016 - The Shocking Murder of Candace Hiltz
Candace Hilts was born on December 22nd, 1988 in Canon City, seated in Fremont County, Colorado. Her mother, Dolores has said that on the day she was brought home from the hospital, she and her husband gently laid her beneath the Christmas tree so that when her siblings woke up they would find a new sister as a gift from Santa Clause. At an early age, Candace’s intelligence shone through and she was later described as a child prodigy. Sadly, her father would pass away when she was only five years old and her memory of him would be vague. She was actively performing calculus by age 11. She was also described by friends as a tomboy and was involved in bodybuilding. Despite that tomboy persona, likely a result of growing up in a home with several older brothers, she also had her strong and subtle feminine side and had an eye for jewelry, specifically necklaces with round beads which she collected and referred to as her ball necklaces. JoAnna Dodson, a close friend of Candace’s, when asked about her, stated “She was funny, intelligent, headstrong and as fierce as they come.”
One thing which was evident about Candace from a very young age was that she didn’t sit idly by when others were being mistreated. She had a strong belief in justice, and fair treatment. Her mother, Doleres, would later state “When she stood up for people on the school bus, because she had no patience for bullies, she would point to her necklace and say ‘I have more balls and bigger balls than any of my brothers.’ She was a little girl, five foot two, but she was very strong.” Candace’s interest in justice proved to be a lifelong pursuit as she dreamed of entering Stanford Law School. A child of intelligence would likely have made it, as she was enrolled in Brigham Young University and was in her third year of college when she was just Seventeen.
At seventeen, things changed for Candace. She became pregnant and the course of her life was altered. When Candace became aware that she was going to be a mother, it became her primary focus and she was willing to put her education on hold. She was seventeen and nearly done with college, even to have taken a few years off to raise her child for a few years wouldn’t have set her back, in fact it would have put her in with people her own age rather than being as far ahead as she was. Instead, Candace chose to continue attending Brigham Young through an online program, which allowed her to continue her studies while having the time to be with her child. It is unknown who the father of Candace’s baby was. Candace would later receive an acceptance letter from Stanford Law school and she was on her way to achieving her ultimate goal of one day becoming a Supreme Court Justice.
Candace gave birth to a little girl who she named Paige in September of 2005. Unfortunately, Paige was born with hydrocephaly, an abnormal build up of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain. This can lead to developmental delays, brain damage and even death. Candace was determined to make the most of the time she had with Paige, limited as she knew it may be. According to Dolores, Candace “took advantage of every memory she could make with her for the short time she had with her. Every week was like a birthday.” Sadly, Paige would outlive Candance, being raised by Dolores until age seven, when she passed away due to her illness.
Candace had an older brother named James who suffers from several psychological issues. He is described as experiencing severe paranoia when around other people. This paranoia has also been described as a phobia, and one so strong, that it even impacted his interactions with his own family. For a period of time in his life, James moved out of the family home and lived in a tent in the woods behind the home. As a result of his mental illness, James lived somewhat of a transient lifestyle, not working a normal job nor associating with others. As was her way, Candace was very protective of her brother and defensive of negativity being used in reference to him.
On August 10th, 2006, Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Dodd arrived at the Hiltz family home which was in a remote, wooded location in the Copper Gulch area. Dodd had come to the home looking for Candace’s brother James to question him in regard to a trespassing incident. Dodd spoke to Candace’s mother, Dolores, with Candace present. The specific details of what were said are unknown, but at some point during the conversations, Candace became angry with not only Dodd’s line of questioning, but also his demeanor and the way he was treating her mother. Eventually, Candace could no longer contain her anger and began shouting at Dodd. Dodd responded to Candace, telling her that if she kept it up he was going to arrest her. Candace is reported to have held her wrists up at this point and told him to go on and arrest her then.
Candace then allegedly told Dodd that she had seen him around town and she had witnessed him accepting envelopes from known drug dealers and that if he wanted to arrest her then she would be happy to tell the other Sheriff’s deputies all about it. At this point, Dodd became extremely agitated and stormed out of the house. When asked about this later, Dolores stated “That was Candy Girl, she had a ton of spunk.” The inquiry regarding James was apparently still underway, but Dodd did not return to the home looking for him.
Several days after this meeting, the Hiltz family discovered that their dog had disappeared. Kathleen Paiva, Candace’s cousin, when asked about the dog stated “The home is out in the country, so when the dog went missing, you know they thought it could’ve been a mountain lion.” Paiva has said that, following the disappearance of the dog, Candace went down to the Sheriff’s department and had an altercation with a Sheriff’s Deputy, alleged to have been Dodd once again, though this is unconfirmed. It should be noted, this is the only statement in which it is said that Candace went to the Sheriff’s office. The disappearance of a dog isn’t an uncommon occurrence when you live out in the wilderness and so, though the family wanted to know what happened, and searched around their land, they weren’t overly concerned and thought that at some point, the dog might return. Despite this, the family couldn’t shake the feeling that something suspicious may have occurred.
Everything would change of August 15th, 2006. There are several contradictory descriptions of the events of this day. One story comes from Dolores Hiltz, the other from the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department. Several news sites have reported the events of that day using details from each side of the story, and getting down the exactly details of what happened has proven somewhat difficult. In the interest of accuracy, I will describe everything that happened that day and when there is a contradiction, or a separate description of the incident, I will note that as it comes up chronologically.
Considering the recent incidents around the home, most notably, the confrontation with Dodd and the disappearance of the dog, Dolores didn’t feel comfortable leaving Candace home by herself. On August 15th, she had errands she needed to run with a friend, and despite her concern, she decided to go and leave Candace home where she was looking after eleven month old Paige. Dolores saw her daughter for the last time at approximately Noon. Not able to shake her feeling that something strange was going on, Dolores is reported to have spoken to a family friend and requested that he check in on Candace while she was gone. Dolores left with her friend, not knowing that she would never see Candace alive again.
This is where the story splits into two distinctly different timelines of events. According to one timeline, this family friend, the son of a neighbor, showed up at the home to check in on Candace but did not find her. Instead, he found an empty house and a screaming and crying eleventh month old Paige in her crib. This friend is reported to have taken the child from the crib, tried to calm her down and brought her over to his home to look after her as there were no signs of Candace in the home. He would wait there for Dolores to return home so that he could explain the strange situation to her.
