Suspect’s family help solve unsolved 1959 murders
On a Friday afternoon in 1959, Candice Rogers came home from school, played with her dog, had an oatmeal cookie, and then started selling Camp Fire mints in her neighborhood of Spokane, Wash.
Candy, as she was called, was 9 years old and was a Bluebird, a younger member of Camp Fire Girls, a youth group focused on outdoor activities.
When Candy didn’t come home at nightfall, her grandfather, her mother, her friends and neighbors started looking for her, and were soon joined by police officers and sheriff’s assistants. At around 9 p.m., boxes of Camp Fire mints, believed to be Candy’s, were found strewn along a road.
Candy disappeared on March 6, 1959. Over the next 16 days, thousands of people searched for her. The effort included Marines, airmen and military planes, but also residents on foot and on horseback. An Air Force helicopter involved in the search crashed, killing three crew members.
On the last weekend of the research, 1,200 people showed up.
On March 21, 1959, two airmen on leave hunting in the woods about seven miles from his house noticed a pair of children’s shoes. The next morning, the police returned to the area and found Candy’s body. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a piece of her own clothes.
The crime rocked Spokane. Hundreds of tips poured in, but none led to Candy’s killer, frustrating detectives who have investigated the case decade after decade.
“I keep saying this is the Mount Everest of our cold cases – the one we never got over, but at the same time, no one has ever forgotten,” said Sgt. Zac Storment of the Spokane Police Department.
On Friday, more than 62 years after Candy’s death, Spokane Police announced that they had solved the case with DNA evidence and old-fashioned detective work.
The department identified the suspect as John Reigh Hoff, who died by suicide in 1970 when he was 31. Her daughter provided a DNA sample that linked her father to semen found on Candy’s clothes, which had been stored as evidence in a long before the advent of genetic crime scene testing.
Mr Hoff, who was buried in the same cemetery as Candy, was then exhumed and a DNA sample taken from his remains confirmed that it was his sperm, police said.
While the identification brought some relief to Candy’s few surviving parents, Sergeant Storment said it was scary to have to tell Mr. Hoff’s widow and four children that Mr. Hoff was responsible for a also heinous crime.
“I took the lives of these people and their childhoods and threw it over their heads,” he said at a press conference on Friday. “What they believed about their father and their childhood has changed forever.”
Mr. Hoff grew up in Spokane and had a history of petty juvenile delinquency. He joined the military at the age of 17 and served in Korea as an inventory clerk. He was 20 years old and lived about a mile from Candy when she was killed in 1959.
In 1961, he was convicted of grabbing a woman, undressing her, tying her up with his own clothes and strangling her before running away, police said. She survived and Mr. Hoff served six months in prison, police said.
Following the conviction, Mr. Hoff was declared a deserter and discharged from the military, police said. He was selling cutlery and working in a lumber yard and meat packing plant, where he suffered a chemical burn to his face.
It was not clear if Mr. Hoff knew Candy, said Sergeant Storment, although they had at least one connection: Mr. Hoff’s half-sister, who was 10, was a campfire girl. who was Candy’s “big sister” in the program.
Sergeant Storment said he recently spoke to the now 70-year-old stepsister who recalled sitting next to Mr Hoff, crying and telling him how upset she was over the death of Candy.
Mr Hoff’s daughter, Cathie, said she felt disbelief, anger and sadness upon learning that her father had been identified as the suspect. She was 9 when he died.
“It’s really sad to find out that someone – not even your father, but just someone from your family – could do something like this,” she said in a filmed interview with the Spokane police, who identified her only by her first name.
Cathie said she had lived most of her life believing her father had committed suicide because he was depressed.
“And now I think no, he was evil,” she said. “It wasn’t an escape, in a way, but he must have died with people thinking he was an honest man. And he wasn’t.
A cousin of Candy’s, who was interviewed in the police video, said, “I feel like Candy’s loss was just a horrible loss. She was so cute. And she didn’t have much time.
Another family member, identified only as Cheryl, spoke about Candy’s parents and grandparents saying, “I think it’s really sad that they passed away without knowing who took their little one’s life. -daughter and their daughter.
After Mr. Hoff’s body was exhumed from the cemetery where Candy was also buried, her family had it reburied in another cemetery.
“I am very, very sorry for what my father did, that it took his life, horribly,” said Cathie, Mr. Hoff’s daughter, in the videotaped interview. “I hope it will bring him peace knowing this, although it is not really justice because he is not receiving any punishment, but his name is on it now.” And they can know it’s resolved.