Spokane Police solve 62-year-old cold case using DNA

Nov 19, 2021

Candice “Candy” Elaine Rogers was nine-years-old when she was killed.
Credit Spokane Police

Spokane Police say they have solved a 62-year-old rape and murder case.

In 1959, nine-year-old Candice Rogers, or Candy, as she was known by her family, disappeared.

Rogers had left home to sell Campfire Mints in her West Central neighborhood. Her body was found 16 days later in rural  northwest Spokane County.

Spokane Police Detective Zac Storment says three generations of police officers have investigated Rogers' murder and sexual assault, but were unable to find a match for the genetic profile of her killer.

Earlier this fall, a private DNA analysis company the Spokane Police Department hired, Othram, was able to match the genetic profile from DNA submitted to common online genetic databases.

"Not only did they break this incredibly degraded DNA, their genealogists gave me a list of only three people,” he said. “We have other cases we've worked where the family tree is monstrous, and it might take years to get through it and narrow it down.”

Those three were John Reigh Hoff and his brothers. Spokane Police obtained a genetic sample from Hoff’s daughter and exhumed his body. Further testing found he was a match.

Storment says exhuming a body is not something the police department would normally do, but says they wanted to be certain they had closed the case.

“Before I'm going to hang the mantle of child killer, child rapist, kidnapper around a man's neck, even though he's dead,” he said, “we're going to achieve that certainty."

Hoff was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base and lived about a mile away from Rogers.

DNA evidence matched John Reigh Hoff to the genetic material found on Candy Rogers' clothing.
Credit Spokane Police

Hoff’s name was never among the suspects Spokane Police detectives publicly released publicly over the decades. Many officers thought Rogers was the victim of a serial killer, who was targeting women in Spokane around the same time.

In 1961, Hoff was arrested for strangling and robbing a woman in Brownes Addition and served six months in jail for the assault. He took his own life in 1970, a little more than 10 years after Candy Rogers’ death.

He was previously buried in the same cemetery as Rogers, but his family moved his remains to another site after learning he was responsible for her death.