According to Dolores, she arrived home from her errands at approximately 3:30pm. Upon entering the house, she could hear her granddaughter Paige screaming and crying. Dolores reports that she discovered blood spatter and pooled blood all over the house, but there was initially no signs of Candace. Dolores immediately rushed towards the screaming child and upon entering the bedroom in which the crib was kept she made a grisly discovery. Beneath the bed in the room, Dolores could see what appeared to be a bundled up, green comforter. As she approached it, she got a sick feeling in her stomach and upon unwrapping the comforter, she discovered Candace’s body. According to Dolores, it was apparent that Candace had been shot multiple times and that “75% of her head was gone.” The head trauma was so extensive that Candace is often described as being nearly decapitated. Dolores collapsed next to Candace. Dolores would later state that she slumped to the floor beside her body and “I held her hand.”
The Sheriff’s Department was contacted and the two officers put in charge were Deputy Briscoe and Deputy Dodd. Almost immediately the investigation was flawed. According to Dolores and other witnesses, the investigators did a horribly shoddy job of examining the crime scene. First and foremost, they did not tape off or secure the crime scene. The family was ordered out during the investigation, but the house wasn’t sealed off and people could come and go as they pleased. Almost immediately, for reasons unknown, the Sheriff’s department determined that Candace had been murdered by her brother, James Hiltz, and a manhunt was organized to track him down.
During the early stages of the investigation, Sheriff’s deputies combed the wooded area around the home searching for clues or signs that someone else had been in the area, though it has been hotly debated that the search effort was more focused on locating James than it was on finding any clues which may suggest an alternate theory as to who was responsible for the death of Candace Hiltz. At this point, the dog is discovered, but as seems to be the story with this case, there are two different descriptions of this event. According to one side of the story, while searching the surrounding area, Sheriff’s Deputies and investigators found the missing dog. It had been tied to a tree with rope and had been butchered using a hatchet or small axe. According to Candace’s cousin, Kathleen Paiva “The police found the dog tied up to a tree in a place you wouldn’t have seen him.”
This discovery immediately raised questions as the dog had disappeared days before Candace was murdered. Some believed that the dog had been taken and murdered by the killer so that he could more easily sneak into the home, while others believe that the killer simply killed the dog in order to the taunt the family. If it was the latter, that didn’t work out since the animal wasn’t found until after the murder took place. However, there is another side to the story, in which Candace’s family discovered the dogs body, and not after her murder, but three days before. Much like many of the details of this case, I have been unable to locate an exact reason behind the discrepancy in these details.
In following up their theory on the case, investigators began questioning the family in regard to James’ whereabouts and known associates. Due to James’ mental illness, though, he didn’t have any known associates and the family began to question the direction of the investigation as he had no history of violence. Dolores attempted to explain the illness to Sheriff’s deputies, explaining that James couldn’t even share space with members of his own family, let alone outsiders. She also noted that James has been in and out of the Colorado Mental Health Institute due to his issues.
According to Dolores, James suffered from severe issues, stating “He doesn’t come in the house and doesn’t talk to us. He thinks I am not his mother and some other woman has replaced me.” In addition to this, the back door of the home had been pried open with a breaker bar, but James would only enter the home when no one else was there and there was a butter knife hidden under the front step which he would use to pop the front door open. Investigators were unmoved by this claim and continued to believe that James had killed his sister with the help of others, and when Dolores was further questioned about friends of James she responded that he had “No one. It’s impossible. He won’t even talk to his own brothers.” It was also explained to investigators that James did not own a firearm, nor did he have access to one. The discussion between investigators and Dolores lasted over four hours.
Following their examination of the crime scene, the family was allowed back into the home during which time Dolores made several discoveries which brought into question the extent to which they had conducted their investigation. About arriving at the home, Dolores would state “The back door is wide open. There is no crime tape around the house.” She then discovered a shotgun shell laying in the crib where Paige had been crying while her mother was being murdered. In addition to this startling oversight, she also found bullet shells laying near the fireplace. The blood soaked comforter in which Candace’s body had been wrapped was also left behind. A computer monitor, stained with blood, was left behind, it had allegedly been used to prop up the bed under which Candace was discovered. There were towels, believed to have been handled by the killer, left behind and outside of the home, family members found a bloody shirt which Candace had been wearing the day she was murdered.
According to Dolores, investigators took very little from the home. She has said “They just took about fifteen things, in two envelopes, and a piece of paneling and a piece of carpet. I am thinking seasoned cops don’t leave evidence. These are not rookie officers.” Shocked by this apparently half-assed crime scene investigator, Dolores and her children purchased rubber gloves and a large Rubbermaid tub. One of Dolores sons was involved in a criminal forensics class and so together they gathered up the evidence, photographed it and logged it. Dolores went down to the Sheriff’s department demanding answers as to why these items were left behind. She asked to speak to Sheriff Jim Beicker or Detectives Dodd and Briscoe. She was brushed off, told that they were busy, but she insisted on staying and waiting until someone would speak to her. Dolores said “Finally, a young officer came out and I told him my concerns. No one called me back.” Sometime later, Deputy Briscoe arrived at the family home with a search warrant and asked for the container of evidence.
Police issued a statement that they were searching for James and warned that he could be armed and dangerous, believing that he may have been in possession of a rifle, a 22 caliber handgun or both. Three days after the murder, on Friday, August 18th, James Hiltz was found. He was camping out in the rugged Copper Gulch – Iron Mountain area southwest of Canon City. Despite their belief that James was involved in the murder of his sister, James was instead charged with first and second degree burglary and criminal trespassing of which are felonies. In addition to these charges, he was hit with charges for theft and criminal mischief.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, they believed that James broke into a home from which he stole hatchets and flashlights. He was held on a $500,000 bond at the Fremont County jail. To this day, James has never been charged with any crime in connection to Candace’s murder and yet he continued to be listed as the prime suspect. It should also be noted that James was not in possession of any firearms at the time he was taken into custody. James would later be found not guilty by reason of insanity in relation to the crimes he was charged with and was remanded to the Colorado Mental Health Institute, where Dolores claims that each time he comes up for review, deputies from the Fremont County Sheriff’s office arrive and speak out against his possible release, stating that he remains a suspect in the murder of his sister.
An eleven page autopsy report was released which showed that Candace was brutally murdered with very malicious intent. According to the report, Candace was shot a total of seven times, six in the head and one in the chest. It also revealed that not one, but three guns were used: a shotgun, a medium caliber and a small caliber handgun. Also, it was noted that Candace had been shot both in the front and in the back. The autopsy specified that Candace had been shot in the head from the front with the shotgun, then five times in the back with the small caliber gun. She was also reported to have been shot once in the chest, from the front, with the medium caliber gun. The report states “The paths of the bullets are steeply downward, back to front, and left to right.” According to analysis of blood splatter and the trajectories of bullets, it is believed that Candace was shot by at least two, and possibly as many as three perpetrators. The Hiltz family felt vindicated, in that this ruled James out in their minds, but Dolores also felt angry and disagreed with many details of the report.
