Candace Hiltz, a 17-year-old single mother from Copper Gulch, Colorado, was mur*dered on August 15, 2006. She was a junior at Brigham Young University who hoped to attend Stanford Law School and eventually become a Supreme Court Justice.
The Hiltz family’s dog vanished on August 13, 2006. Because the family lived in the country, they suspected it had been stolen by a mountain lion. Dolores Hiltz ran errands on the 15th of August, leaving her 17-year-old daughter Candace alone with Candace’s 1-month-old daughter.
Dolores returned home to find her granddaughter sobbing and pools of blood throughout the house. Dolores followed the blood and discovered her daughter Candace’s body under the bed, wrapped in a blanket. She’d been shot in the face by a shotgun, five times in the back by a small-caliber firearm, and once in the heart by a medium-caliber firearm. Candace’s baby, thankfully, was unharmed.
The police arrived at the house soon after, but their reaction to the crime scene was unusual. Notably, the residence was not taped off as a crime scene. The dog’s body was discovered in the nearby woods after police searched the area surrounding the family’s home. It was executed with a hatchet after being tied to a tree.
Candace Was Wrapped In
Candace’s parents were shocked to discover items such as the blanket in which their daughter had been wrapped and bullet casings after the police had cleared the crime scene. Candace’s family had to gather this information and bring it to the Sheriff’s Office.
Candace’s older brother, James Hiltz, was named as a person of interest the day after the mu*rder. James was missing at the time of the mur*der and had a history of mental illness. He was also suspected of breaking into a house and stealing hatchets and flashlights. Three days after the mur*der, James was discovered in the mountainous region near Canon City, where he had been living. Nonetheless, neither he nor anyone else was charged with the mu*rder.
For the next ten years after the case was closed, a cloud of doubt hung over James and his family, who believe he is innocent. He was terrified of being accused of mur*der at any moment. The case then took an unexpected turn in December 2016. Rick Ratzlaff paid $50 for the contents of an abandoned storage unit at an auction held outside of Canyon City at a storage facility. Lieutenant Detective Robert Dodd had rented the unit but was late on his payments.
Within the unit, Ratzlaff discovered some disturbing items. There was a manila envelope labeled “evidence,” a hatchet, a rope, a bloody sock, and a green backpack containing a bloody shirt. The hatchet and rope were used in the dog’s mu*rder, while Candace owns the sock and shirt. Why would a detective steal evidence in connection with the mur*der of a 17-year-old single mother and keep it in a storage unit? It could have stemmed from an incident on August 10, 2006, five days before Candace’s mu*rder.
An unidentified sheriff’s deputy paid a visit to the Hiltz home and questioned Candace’s mother about the whereabouts of her son James. Candace overheard the interrogation and became enraged by the deputy’s behavior, yelling at him to leave. Candace raised her wrists and told the deputy that she had seen him take cash envelopes from local drug dealers in response to the deputy’s threat to arrest her. The deputy became enraged and stormed out of the house.
More Than One
Candace was shot to de*ath after the family’s dog was mur*dered days after the conflict. Furthermore, Candace was shot with three different firearms, and the medical examiner speculated that she may have been shot concurrently. She could only have been shot in the face and back at the same time if there were two shooters. And because Candace was shot with three different firearms, it is likely that there were three assailants.
Lieutenant Dodd and the county sheriff were both placed on administrative leave with pay following the discovery of the evidence in the storage unit. Dodd resigned 112 days later, and in May of 2017, he was charged with stealing evidence. Since then, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has taken over the Candace Hiltz mur*der investigation and is working to solve it.