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Deciphering The Enigma Of The 1959 Killing Of Young Candy Rogers

Uncover the chilling secrets behind the unsolved murder of Candy Rogers in 1959. Dive into the mystery, decode clues, and embark on a riveting journey of discovery.

Vincent Bloodworth
Vincent Bloodworth
Feb 11, 20240 Shares2 Views
Deciphering The Enigma Of The 1959 Killing Of Young Candy Rogers

On a crisp Friday evening in March 1959, young Candy Rogers, barely nine years old, embarked on a solo mission in her Spokane neighborhood. Not for playtime, but to raise funds for her Camp Fire Girls troop by selling mints, door-to-door. Little did anyone know, this innocent adventure would mark the beginning of a captivating mystery.

However, Rogers never made it back to her flat above a nearby supermarket that evening. Her relatives became more concerned as the evening wore on and called the police. After collaborating with law authorities to search for Rogers, Spokane neighbors found the young girl's body in the woods, seven miles from her house, after 15 days of searching. She had died from strangulation after being sexually assaulted.

Despite the Spokane police's best efforts, the killer of Rogers was never found. More than 62 years after her death, in November 2021, authorities declared that they had connected the late John Reigh Hoff to the crime through forensic genetic genealogy and DNA evidence recovered from the crime site. Despite the fact that Hoff committed suicide in 1970, his daughter supplied a DNA sample that matched semen discovered on Rogers' apparel. Following Hoff's exhumation, the match was verified by the police.

Brittany Wright, a forensic scientist with the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory Division who assisted in solving the case, spilled the fact about the effects of Rogers' murder on the Spokane community and how developments in DNA technology ultimately assisted law enforcement in solving her death's mystery.

What was the general public's reaction when Candy Rogers vanished?

Within a day, a large-scale search team was organized, and everyone in the Spokane area pitched in to help find her. Local Air Force troops, residents, and police officers searched on motorbikes, on foot, in cars, on horseback, and in helicopters. Although the search was conducted miles beyond, it was centered mostly on and near N. Pettet Drive, also known as Doomsday Hill in Spokane today, where [several mint boxes that appeared to have been hurled by a moving automobile] were discovered.

The Spokane River was thoroughly searched as part of the endeavors. The announcement had a profound impact on the community and went down in local history. For fifteen days, the community spoke about Candy, published about it, broadcast about it, and looked for her without luck.

About five miles after Candy's disappearance, on March 21, 1959, two hunters were in the woods near a rock quarry when they spotted two small girls' shoes neatly laid out on the ground. After informing the police, they went back to the scene and looked through the surrounding brush, where they discovered Candy's body.

Helicopters operated by Air Force personnel were used as part of the search. Three of the five personnel aboard the chopper perished when it fell into the river after striking some low-hanging electrical cables.

What happened next in terms of the investigation?

To crack the case, the Spokane Police Departmentassembled a sizable task group. In the end, the case file grew to be the biggest in the department's existence. Numerous suspected people were questioned by the police, but nothing came of it. The case never really left the community's collective consciousness. Over the duration of 60 years, detectives worked nonstop on the investigation.

The identification and interrogation of serial killer Hugh Bion Morse, who preyed on young girls, was one encouraging lead. He was in the Spokane region when Candy was killed, and he matched the killer's profile rather closely. In the early 2000s, DNA evidence finally ruled him ineligible.

What was your individual role in the case?

I grew up in Spokane, where both of my parents were born. They told me about the horrible incident that had happened, and I can still clearly recall them cautioning me to avoid falling victim to strangers so I wouldn't end up like Candy. Thus, thirty to forty years after it had occurred, this case remained a part of my childhood home.

What developments regarding this case and DNA technology occurred in the 2000s?

In 2001, the chief detective at the time, Mindy Connelly, realized that breakthroughs in forensic science, particularly DNA analysis, could be the key to solving the case. In an attempt to identify the culprit through DNA, she sent Candy's clothes to the lab.