Dolores contradicts several items listed in the official autopsy report stating “It’s all a smoke screen.” In the section titled “Scene Investigation” the report says that Candace’s body was discovered by a boyfriend. The report states “The boyfriend of the deceased had left to go to Canon City and then drove home. He entered the residence, saw blood and picked up the baby who appeared unharmed. He then went outside with the baby and took her to his wife. He then returned to the deceased home and found the deceased placed underneath the bed unresponsive.” Dolores, though, says that she is the one who discovered her daughter’s body, and that the man who came to the house that day was not Candace’s boyfriend, did not find her body and, was in fact, not married either. Her issues with the autopsy do not end there.
According to the report, there were shell casing from three separate weapons, but Dolores says there were only shells from two: a shotgun and possibly a 22 caliber. Remember, Dolores and her son gathered up these shell casings along with other evidence that investigators had left behind. Dolores believes that Candace stood facing one of her killers while the other killed stood behind her, possibly standing on a loveseat in the room, which would explain the downward trajectory of the bullets. In addition to this, it has been suggested that Candace had sustained two shotgun blasts to the head, with multiple small caliber bullets also being fired into the back of her head and several in the side of her body with a medium caliber round striking her in the heart. Dolores would later state “She had two shotgun wounds, one to the back of the head and one to the left of the back of her head. She had eight to ten 22 caliber wounds in her left side.” Dolores believes that Candace was shot by two individuals who fired simultaneously. She would go on to say “When they were dragging her body down the hall, I think she had death tremors and her head touched the doorway and left a wavy blood pattern on the door. Some towels and laundry that I had on top of the dryer were used by one of them to clean themselves off. They took the towels in a garbage bag that was found dumped off of 15th trail and I identified them as mine.” She also says that DNA tests were run on the towels and that it was found to be that of an unknown male, not a family member. Even these specific details of the case are hotly debated and it’s difficult to determine which are most accurate.
The disagreements between the Hiltz family and the Sheriff’s department continued for several years with little developing in terms of the investigation. It appeared as though authorities believed that James was likely responsible for the murder of his sister, and despite evidence to suggest that the killing was committed by more than one person, they never changed this disposition. James continues to live in the Colorado Mental Health Institute, located in Pueblo, where Dolores says he is doing well and has become a peer counselor. She also notes that he chooses to stay and work there. Nothing came of her complaint and when asked about it Dolores stated “I felt like I could never say anything because if an officer killer her and they were covering up for him, I can’t lose any more children and anyone who would that to a 17 year old girl has no soul.”
Doleres struggled to move forward without Candace and without any answers as to who was responsible for the murder of her daughter. “I did everything I needed to do to keep going,” Doleres said later, “Paige died six years, one month and three days after my daughter and I believe they are together again. It is so unreal, like a nightmare that never ends.” In January of 2007, five months after the murder, Doleres filed a formal complaint with the state attorney general’s office alleging mismanagement of the crime scene for which she provided photographs. She also put forward a theory that one of the members of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department may have been involved in Candace’s murder.
For the next ten years, the case remained stagnant with no new evidence, leads or statements made. All of that would change at an auction in December of 2016. Rick Ratzlaff was a former street car racer who had an extensive history of negative interactions with the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department. On December 17th, he was present at a Dawson Ranch Mini Storage, a storage unit facility where they were conducting auctions on units whose owners had fallen behind on payments. When the unit was opened, bidders were allowed to look from outside, but not allowed to enter it. Ratzlaff saw police lights like the kind that are on the top of cruisers and wanted one. He continuing bidding until he placed a winning bid and purchased the contents of a storage unit for $50.00. He had no idea that what he would find inside would reopen the wounds of the murder of Candace Hiltz and call the entire investigation into question and raise suspicions about one of the primary investigators of the case.
Almost immediately upon entering the unit, Ratzlaff realized there was something very weird about its contents. He would state “I noticed envelopes that said ‘evidence’ on them. At first I didn’t think it was that big until I started pulling out shell casings and hatchets… what really fazed me was when I pulled out bloody clothes.” The unit also contained a bloody piece of rope, two blood soaked socks and a blood stained chrome ax. Ratzlaff also found Fremont County Sheriff’s Office gear and equipment including uniforms, sirens and the lights off patrol vehicles. The uniforms bore the name of the former owner of the unit who had fallen behind on his payments which led to the auction. The name stitched into the name badge was that of Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Dodd. Ratzlaff immediately contacted Sheriff Jim Beicker who admitted that he believed the evidence found was from the investigation into the murder of Candace Hiltz.
According to Ratzlaff, his conversation with Beicker came across more threatening than he could have expected. Ratzlaff described the conversation as “He says ‘I hear you have a storage unit that used to be an officers’. I said yes, he said ‘Can I get it?’ and I said ‘I don’t know.’ He said ‘Well, your life could be in danger here.’ It was like a threat.” Sometime after this conversation, a member of Dodd’s family contacted Ratzlaff through Facebook and offered to buy back the contents of the storage unit under the claim that it contained childhood memories. Ratzlaff said he didn’t get the messages until much later because he isn’t very active on Facebook. Ratzlaff would say that he was harassed by the Sheriff’s department and told to keep quiet about the contents of the storage unit, and he even had his vehicles impounded. He invited Sheriff Beicker down to examine the unit, but having felt threatened by their earlier conversation, and the harassment, he asked his wife Arin to secretly record it. This is a snipet of that conversation in which you hear Ratzlaff, his wife Arin and Sheriff Beicker discussing the contents of the unit as well as the Sheriff asking for time to go through it.
Sheriff Beicker said that following his examination of the items, he contacted the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. He photographed the items before placing them into evidence and handed them over to the CBI who would be taking over the investigation. In regard to Dodd, he was placed on routine administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The rope and ax which had been found in the storage unit were apparently the items used to restrain and murder the Hiltz’s dog in the days before Candace herself was murdered. The bloody socks belonged to Candace, and according to Dolores, she was wearing them when her body was discovered. No one from the CBI nor the Sheriff’s office informed the family about the evidence, and they learned of it through the media. Dolores felt the discovery of the evidence in Dodd’s old storage unit reinforced her belief that an officer had been involved in the murder of her daughter, and she felt it finally vindicated her son James of any involvement. “We have lived under 10 years of bullshit because he was the scapegoat. We’ve been waiting for this break. It became clearer and clearer that this was a police cover up and we have been living a nightmare.”
