On August 15, 2006, Candace Hiltz, a 17-year-old single mother from Copper Gulch, Colorado, was murdered. She was a junior at Brigham Young University with aspirations of attending Stanford Law School and becoming a Supreme Court Justice.
On August 13, 2006, the Hiltz family’s dog disappeared. Since the family lived in the country, they suspected that a mountain lion had taken it. On the 15th of August, two days later, Dolores Hiltz ran errands and left her 17-year-old daughter Candace alone with Candace’s 1-month-old daughter.
When Dolores returned home, she heard her granddaughter sobbing before discovering pools of blood throughout the house. Dolores followed the blood and discovered her daughter Candace’s body wrapped in a blanket under the bed. She had been shot once in the face with a shotgun, five times in the back with a small-caliber firearm, and once in the heart with a medium-caliber firearm. Fortunately, Candace’s infant was unharmed.
The police arrived at the residence shortly thereafter, but their response to the crime scene was unusual. Notably, they did not tape off the residence as a crime scene. The police searched the area surrounding the family’s home and discovered the dog’s body in the nearby woods. It was tied to a tree and executed with a hatchet.
Candace Was Wrapped In
After the police had cleared the crime scene, Candace’s parents were shocked to discover items such as the blanket in which their daughter had been wrapped and bullet casings. This information had to be gathered by Candace’s family and brought to the Sheriff’s Office.
The day after the murder, the police identified Candace’s older brother, James Hiltz, as a person of interest. James had a history of mental illness and was missing at the time of the murder. Also, he was suspected of breaking into a residence and stealing hatchets and flashlights. James was located three days after the murder in the mountainous region near Canon City, where he had been living. Nevertheless, he was not charged with the murder, nor was anyone else.
A cloud of uncertainty hung over James and his family, who believe he is innocent, for the next ten years after the case went cold. He feared that he would be accused of the murder at any moment. In December 2016, the case then took an unexpected turn. A man named Rick Ratzlaff purchased the contents of an abandoned storage unit for $50 at an auction held outside of Canyon City at a storage facility. Lieutenant Detective Robert Dodd had rented the unit, but he fell behind on payments.
Ratzlaff discovered some rather disturbing items within the unit. A manila envelope marked “evidence,” a hatchet, a rope, a bloody sock, and a green backpack containing a bloody shirt were present. The hatchet and rope were used in the dog’s murder, while the sock and shirt belong to Candace. Why would a detective steal evidence regarding the murder of a 17-year-old single mother and store it in a storage unit? Well, it may have originated from an event that occurred on August 10, 2006, five days prior to Candace’s murder.
An unidentified sheriff’s deputy visited the Hiltz residence and questioned Candace’s mother about her son James’ whereabouts. Candace overheard the interrogation, grew enraged by the deputy’s conduct, and yelled at him to leave. Candace held up her wrists and informed the deputy that she had witnessed him taking envelopes of cash from local drug dealers in response to the deputy’s threat to arrest her. This infuriated the deputy, who then stormed out of the house.
More Than One
The family’s dog was murdered days after the conflict, and then Candace was shot to death. In addition, Candace was shot with three separate firearms, and the medical examiner speculated that she may have been shot simultaneously. Only if there were two shooters could she have been shot in the face and back at the exact same time. And since Candace was shot with three distinct firearms, this indicates that there were likely three assailants.
After the discovery of the evidence in the storage unit, both Lieutenant Dodd and the county sheriff were placed on administrative leave with pay. Dodd resigned 112 days later, and he was accused of stealing the evidence in May of 2017. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has since assumed responsibility for the Candace Hiltz murder investigation and is working to solve it.