Spokane Police: Man who killed 9-year-old Candy Rogers took his own life decades ago

SPOKANE, Wash. — The man who killed 9-year-old Candy Rogers in 1959 will not face a jury, nor face jail time. 

It took three generations of law enforcement personnel to solve the case, but Spokane Police Sergeant Zac Storment was finally able to identify the young girl’s killer. 

“I keep saying, it’s the Mount Everest of our cold cases… the one we could never seem to overcome. At the same time, nobody ever forgot,” Storment said.

Rogers was selling Camp Fire mints when she disappeared from her front yard West Central more than than 60 years ago. For two weeks after her disappearance, police searched for her, but to no avail. 

The Marine Corps, the Boy Scouts, US Postal Workers, and many others helped in the search. A helicopter from Fairchild Air Force Base was involved but devastatingly crashed, killing three airmen.

On the sixteenth day of the search, Rogers’ body was found.

Evidence from the scene showed Rogers was raped and strangled with a strip of her own clothing. The evidence was preserved for decades and would ultimately be what linked the crime to the killer. 

Through DNA testing with Othram Inc, investigators were able to submit a sample that narrowed the search down to three possible killers: three brothers, all close in age. 

Further investigation determined one of those brothers, John Reigh Hoff, was the one responsible.

Decades of relentless effort, finally pay off.

Failing was never an option. “I didn’t let that enter into my thinking. I thought someone would solve it. I was trying to be that somebody,” Brian Hammond, a detective who worked on this case for 16 years, told us.

Hoff is no longer alive; he took his own life decades ago, the same year his daughter Cathie turned nine. And though he is no longer alive, Cathie is and she was willing to help the police in the investigation. 

Cathie submitted her own DNA as part of the investigation and it appeared to be a close match.

Storment said that he feared there may be another brother they had not identified or a possible paternity issue with Cathie, so he wasn’t ready to name Hoff the killer.

He knew the only way to solidly identify the person responsible was to get a DNA sample directly from Hoff.

Storment got a search warrant and talked to Hoff’s children. They gave their permission and Hoff’s body was removed from his grave.

Hoff’s body was buried in the same cemetery as Candy’s.

His DNA was a one-to-one match from the DNA recovered at the scene of the crime.

“It feels terrific. You know, you, hope you can solve a case then when you can’t and you have to give it up to someone else, you hope they solve it and that happened several times in a row,” Hammond explained.

He had other known criminal offenses from years ago. He was arrested and convicted in 1961 for second-degree assault on a woman in Browne’s Addition. He served six months.

Hoff was in the Army, but was declared a deserter and discharged because of his conviction. In the years after, he sold Cutco Cutlery door to door, worked at Western Pine Lumber and worked at the Armor meat packing plant.

Hoff will never serve time for what he did, but after decades of mystery, there is finally a conclusion in the case.

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