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D.A.: Dismiss murder charge against Tim Masters

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  • NEW: D.A. seeks dismissal of Tim Masters murder case
  • Masters was released Tuesday; conviction was tossed
  • Masters convicted in 1999 of murder, sexual mutilation of 37-year-old woman
  • He spent nearly nine years in prison
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(CNN) -- A Colorado prosecutor Friday asked a judge to dismiss the first-degree murder charge against Tim Masters, who spent nine years in prison until new DNA evidence indicated someone else might have committed the crime.

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Tim Masters, center, walks out of a Fort Collins, Colorado, courthouse Tuesday with his attorney David Wymore.

Court papers filed by District Attorney Larry Abrahamson cited "newly discovered" evidence, but took pains to state that evidence didn't clear Masters.

"While the newly discovered DNA evidence does not exonerate Timothy Masters, it clearly warrants a complete re-examination of all the evidence related to the murder of Peggy Hettrick," the court papers state.

The motion seeks dismissal of the charges "in the interest of justice." It points out the DNA testing used to uncover the new evidence wasn't available when Masters was investigated and tried.

On Tuesday a judge threw out Masters' 1999 murder conviction, and he was freed -- also "in the interest of justice."

Although the motion signals that Abrahamson is dropping the Masters case, he did not rule out future prosecution.

In a statement, the prosecutor cautioned: "Contrary to news reports, the DNA testing results only suggest that there may be others, along with Timothy Masters, who should be investigated. These test results do not provide us with enough information to completely exonerate anyone."

Abrahamson said he has asked Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to appoint a special prosecutor to continue the investigation of Hettrick's slaying.

The attorney general will announce his decision early next week, Abrahamson said.

Masters, 36, has been investigated for Hettrick's murder since he was 15. He has insisted he had nothing to do with her death, and no physical evidence ties him directly to the crime. Video Watch Masters describe his anger at police »

A jury convicted Masters 12 years after the discovery of Hettrick's stabbed and sexually mutilated corpse in a field near his trailer.

Among the evidence jurors considered were a collection of knives found in Master's bedroom, gruesome sketches and testimony from a prosecution expert that he fit the psychological profile of a killer.

Masters' defense team said he was framed, and that police and prosecutors sat on evidence that could have raised doubt about his guilt.

The significance of Friday's motion to dismiss is largely procedural, but Abrahamson indicated earlier this week that it might be unnecessary to try Masters again.

"In light of newly discovered evidence revealed to me on Friday," Abrahamson said in a statement a week ago, "I will be moving as expeditiously as possible to make the determination of whether all charges against Timothy Masters will be dismissed."

Abrahamson also has vowed to review all "contested convictions" in which advances in DNA testing may prove useful.

He said he wanted to examine the legal discovery process and that he had met with the Fort Collins police chief and his officers "to discuss the critical flow of information with assurance that all information is available to our office and the defense."

Special prosecutor Don Quick filed a motion earlier this month citing four instances in which police and prosecutors should have handed over evidence to Masters' original defense team. Photo See the key players in the case »

Among them was a police interview with a plastic surgeon who said it was improbable that a teen could have made the meticulous cuts necessary to remove Hettrick's body parts.

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Also, according to Quick's motion, police failed to divulge that a renowned FBI profiler warned police that Masters' penchant for doodling gruesome horror scenes did not tie him to the crime.

Investigations into how police and prosecutors handled the case continue. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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