It would become Spokane, Washington’s oldest cold case. The br*utal mu*rder of nine-year-old Candy Rogers. Who was ab*ducted while going door to door selling Campfire Girl mints.
Candy Rogers disappeared on March 6, 1959. The fourth grader who attended Holmes Elementary was described as small for her age but had a determined mindset. She had recently joined the Camp Fire Girls, a youth organization focused on outdoor activities. She was a “Bluebird” working towards ranking up in the organization.
So that afternoon, she came home, played with her dog, ate an oatmeal cookie, and set out carrying a bag of boxed mints to go door to door to sell in the neighborhood.
She was only meant to be out for an hour or so. She was to be home for supper but never ran back through the door. When it was dark, her grandparents and mother started to look for her. As they searched and saw no sign, the police were called, who joined in the search along with neighbors.
At 9 PM, someone found several boxes of mints strewn about along the road. The campfire mints were believed to have been the same ones Candy had been selling. Candy had been kidnapped.
For days, the search continued, with Marines, the airforce with military aircraft, and residents searching on foot and horseback. Over twelve hundred people undertook an exhaustive search, and ultimately ended sixteen days later when her body was discovered in a wooded area covered in tree branches and pine needles seven miles from her home.
An autopsy was done, which showed Candy had been beaten, se*xually as*saulted, and str*angled with an item of her clothing. It had been a horrific attack that shocked the community.
Hundreds of tips flooded in, and hundreds of people were interviewed, but nothing closed the case. Spokane Police Department honed in on a suspect, a kil*ler who lived nearby, Hugh B. Morse. He was already serving a life sentence for mur*der but denied kil*ling Candy Rogers. He had been the strongest suspect; however, decades later, he would be eliminated with DNA evidence.
As the years passed, the case would be passed down from detective to detective, ultimately becoming the oldest cold case in the Spokane Police Department.
In 2021, evidence in the case was reexamined for DNA evidence and forensic genealogy. Samples were recovered, and eventually, they found a family tree with three brothers that closely matched the unknown suspect.
Law enforcement reached out to some of the living relatives, ultimately leading them to the daughter of one of the brothers. DNA from her was a paternal match, but to be sure her father was the correct person, they opted to exhume the grave of John Reigh Hoff.
Hoff was twenty at the time of the mur*der and lived a mile from Candy in 1959. There had been a small connection between the two. Hoff’s step-sister was a little older than Candy and had also been in the Camp Fire Girl’s Club that Candy was in.
Hoff had been in the military, serving in Korea, but was dishonorably discharged when he was arrested and convicted for assault with intent to rob in 1961. He had ab*ducted, strangled, and assaulted a woman in that case, but she had survived the attack. He only served six months in prison for that conviction.
After his prison release, he worked odd jobs, got married, and had children. When his oldest daughter turned nine, the same age Candy was when she had been m*urdered, he committed suicide. At the time of his death, his family believed he had depression or PTSD from his time in the military, but he may have ki*lled himself for more sinister reasons. Relieving the world of a serial predator.
Now in her sixties, his daughter has fully cooperated with law enforcement to help close Candy’s mur*der investigation. She apologized on behalf of her family in a statement to the media.
Candy’s surviving relative, a cousin, thanked Spokane PD for continuing to work on a cold case she never thought she would live to see closed, even after six decades.