Dolores felt that the discovery of the evidence was enough to shine a light back on her daughter’s case, and to bring it back into the public conscience. She felt that she no longer had to fear for the safety of her other children and she spoke out against the Sheriff’s department, saying that at a minimum they screwed up the case and at worst they were involved in a coverup to protect members of their department who were involved in the murder. When asked about Dodd, Dolores stated “Dodd had to steal the evidence from the basement of the Sheriff’s office. He did that either to protect himself or someone else.”
On January 3rd, 2017, two investigators from the CBI arrived and met with Sheriff Beicker. They took all of the evidence. They opened an investigation into Dodd, trying to discern the reason why he kept the evidence hidden away. District Attorney Molly Chilson was notified of the investigation and stated that more investigating needed to be done before they could determine how to proceed. Several media outlets immediately began making requests for the release of documents. Among these was a request for transcripts of the 911 calls made the day Candace was murdered. This request was denied on January 31st. Fremont County Attorney Brenda Jackson stated “the Sheriff determined that disclosure of records would be contrary to the public interest as the records are part of criminal justice investigatory files and are actively being reviewed by law enforcement agencies in connection with an investigation.” A second request was filed in February, and again it was denied.
Later in February, Sheriff’s Deputy Briscoe, the man who worked the Candace Hiltz murder investigation alongside Deputy Robert Dodd, was placed on administrative leave while the CBI investigated a claim that he had an inappropriate relationship with an underage student while working as a drug abuse resistance education officer for the Custer County Sheriff’s Office in 1999. District Attorney Molly Chilson opted not to file charges, and Briscoe continues to work for the department.
Two months later, on April 23rd, Robert Dodd officially retired and moved to Texas. A month after that, on May 4th, the District Attorney filed charges against Dodd which included two counts of second degree official misconduct and abuse of public records. These charges stem from the items of evidence found in the storage unit as well as an incident in December of 2016 when Dodd is alleged to have knowingly altered a public record even though he had not been authorized as a custodian of the record. The complaint also states that between and including August 15th, 2006 and December 20th, 2016, “Dodd, a public servant, unlawfully, knowingly, arbitrarily and capriciously refrained from performing a duty imposed upon him by law.” In email released under public information requests between John Cooper, evidence custodian for the Sheriff’s Department and Julie Petterson, a CBI agent, it was revealed that the CBI was looking for DNA evidence on the items found in the storage unit.
Dolores Hiltz would state in response to the charges against Dodd “I never thought I would experience this type of corruption ever before in my life.” The corruption inside of the Sheriff’s department did not end there. On May 17th, new evidence was found in the Phantom Landfill in Penrose. Robert Orton, a worker at the landfill, called Rick Ratzlaff and stated that they had picked up a dumpster from Dodd’s private residence. The landfill is required to check for hazmat items in all dumpsters they retrieve and inside of Dodd’s they found “a fat envelop with what looked like criminal investigation paperwork, a videotape relating a sexual offense investigation and a computer.” Orton has said that he attempted to contact the District Attorney’s office but received no response, and so he reached out to Ratzlaff who in turn contacted Tracy Harmon, a reporter for the Pueblo Chieftain.
Harmon arrived at the landfill and, according to her statement, “As I reached the front gate, I tried to contact District Attorney Molly Chilson to alert her about the evidence. I got her cellphone voicemail and left a message.” At this point, Harmon worked in conjunction with Orton at collecting the evidence. Among the debris was an envelop marked as “evidence” that contained a DVD, a videotape labeled as containing a sexual assault investigation interview and a tackle box marked “FCSO Crime Scene Unit Forensic Lights.” Chilson called Harmon back and later instructed District Attorneys Investigator Richard Wren to collect the evidence found.
Fremont County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Detective and public information officer Megan Richards said in an email that the FCSO “has no official knowledge of the events reported in the Chieftain article so they won’t be commenting on anything being said.” On June 6th, 2017, Dodd was to appear for his court date but instead, his attorney Randy Jorgensen appeared in place of him, setting a date for a pretrial conference on July 17th. Two days later on June 8th, DA Chilson announced that a second investigation was being launched by the CBI to examine the incident and evidence recovered from the Penrose landfill. On Wednesday, August 30th, 2017, Dodd was scheduled for a pretrial conference but only appeared via telephone. At that time, his attorney made it known to the court that the District Attorney’s office had put a plea bargain on the table. He stated that he would be discussing the plea bargain with his client, but that their decision was based partially on whether or not more charges were issued based on the second CBI investigation. Dolores Hiltz was present in the courtroom that day and said she was disgusted that a deal was being offered and that it appeared nothing was going to be done in regard to the murder of her daughter.
During the calendar year of 2017, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office paid nearly $90,000 to 10 Sheriff’s officers while they were on paid administrative leave. The total amount paid is quoted as being $89,954.82. Robert Dodd received $20,451 while on leave between January 1st and April 23rd. Bruce Briscoe was paid $18,904.81 while on leave and under investigation. Former Sgt. Arin Hart earned $22,195.04 while on leave while under investigation for making wrongful DUI and DUID arrests. Brandon Tilley was paid $12,183 pending the outcome of a child abuse case. Deputy Brody Koch earned $7,981.91 while being investigated for striking a woman in the face while escorting her to a patrol car. Sarah Brassfield earned $3,468 pending the outcome of a child abuse case. Detective Sgt. David Baroz was paid $2,484.22 while on administrative leave and was later demoted to patrol deputy. He has since been reinstated as a detective. Sgt. Chad Myers was paid $841.32 while on paid leave and was later demoted to patrol deputy. Cpl. Bradley Ross earned $884.64 while on leave and was demoted to patrol deputy.
