Six decades later, Spokane Police broke up the murder of a 9-year-old


SPOKANE, Washington (AP) – Police in east Washington say they solved the murder of a 9-year-old girl 62 years after the crime.

The Spokane Police Department used advanced DNA analysis, forensic genealogy, and traditional detective work to identify John Reigh Hoff as the murderer of the young Candice “Candy” Elaine Rogers in 1959. Hoff died in 1970.

“This is kind of the case that was the huge cold jam,” said Spokane Police Chief Superintendent Zac Stormt during a news conference on Friday. “I keep saying that it is Mount Everest of our cold cases that we never seem to conquer, but at the same time nobody has forgotten it.”

The case began on March 6, 1959, when Rogers was selling Fire Girls mints in a neighborhood of Spokane Camp Fire Girls. She left her house around 4:00 p.m. and disappeared.

After 16 days of searching, two hunters found Roger’s shoes northwest of Spokane. During a subsequent search, the girl’s body was hidden in a pile of pine needles and branches. She had been sexually abused and strangled.

“We hope that solving this case will bring some comfort and closure to at least the family and loved ones in this ward,” said Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl.

The case remained unsolved for six decades, although detectives made progress. More than 40 years after the crime, investigators were able to isolate a DNA sample from body fluids found on Roger’s clothing. The tests ruled out a suspect but found no matches in a federal database.

As technology improved, detectives tried again.

“The Candy Rogers DNA was very difficult to crack,” says Storm. “We presented it to another lab last year, in 2020, in the hope that they could do it. They refused; they said the DNA was too degraded to work. “

Earlier this year, law enforcement officers reached out to another DNA lab that uses forensic genealogy, the Texas-based Othram company. The company was able to create a genealogical profile that helped narrow the list of potential suspects down to three brothers, including Hoff.

When Hoff’s daughter learned that her father was a suspect, she volunteered to give a sample of her own DNA to aid the investigation.

Analysts concluded that Hoff’s daughter was 2.9 million times more likely than a random member of the public to have a genealogical match with the sample found on Rogers’ clothing. Storm then received a search warrant to exhume Hoff’s body, and subsequent tests allowed police to identify Hoff as Roger’s murderer.

Rogers’ parents died before the crime was solved.


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