DNA evidence helped Washington State police officers to finally crack the 62-year-old cold case involving the brutal murder of a 9-year-old girl who was selling Camp Fire Girl mints.
Candy Rogers went missing in Spokane on March 6, 1959, and was found raped and strangled to death with her own clothing two weeks later.
Through the help of modern DNA evidence, police announced on Friday that Rogers’s murderer was John Reigh Hoff, a US Army deserter who committed suicide in 1970.
Spokane Major Crimes Detective Zac Storment said the closing of the case had been a long-time coming to put an end to the nightmarish saga in the Pacific Northwest city.
‘It’s the Mount Everest of our cold cases, the one we could never seem to overcome, but at the same time, nobody ever forgot,’ he said.
Candy Rogers, 9, disappeared when she was selling Camp Fire Girl mints in Spokane, Washington, in 1959. She was found raped and strangled to death in a cold case that remained unsolved for more than 60 years
DNA evidence recently matched John Reigh Hoff to the crime. Hoff’s sister had known Rogers. The army deserter killed himself in 1970
Rogers’s cousin, Joanne Poss, cried as she learned the truth. ‘I feel like candy’s loss was just a horrible loss. She was just so cute’
Rogers’s cousin, Joanne Poss, cried as cops provided some much-needed closure.
‘I feel like Candy’s loss was just a horrible loss. She was just so cute.’
The big breakthrough came after police conducted DNA testing of a well-preserved semen sample found on Rogers’s clothing, linking it to three brothers, John Reigh, Andrew and Terry Allen Hoff.
John Reigh had a daughter, Cathie, who then volunteered to submit a DNA sample in September that showed John Reigh Hoff was likely the killer.
Hoff’s then-10-year-old sister was Rogers’s ‘big sister’ in the Camp Fire Girls, police said.
Later that month, cops unearthed Hoff’s grave to test his DNA, which conclusively indicated that the DNA found on Rogers was Hoff’s, police said.
Cathie said she was angry when police told her that her father was the murderer. , She was just nine years old when Hoff killed himself
‘It takes a while for it to sink it,’ she said tearing up. ‘It’s just sad when you find out… that someone in your family could do something like that.’
Cathie Hoff volunteered a DNA sample in September that helped cops lead to her father as the killer. Police unearthed his body and found he was a match
Spokane Major Crimes Detective Zac Storment called the Candy Rogers case the Mount Everest of cold cases
The Camp Fire Girl treats was the only thing found during a town-wide search in the days after Rogers went missing
Police uncovered her body in the woods. They concluded that the girl had been raped and then strangled to death with her own clothing
Hoff had also attacked a woman in 1961 in the same way Rogers had been killed. That woman survived, and Hoff spent six months in jail.
He joined the military but was discharged for desertion and worked as a door-to-door salesman before killing himself at the age of 31.
Retired Spokane Police Capt. Richard Olberding, who was one of the officers who found Rogers’s body, told the Spokesman-Review that he was glad to see the case closed.
‘I thank God that I lived long enough to see the end of this case,’ he said.
Rogers had disappeared in March 1959 while out selling Camp Fire mints in her neighborhood. When she never came home, it triggered a massive search that included a helicopter crash where three airmen died, the Daily Beast reported.
The initial town-wide search only turned up boxes of the mints Rogers was selling, and two weeks later, two airmen hunting in the woods found a pair of girls’ shoes.
‘On their return to the base they continued to talk about their discovery and wondered if the shoes could be related to the search for Candy,’ Spokane Police said in a statement.
Candy Rogers was an only child, and her parents have since passed away
During the initial days of the search for Rogers, a helicopter crashed and three airmen died
‘They reported their findings, and as daylight broke the next morning a search party descended on the area. Only a few minutes into the search the body of Candy was discovered buried under a shallow layer of brush and pine needles.’
Spokane Police Detective Brian Hammond told KREM in 2007 that the murder ‘really changed the way Spokane worked back then and how children were allowed to run free or not.’
Rogers was an only child and her parents have since passed away.
Among those originally suspected to have killed Rogers was serial killer Hugh Morse, who murdered at least four women.
Police believed Morse was a prime suspect after finding grape gum on Rogers’s body, a flavor Morse was known to like.