The alleged corruption of the Sheriff’s department has led to public outcry. Jim Biecker, the Sheriff, has been referred to as the “cover up king.” Between 2011 and 2015, inmate deaths more than doubled in Fremont County. Felony cases have also doubled. A petition has been raised to have Beicker removed as Sheriff and lists the following as its reasons: Harassment, the impounding of Rick Ratzlaff’s vehicles, failure to follow up on investigative crimes reported, the murder of Candace Hiltz, the 2004 case of Gene Fish, a missing federal agent under Dodd’s control, the death of inmate John Patrick Walter in which Beicker is named as defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit, the case of Christine Humphrey, a daycare worker who was charged with neglect resulting in a death. There were reportedly numerous reports of neglect and safety violations, none of which were followed up on by the Sheriff’s Department. She also happens to be married to a police officer and finally, the Canon City High School sexting scandal in which 351 sexually explicit images of minors were being passed around by students of the high school. At least 106 of these students were found to have child pornography on their phones and no charges were ever filed. Clearly, there is something very wrong in the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office.
There are four main theories in regard to the violent murder of Candace Hiltz. Two of these theories are considered much more possible than the other two. Firstly, it is theorized to be possible that Candace was murdered by people she had never met, and that have never been on anyone’s radar. The possibility of a home invasion and murder by strangers is possible, though many people immediately dismiss it for a multitude of reasons. It cannot be officially ruled out, though the investigation was so shoddy, it’s difficult to know if anything can be ruled out.
The second theory is that Candace was murdered by the father of her daughter, Paige. There is very little information available about the father, up to and including his name. Some have theorized that perhaps the limited information in regard to him can be chalked up to the concept that relations between he and Candace were not very good and that he may have no wanted the child in the first place. There is a ton of speculation in the construction of this theory, but it follows the line that this man decided to take his anger out on Candace and, either by himself, or likely with the help of someone else, he murdered her. There isn’t much to the theory, other than the theory itself. No true support evidence, and it’s hard to imagine that the Hiltz family, as outspoken as they have been, wouldn’t have brought his name into the conversation if they believed it possible. Regardless, this is one of the theories which has been bandied about online and amongst junior investigators.
The third theory is that which the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department itself put forward, that Candace’s brother James Hiltz murdered his sister. What supporting evidence the Sheriff’s Department had to construct this theory is unknown, outside of the fact that they were looking for James on unrelated charges and that he had a history of mental illness. The main problem with this theory is that the autopsy report, though flawed and in contradiction to Dolores’ statements, does suggest that Candace had to have been murdered by at least two assailants and this is the sole piece of evidence that both the Hiltz family and the Sheriff’s department agreed upon. Dolores has made it clear over the years that James was incapable, at that time, of being around other people. He only entered the home when no one else was there, and he chose to live a life secluded from society. At which point he would have met someone else with whom to conspire, where he would have come into possession of the weapons and the motive as to why have never been explained. It should be noted that despite this theory, James was never charged in connection to the murder of Candace.
The final theory is that Candace was murdered either under the orders of, or specifically by, officers working for the Sheriff’s department. Specifically, that Robert Dodd was directly involved in the brutal murder. This theory stems from several different places, namely that Candace verbally confronted Dodd and accused him of taking bribes from local drug dealers. This, in conjunction with the fact that Dodd botched the investigation, put forth a theory of James as the prime suspect and stole evidence in relation to the crime which has permanently damaged the chain of custody and made any DNA or significant evidence discovered by the CBI from the items in the storage unit easy to have deemed inadmissible in court if there were any matches or leads on a new suspect developed from these pieces of evidence. The alleged corruption of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department, going all the way to the top with Sheriff Beicker, has made this investigation, along with others, highly controversial and their behavior has been questioned greatly in the public. Theories of a coverup sprung up almost immediately after the crime was committed and have only been made stronger by the poor decision and investigation of the Sheriff’s department. If indeed the Sheriff’s department was attempting a cover up and Dodd, being the lead investigator, held sway in this decision, it would only make logical sense that it was done to protect one or more individuals within the department itself.
We may never know the answer as to who murdered Candace Hiltz. The crime itself was vicious and brutal, committed not far away from her eleven month old daughter. The investigation was severely flawed and at a minimum was the result of utter incompetence and at most was the execution of a total cover up. Candace deserves justice, and her family deserves answers. The string of events following her murder are almost unimaginable, and so ludicrous that it is almost hard to believe. No matter what the motive was, no matter who the perpetrator, the life of a brilliant seventeen year old mother was stolen and the pain and anguish her family has suffered can never be assuaged. Perhaps some day the truth will come out, and someone will pay the price, but until that happens, this crime lingers like a dark cloud over the state of Colorado, the Hiltz family and the Fremont County Sheriff’s department. As of this recording, Robert Dodd has yet to accept a plea deal, and no details in regard to it have been released. It has been eleven years since Candace Hiltz was brutally murdered, and still, we have no answers. The Sheriff’s department, the Attorney General and the justice system itself has failed Candace and to this very moment, we can only hope, that the truth will be revealed and her family may be granted some closure.
[Thoughts & Theories]
The murder of Candace Hiltz is disturbing on multiple levels. Candace was a beautiful young woman with a bright future ahead of her. She was a new mother and excelled in her studied, already being a junior at Brigham Young University and having received an acceptance letter to Stanford Law school by the time that she was seventeen. She had yet to reach adulthood, she had barely tapped into her full potential, and she was cut down in a brutally violent murder. The story is incredibly tragic, and the circumstances surrounding it are absolutely baffling and infuriating. As an outsider who is looking into this case, I can’t help but be moved by it. I honestly don’t know if I am more saddened by her untimely death or angry about the way it was handled in the aftermath.
This is hardly the first case I have covered where the inability to solve the case can be chalked up to an absolutely horrendous, flawed and totally screwed up investigation by authorities. I often think of the Suzanne Jovin case a prime example of how to not run an investigation, and yet the mistakes made there were made out of an incorrect theory and the poor handling of evidence. This case goes so far beyond mistakes that it’s almost impossible to not see the investigation as an absolute and almost incontrovertible cover up. If this wasn’t the result of a cover up than it has to go down in history as one of, if not the worst police investigations ever conducted. Everything done here goes against their training, all of the missteps and screw ups throughout the entire investigation from the terrible handling of the crime scene to the jumping to conclusions about a possible suspect and, ultimately, the utter failure of the Sheriff’s Department to produce any viable evidence or leads is absolutely disgusting.
Imagine for a moment that someone you love is murdered. You make the grisly discovery, and when you turn to the people who should be working their asses off to solve it, you find that not only do they seem disinterested, they don’t even investigate the scene properly. Where do you go beyond that? Dolores Hiltz did everything she could think of from demanding answers from the officers to filing complaints with the District Attorney and yet, nothing was done about it. No one seemed interested in answering her questions, no one seemed compelled to investigate further. Not until evidence began to show up which could make all of them look bad, and yet, even then, they didn’t look at the case and try to figure out what happened. They just looked at the men who screwed it up and tried to determine how they screwed it up.