The Golden State Killer case was solved by police using forensic genetic genealogy, which became popular in 2017–2018. This was the turning point in the case. The Spokane Police Department reevaluated its cold cases to determine whether any may be solved using forensic genetic genealogy as soon as it became popular. I was given Candy's case when they selected it and sent it to the crime lab in 2018 for analysis.

Using Candy's underwear, forensic experts found semen and created a DNA profile. The DNA profile was uploaded by the police department to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), but it was not found. The police pursued leads on persons of interest and provided their DNA for comparison with the profile, so the case never [technically] went cold; yet, the identity of the killer remained a mystery.

How does forensic genetic genealogy operate, and what is it?

DNA from a crime scene can be used in forensic genetic genealogy to compare it to an ancestor database. By using the DNA from your crime scene, you are requesting that the database determine if the individual in question is connected to any people in the ancestry database. If a match is made, you can also determine the potential level of relatedness of the individual, for example, first or second cousin once removed.

The onus then shifts to a genealogist to try and identify the offender using publicly available information, such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, and other documents. One way they can accomplish this is by starting their search from a common ancestor and working their way down to a specific family or even a single name.

When typical DNA testing methods have failed to produce any leads, this can assist law enforcement in solving cases. Not every criminal will be listed in CODIS, and not every crime will have a witness who can identify the perpetrator. Therefore, if conventional methods have run out, forensic genetic genealogy is yet another weapon in the law enforcement toolbox.

How did you actually solve this case when it was assigned to you in 2018?

A DNA sample that had been kept in the freezer of the crime lab since 2001 was found by me. I repeated my study of the sample to make sure it matched the DNA profile of the original offender, which I had obtained in 2001. I also performed a quick diagnostic examination to see if the sample would be appropriate for forensic genetic genealogy.

I then decided to send a portion of the sample to a genealogical lab with the lead detective. The sample was delivered in a broken package with DNA seeping out of the smashed DNA tube. I was devastated, as was the main detective.

After believing for about a year that not even forensic genetic genealogy could solve Candy's case, I learned about Othram, a facility in Texas, that was capable of handling these delicate, damaged DNA samples. I got in touch with them to ask if Candy's situation qualified. After they verified that it could, I sent off a little portion of the DNA sample—which by this point had been reduced to practically nothing—for analysis.

This lab ran the ancestry and DNA for six months before identifying the three Hoff brothers as potential culprits. We then made an effort to give the company a little bit more DNA, and this sample was received in fine shape. Regretfully, they were unable to extract any genetic information from the DNA since they believed it to be too deteriorated for their laboratory equipment.

Who was John Reigh Hoff, Candy's killer?

Since John Hoff led a very uneventful life and committed suicide at the age of 30, not much is known about him. He was born in 1938, served a short time in the Army, and was expelled after being charged with trying to rape a woman in Spokane. He resided in Candy's area and may have taken her that night on a whim, the Spokane Police Department subsequently revealed.

What were the implications of solving this case for you on a personal and professional level?

This, in my opinion, is my greatest professional accomplishment in forensics. In my experience as a forensic scientist, this case presented numerous challenges and intricate puzzles that called for perseverance and creative problem-solving. Putting this forensic jigsaw together was the ultimate challenge.

The key lesson that will stay with me forever is that you will eventually find the solution if you are persistent and have the capacity to work past any obstacles you face. To never give up, even in the face of apparent hopelessness; to always keep in mind that a significant advancement in DNA technology might occur at any time and serve as the crucial turning point that solves a case; and to never let a case languish on the shelf for too long before returning to it.

Why, after decades have passed, do police still attempt to solve cold cases?

Law enforcement treats all cases, regardless of their age, with the same importance as fresh ones. No matter how elderly or how few of the victim's family members are still alive, the victim still demands justice and deserves an explanation. Equally significant, law enforcement handles these cases in an effort to facilitate the community's healing.

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