been a respected member, losing friends, even setting aside personal needs and family concerns in order to fight the battle. It was Linda who found the Dutch scientists of the Independent Forensic Services and introduced them to Masters' post-conviction defense team. As we know, the absence of Masters' DNA on the victim's clothing, and the presence of someone else's, ultimately won his freedom.
Linda Wheeler-Holloway is a true hero, and a shining example not only for all women, but for all law enforcement professionals.