Then think about this: Why isn’t this case a major headline? A young, talented woman is murdered in a vicious fashion, there appears to be evidence of corruption and a cover up in Sheriff’s Department riddled with officers who are placed on leave for everything from stealing evidence to making DUI arrests and yet, nationwide, there has been almost nothing said about it. Every single news article I read about this case came from a paper local to Colorado. How is it possible that something this heinous could occur and it doesn’t immediately grab national attention? That’s a question I can’t answer, and it frustrates me. I know that things like this happen, I know that people are murdered every day and there are so many hours in a day and maybe that is why, but I can’t imagine being Dolores Hiltz screaming to the hilltops about what is going on here and everyone just turns a deaf ear to it.
Candace Hiltz was considered a child prodigy and her intelligence only grew with each passing year. She group up in a tight knit, loving family, with older brothers who were extremely protective of her and a mother who had already lost her husband at a young age. She had dreams of becoming a supreme court justice, and she pursued those dreams with vivacity. At sixteen, she became pregnant by someone, who I cannot say because the name has never been spoken publicly. Rather than allowing the pregnancy to derail her life, Candace made the choice to continue her college education through online classes so that she could follow her dream and raise her daughter. At sixteen I could barely balance high school and a part time job, and here we have a young woman managing to attend college, raise a daughter and get accepted into a prestigious law school.
Candace’s older brother James suffered from a mental illness which goes unnamed in all reports. It seems to be defined by his severe phobia of other people, and his insistence to live his life secluded from society. Even his own family. His mother, Dolores, has stated that James often spent time living in a tent in the woods behind the family home because he couldn’t be around even his own family, and that, his paranoia led him to believe that his mother had been replaced by a lookalike. Although his illness is never defined, it does sound remarkably like that of schizophrenia. Among the symptoms of Schizophrenia are social isolation, delusions, disorientation, paranoia and fear. There are many other symptoms, and there are specific requirements according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which must be met in order to be diagnosed. Perhaps James didn’t have enough of the requirements to be officially diagnosed, or perhaps that diagnosis has remained unrevealed. I am not a psychologist, but it certainly seems that James seems to exhibit similar behaviors. One thing which must be kept in mind is that aggression and violence can also be attributes of people suffering from this disorder. Without further information, though, it is impossible to label James in this way.
Whether as a result of his mental illness, or simply because he was known to have one, the Sheriff’s department considers him to be a suspect in a trespassing incident, which we later find is actually a robbery and not just simple trespassing. Deputy Dodd arrives at the Hiltz home on August 10th, 2016, to speak with Dolores about her sons possible whereabouts. I’ve also read accounts that Dodd was accompanied by Deputy Briscoe, though I’ve been unable to verify this information from enough sources. Some sources don’t name Dodd specifically as being the Deputy who went to speak to Dolores, but there have been numerous articles and quotes in which he is named as such and so I accept that likelihood, especially considering later events.
For one reason or another, the discussion doesn’t go well. Candace was described as a woman who didn’t put up with bullying and didn’t like others to be treated badly. Some have stated that during the discussion, Dodd has a condescending tone and Candace didn’t appreciate the way he was speaking to her mother. During the discussion, Candace was at her mother’s side, and whether it was in defense of Dolores, or James, or more likely both, she decides that she’s heard enough and she tells Dodd off. We don’t know exactly what was said on either side, but we do know that Dodd reportedly threatens to have Candace arrested, on what charge we can only guess. This threat, though, doesn’t impact Candace the way he had hoped, and she thrusts her wrists upward as if to submit to being cuffed and then issues a statement which may or may not have led to her murder. According to Dolores, Candace tells Dodd that she has seen him accepting envelops, allegedly bribes, from local drug dealers and if he wants to arrest her, she would be happy to tell other officers and lawyers about what she has seen. Dodd, at this point, becomes infuriated and storms out of the house.
Three days later, on August 13th, the family realizes their dog, Jackson, has gone missing but doesn’t think too much about it, as most people wouldn’t. There are several thoughts as to why the dog disappeared, and we later find out that it was tied to a tree and murdered with an ax. Most people think it was done so that the dog wouldn’t be able to bark or in some other fashion warn the family that someone was approaching. Some people think it was done as a threat to the family, or Candace specifically. There are confusing details about its discovery with some saying the family found its remains and others reporting that investigators found it when searching the property. We can’t know for sure which account is accurate, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t seem like the most pertinent of details.
On August 15th, everything goes sideways. Dolores left her home at approximately 12pm and returned around 3:30pm. Sometime in this three and a half hours, at least one, but likely two or more assailants entered the home by prying open the back door. Once inside, they would go on to commit a savage and vicious murder. Dolores stated that when she returned home she found pools of blood spatter all over the house along with what appeared to be bloody drag marks. She can hear her granddaughter screaming and crying from her crib and when she enters the room, she makes the grisly discovery of Candace’s body beneath a bed, wrapped in a comforter. Here we get a great deal of contradictions and confusing pieces of evidence. Dolores says she heard the child screaming, but other accounts say a neighbor had already retrieved the child from the house.
Dolores says she found the body, while others say an alleged boyfriend did. I couldn’t tell you if these details are confused because of the poor investigation or confusion around the scene itself. You have to imagine Dolores’ state of mind in the moments and hours after discovering Candace’s body and it isn’t difficult to presume she would have been disoriented, traumatized and in shock so details may have been sketchy. On the other hand, the investigation was so poorly executed it’s hard to rely on the official version of events either.
The police were called, and for some reason, we cannot hear the 911 call audio. I understand that this is still an open investigation, but I find it hard to believe that the 911 audio contained pertinent information which could be damaging to the investigation. Personally, I think it’s more likely that something could have been said on this call which makes the Sheriff’s department look worse than it already does, but that is pure speculation on my part.
For some unknown reason, investigators arrive and immediately determine that the most likely suspect is James Hiltz, Candace’s older brother. The investigation was led by Deputy Dodd, the man who earlier had a confrontation with Candace, and Bruce Briscoe. According to everything we have been told, the investigation of the crime scene lasts for three days, during which the family is barred from entering the home. This is standard operating procedure, but everything from this point forward is not. The scene isn’t locked down and controlled, all of the evidence isn’t collected and, for the most part, it seems like a truly half-assed crime scene analysis. It’s not uncommon for investigators and forensics teams to make errors. They may miss a piece of evidence, they may accidentally disturb the scene or ignore an important detail, but in this case, they seem to ignore a lot. Following the investigation of the scene, Dolores finds multiple shell casings in the home. The bloody comforter is left behind. A computer monitor stained with blood is still there, towels thought to be used by the killer are also left behind and so is a bloody shirt that Candace was wearing.
