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Candace Hiltz: The Murder Case That Shocked Everyone

Candace Hiltz was a 17-year-old single mother, residing in Copper Gulch, Colorado, who was killed on August 15, 2006. She was a junior at Brigham Young University and was hoping to go to Stanford Law School, in hopes of becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

On August 13, 2006, the Hiltz family had their dog go missing. The family lived out in the country, so they guessed that a mountain lion may have gotten it. Two days later, on August 15th, Dolores Hiltz ran out to do some errands, and she left her 17-year-old daughter, Candace Hiltz, home alone with Candace’s daughter, who was a month away from her 1st birthday.

Candace Daughter

When Dolores came back home, she listened to her granddaughter crying, and then she discovered pools of blood in the home. Dolores followed the blood, and under the bed, bandaged in a blanket, was the corpse of her daughter Candace. She had been shot once in the face with a shotgun, five times in the back with a small-caliber gun, and then shot once through the heart with a medium-caliber gun. Thankfully Candace’s baby was untouched.

Why did a Colorado sheriff's officer keep bloody evidence from a murder  case hidden in storage for years? – The Denver Post
Pic: Denver Post

The police reached the house a quick time later, but the way they dealt with the crime spectacle was fairly unusual. Notably, they didn’t even tape off the house as a crime spectacle. The police scoured the region around the family’s house, and in the close woods, they discovered the body of the missing dog. It had been fastened to a tree and killed with a hatchet.

Candace Was Wrapped In

After the police were finished with the crime scene, Candace’s parents were stunned to see what they left behind, like the blanket Candace had been wrapped in, and even some bullet cases. Candace’s family had to gather up that information themselves, and bring it to the Sheriff’s Office.

The day after the killing, the police declared that they had a person of interest, who was Candace’s older brother, James Hiltz. James had a past of mental illness, and at the time of the killing, he was missing. He was also doubted of breaking into a home and stealing some hatchets and flashlights. A manhunt was initiated, and three days after the killing, James was found residing in the mountain region, near Canon City. Nonetheless, he wasn’t accused of the murder, and neither was anyone else.

The case shortly went cold, and for the next 10 years, a cloud of uncertainty hung over James, and his family, who thinks he is innocent. Feared that any day, he could have been accused of the killing. Then in December 2016, the case took an extraordinary turn. A man named Rick Ratzlaff, purchased the contents of an abandoned storage unit, for $50 in an auction at a storage facility, outside of Canyon City. The unit had been rented by Lieutenant Detective Robert Dodd, but he fell behind on payments.

In 2006

In the unit, Ratzlaff discovered some rather disturbing items. There was a manila envelope that said evidence on it, a hatchet, a rope, a bloody sock, and a green backpack that comprised a bloody shirt. The hatchet and rope were from the murder of the dog, and the sock & the shirt belong to Candace. The big issue was, why would a detective steal proof about the killing of a 17-year old single mother, and protect it in a storage unit? Well, it may have stemmed from an occurrence that happened on August 10, 2006, five days before Candace was shot to death.


An anonymous deputy with the Sheriff’s Department went to the Hiltz’s house and questioned Candace’s mum about the whereabouts of her son James. Candace heard the questioning, and she became very furious with the way the deputy was speaking, so she shouted at him, telling him to leave. The deputy threatened to arrest her, so Candace held up her wrists, and told the deputy, that she had seen him taking envelopes of cash from regional drug dealers. This made the deputy furious, and he stormed out of the house.

More Than One

Days after the conflict, the family’s dog was murdered, and then Candace was shot to death. Also, Candace was shot with 3 different guns, and the medical examiner told her that she was possibly shot simultaneously. The only way that she could have been shot in the face, and then back at the exact time, is if there were 2 shooters. And since Candace was shot with 3 different guns, it indicates that there were most likely 3 gunmen.

After the finding of the evidence in the storage unit, both Lieutenant Dodd and the Sheriff of the county were put on paid administrative leave. Dodd resigned 112 days later, and in May 2017, he was accused of stealing the evidence. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has since taken over the murder inquiry of Candace Hiltz and is striving to solve it.

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