This has to be one of the worst instances of handling a crime scene I have ever heard of. I cannot begin to imagine what led to all of these mistakes being made, if indeed they were mistakes. It seems almost as if investigators walked into the house, decided what had happened and simply didn’t think it was important enough to gather everything up. That isn’t all that uncommon, unfortunately. To have a theory about the crime while on the scene isn’t wrong, but to disregard everything under the assumption that your theory is correct is ludicrous. What I want to know is whether or not the investigators chose to ignore much of the details or if they were ordered to do so. I simply can’t imagine that all of these officers could be stupid enough to screw this up unless they were pushed into doing so. Then again, based on much of what I have read, it’s entirely possible that the Fremont County Sheriff’s department is simply the worst police force in the world.
Everything from that point on is highly suspect. They decide to conduct a manhunt for James, who they ultimately find but rather than charging him with the murder of his sister, they charge him with stealing hatchets and flashlights. And.. that’s it. No other suspects, no other theories, no anything. The medical examiner conducts an autopsy on Candace and even that is debated. Dolores argues the details of how she was killed, believing their were multiple shotgun blasts to her head, while the autopsy declares there was only one. Dolores says Candace had multiple small caliber wounds to her side, whereas the autopsy says they were to her head. Dolores says they only found 22 caliber and shotgun shells at the scene while the autopsy says that three weapons were used. When I first read the autopsy report, and then read Dolores’ account, I wasn’t necessarily struck by the conflicts, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the difference in their descriptions of the body, at least not completely. I wrote one word on my notes at that time and the word was “overkill.” Even with the contradiction in calibers, order of and number of shots, it’s extremely clear that whoever was responsible for Candace’s murder this wasn’t a case of just killing someone. Whoever did this wanted to ensure that she was dead, and in my opinion, wanted not only to kill her but to leave a grisly scene behind.
It is through the autopsy report that we discover this crime had to have been committed by at least two perpetrators. We know this because analysis of the body, in addition to blood spatter patterns, suggest that Candace was standing when she was shot for the first time, facing one shooter, while a second shooter was behind and to the side of her, also firing. The shooter she faced wielded a shotgun and the other had at a minimum a 22 caliber handgun, and possibly another gun with a larger caliber though this is a point of contention. The full release of the autopsy report came ten years after the murder, and only because of media agencies filing information requests after the revelations about the storage unit.
For ten bitter years, nothing new is developed. No leads, no suspects, no charges. The Hiltz family is embroiled in a confrontation with the Sheriff’s department that plays out in the media and then, out of nowhere, we have the discovery of the storage unit which contains evidence from the scene of the crime, evidence which had to have been stolen from the evidence room of the Sheriff’s department by Deputy Dodd, the man who owned the storage unit, had a confrontation with Candace five days before she was murdered and the man who was the lead investigator on the case.
I absolutely agree with the Hiltz family that the only reason for moving that evidence to the storage unit was to assist in a cover up or to protect someone. Why else would someone risk their job and possible charges by tampering with and stealing evidence? It doesn’t make any sense, and it makes even less sense when you think that if you were really trying to hide something, wouldn’t it have made more sense to have destroyed the evidence rather than to have hung onto it? Unless, of course, you either wanted to use that evidence to blackmail someone, or if you got some kind of thrill or power by keeping the items nearby. As a result of this, and other charges, Dodd today is still involved in a court case where he may or may not plead out on the charges he is facing.
So that brings us to the theories. The four most plausible theories on what could have happened that resulted in the death of Candace Hiltz. Firstly, we have the theory that Candace was murdered by strangers. Although its possible, I think this theory is weak. It would have to be the result of a fortuitous turn of events for the killers themselves. They just happened upon the house, or decided to strike, when only Candace was home but for what motive? People don’t typically invade a home with the intent of committing a murder and nothing else. Nothing was stolen, nothing was disturbed other than that which was in the crossfire. We know that at least two weapons were used and based on blood spatter and wound placement that Candace was shot both from the front and the back simultaneously. That’s a very strange alignment of shots when you try to picture it in your head. Also, we have the murder of the dog to consider. It’s entirely possible that a group of strangers could have done this in order to conduct the murder later, but to be so brazen as to walk into the house in broad daylight and commit this violent crime makes me doubt that they would have been concerned with a dog. The one thing, though, the most important detail which makes me doubt that this crime was committed by a set of strangers is how vicious the crime itself was.
A shotgun blast to the head was more than enough to end Candace’s life, so why the additional shots? Why continue to put bullets into someone who was already dead? A shotgun blast from up close does a tremendous amount of damage, and we know from Dolores as well as the autopsy report that Candace’s head was almost entirely gone, enough so that it was described that she was nearly decapitated. No. To me, this crime was personal. Whoeever did this was angry, whoever did this wanted not just to kill Candace, but to send a message in doing so. I just can’t believe that total strangers would have gone to these extents. To me, I consider it unlikely that this crime was committed by people who didn’t know Candace previously, which leads us into the next theory, that Candace was murdered by Paige’s father.
The father of Paige’s daughter could have committed this heinous crime, but the question would go to motive. Why would he do it? He has never been named in public which leads me to two distinct possibilities: Either he had nothing to do with Candace or the child, and the family was fine with it being that way or that only Candace knew the identity of Paige’s father and never told anyone, possibly not even him. There were no legal proceedings for child support or custody, there were no discussions of any kind about the father being in the picture. At least none that we know of. So, if the man wanted nothing to do with the child, and he wasn’t feeling the pressure of possible child support payments or legal involvement, why would he find it necessary to kill Candace? I can’t logic my way through that. In cases of love and children, logic isn’t always going to apply, but I can’t convince myself that this was a crime committed by the father for all of the aforementioned reasons, and one more: the family has never said a word about the father or his possible link to the crime. Dolores has been very outspoken about theories, the investigation and every detail of this murder. I have to believe that if she thought this was a possibility, she would have said something by now. She is dedicated to finding justice for her daughter, and she would not protect a possible suspect. This just isn’t a theory which works for me in any way. It’s possible, as all of these theories are, but I consider it unlikely.
The third theory is that Candace was murdered by her mentally ill brother, James. In terms of motive, we don’t have much of one outside of the fact that James suffered from a mental illness whose symptoms included a phobia of people and hallucinations or confused thought. Whether or not James was angry or aggressive, we just can’t say, but we do know that prior to the murder, he has no recorded history of violent outbursts or any incidents involving authorities in which he was involved in altercations or fights. According to the family, James didn’t have any access to firearms, and chose to live away from everyone. He wouldn’t even enter the home with someone else present. Assume that he entered the home that day, and Candace was there, he seems to have been more likely to have left than to have stayed and killed her. Also, he would have had to have the weapons with him when he entered the home, it couldn’t have been a spur of the moment incident. This murder was clearly premeditated as the murder of the dog, and the fact that the killers had to have brought the guns with them show us. When James was later apprehended, he had no weapons on him and I have to believe that, at a minimum, gun powder residue tests were conducted on him to see if he had recently fired a weapon. Being that James lived in the wilderness, he was unlikely to have been able to clean himself of the residue before that testing would have taken place.
The Hiltz family has long stood against this theory and believes whole heartedly that James was not responsible. A key piece of evidence which crime scene investigators left behind were bloody towels that are alleged to have been used by the killers. When DNA tests were conducted on these towels, they found the DNA of an unknown individual whose profile did not match any family members. This doesn’t completely rule James out since we know there were at least two killers, and the other person could have used the towels, but that leads us to the conundrum that James had a phobia of others and its highly unlikely he could have worked with a partner. In addition to this, when James was located, there was nothing in his possession to indicate him in the crime. Not even a scrap of bloody clothing, nor has any ever been found. The final nail in the coffin for me is that James was never charged with the murder and considering the lengths authorities went to support their theory that he was the killer, and evidence suggesting they weren’t beyond corruption, I have to believe they would have charged him if they had the evidence, or possibly even manufactured evidence to support the theory, but they never did. I think it’s unlikely that James was involved in the murder of his sister. One piece of evidence which makes me think it could be possible is the fact that Candace was wrapped in a blanket and hidden beneath a bed. This, to me, suggests remorse or guilt, emotions which wouldn’t necessarily be unlikely if he were involved. But they also might exist in the final suspects: The Fremont County Sheriff’s Department officers themselves.
If someone from that department wasn’t involved than I think we have a remarkable set of coincidences here like I have never before seen. Five days before her murder, Candace gets into an altercation with Deputy Dodd, during which she threatens to expose him for allegedly taking bribes from drug dealers. On the day of her murder, Dodd decides that her brother James is responsible, and James just happens to be the man he was looking to question on unrelated charges. The crime scene and evidence are mishandled and mismanaged to the point that I don’t believe any seasoned investigator could have screwed it up that badly on accident. Dodd was put in charge of the investigation, so he is able to steer it whichever way he deems fit. If indeed he was involved, he’s not going to name himself as a suspect which grants him plenty of time to get rid of any weapons which may have been used to commit the murder. The thing about it is we know more than one person had to be involved, so who would that have been? Another officer in the department or someone from outside?
It’s hard to guess the answer to that question, but it doesn’t necessarily matter. If Dodd was indeed involved in this crime, than he holds all of those answers. Sometime after the murder is committed, a Deputy Briscoe collects the evidence that Dolores Hiltz found around the home, it is stolen from the evidence room at the Sheriff’s department and ends up in Dodd’s personal storage unit. I do find it really hard to believe that Dodd wouldn’t have destroyed this evidence, rather than save it. That’s one detail which makes absolutely no sense to me. Then we learn that this isn’t the only case he’s done this with, and he’s also falsified documents. The evidence is discovered, an investigation is launched by the CBI and Dodd just happens to retire a few months later and move to Texas.
Look. I’m a supporter of the police. I think they have an extremely difficult job to do, and yeah, mistakes can be made and they should be held accountable for it, but I have great difficulty believing all of this could be a mistake or the result of an unskilled investigator. I find it almost impossible to believe that in some way, shape or form that someone from that Sheriff’s department wasn’t involved in this crime. Whether or not it was Dodd, at this given time, it’s impossible to say, it’s entirely possible that it was someone else and Dodd was covering it up to protect those others. We may never know, but at a minimum here, I believe that Dodd knows more about this case than he has said and he may have been involved himself. I think there is a litany of evidence to support that theory, and so, to me, this is absolutely the most likely theory in this case.
The murder of Candace Hiltz is a true tragedy of life, and of justice. A beautiful, young, talent woman’s life came to a violent and brutal end for no reason. She had her life stolen from her, and in turn, her family had their baby sister, their daughter, ripped out of their lives forever and no one seemed to care or prepared to do anything about it. Her daughter, Paige, was born with hydrocephaly, a disease which would shorten her life and yet she outlived Candace by over six years because a group of sick individuals decided to murder her. Dolores raised her granddaughter for those six years, hoping to be able to provide her with answers, hoping to be able to show her justice for her mother, but the answers never came. Candace was subject to one of the most disturbing murders I’ve read the brutal details of and for what? For threatening a Sheriff’s Deputy? For having a child? For being a sister? For being a kind, intelligent and straight forward young woman who wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself and others? We may never know.
It seems apparent that Candace fell victim to a broken system enforced by a corrupt group of officers. Whether or not they pulled the trigger themselves, they have permanently damaged the case and the possibility of it being solved. Even if tomorrow they came up with a new suspect, if the CBI got a DNA hit from one of the pieces of evidence stolen and hidden away in the storage unit, it would be useless in a court of law. The chain of custody was broken, the evidence is contaminated and any defense attorney could easily argue against its admissibility. The misconduct of the Sheriff’s department had provided any suspect with a large window to provide reasonable doubt as a jury would have a difficult time accepting that new suspect was the responsible party when so much evidence seems to point towards a cover up or just absolute negligience on the part of the Sheriff’s department. This has to be one of the most frustrating cases I have ever covered and not just because we don’t have the answers, but because there appears to have been a massive attempt to hide those answers not only by the people who perpetrated the crime, but by those who we place our trust in to solve it. The murder of Candace Hiltz is a devastating story of loss, of a young life and potential stolen for no good reason and the justice she and her family so rightfully deserve has been buried in the mud of corruption and malice of forethought. Even if we find the truth, someday, it may be silenced due to those twisted actions. The CBI has control of this case and we can only hope that they do a better job than their predecessors and that their dedication to justice is more concrete and incorruptible than the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department. Short ofa full confession or a miraculous break in the case, the murder of Candace Hiltz remains unsolved.