The Shocking Murder Case of Candace Hiltz

Updated on January 10, 2018

Background Information

Candace Hiltz was born December 22nd 1988, in Cañon City in Fremont County, Colorado. Her father passed away when she was around five years old. She was considered a 'Child Prodigy' at an early age and was actively performing Calculus at age 11. Her friends described her as a tomboy, a likely result of growing up with several older brothers. Her friends and family also spoke about how she was passionate about standing up for people who had been mistreated. She would stand up to bullies, who were sometimes taller than her five foot two frame. Her interest in justice lead to her wanting to become a Lawyer and attend Stanford Law School.

She was enrolled in Bringham Young University and aged just seventeen, was in her third year of college. However a lot changed for her that year as she found out she was pregnant. (I couldn't find any information on the father to her baby, but if you guys know anything, let me know.) She wanted her child to be her primary focus and even thought of taking a few years break from her studies. Her taking a few years off to raise her child would not hold Candace back academically, in fact it would put her back in with the people her age. She actually decided to enrol on Bringham Young's online programme, which allowed her to carry on studying whilst also being a mother. She later received acceptance to Stanford Law and was on her way to becoming a Supreme Court of Justice.

Candace gave birth to a baby girl, named Paige. Unfortunately Baby Paige was born with Hydrocephaly. It is a condition in which the primary characteristic is excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain. The fluid in this case is Cerebrospinal fluid. Candace was told that baby Paige would live a very short life. Obviously this news was very upsetting and wanted to make the most of her time with her child. She treated every week like it was Paige's birthday, spoiling her. Paige lived until she was seven but then passed away form her disease. However, as short as Paige's life was, she did live out her mother.

Candace had an older brother named James who suffers from many psychological issues. One being his extreme case of paranoia around other people. It was often described as a phobia and was such to the extent that it affected his interactions with his own family. He actually moved out into the woods behind the family house because he did not want to communicate with anyone. Candace was very overprotective of her brother and did not like anybody speaking ill of him.

In 2006, Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Dodd arrived at the Hiltz family home. He was looking for James, to question him regarding a trespassing incident. Candace's mother spoke to Dodd with Candace present. There are no official records of what was said but Candace did not like Dodd's line of questions or how he was treating her brother and mother. She decided to step in and began shouting at Officer Dodd. He responded by warning her he would arrest her if she carried on. It is reported that Candace actually held her wrists up and challenged Officer Dodd to arrest her. Candace then took it further and told Dodd that she had seen him around town accepting envelopes form known drug dealers and would happily make the other Sheriff deputies aware of his activities. Dodd left the house agitated and never returned to the home.

One night when the family were returning home they noticed their dog was missing. They lived in a woody area so they thought an animal, most probably a mountain lion, had taken their dog. It is reported that Candace actually went to the Sheriff's department to report their missing dog but got into another altercation with a deputy, believed to be Deputy Robert Dodd, but this is unconfirmed. Even though the family wanted to find out what had happened to their dog, and searched around their land, they weren’t overly concerned and thought that maybe their dog would return. However, the family couldn't help but feel like something suspicious may have occurred.


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Murder and inquiry

On August 15th 2006, Candace Hiltz was murdered. Candace's mother, Dolores left the house at noon to run errands, not realising this was the last time she would see her daughter alive. A little while after she left her daughter and granddaughter at home alone she felt something was wrong and asked her neighbours to check in on Candace. There is a report that suggests the neighbours never did check in on Candace.

Dolores didn't return home until around 3:30 in the afternoon. She entered her home to find Paige, who was eleven months old, screaming and crying in her crib. Dolores also found pools and spatters of blood but no sign of Candace. She ran to the bedroom to pick up Paige but made a shocking discovery. There appeared to be something under the bed, wrapped in a green comforter. Dolores immediately felt sick to the stomach with all the blood and with Paige screaming and crying. She unwrapped the green comforter to find Candace's lifeless body with multiple shot wounds. It is reported that around 75% of her head was no long visible because she had been shot so many times. Dolores held Candace's hand until the police showed up. The 911 call between Dolores and the police has not yet been released. Two people have tried to contact the police to see if they would release the tape but they refuse to do so, as this case is considered an ongoing investigation.

Deputy Briscoe and Deputy Dodd were the two deputies assigned to this case. According to Dolores the two detectives did a horrible job of surveying the crime scene. They did not tape off or secure the crime scene and it was quite easy for other people to walk in and potentially contaminate evidence. Almost immediately the officers pointed the finger at Candace's brother James. A manhunt was organised to track him down. In the early stages many investigators combed through the wooded area surrounding the Hiltz residence, looking for clue or evidence. But many people believed that they were actually just looking for James. The officers didn't even have an alternative theory and their main focus was finding James Hiltz. It was at this point in the investigation where the family dog, who had gone missing just days before Candace's murder, was found. He was tied up to a tree and been butchered with an axe. Some people believed the dog had been taken and killed, so the murderer could get into the house easily, without the dog barking or alerting his presence. Others believed the dog had been taken and killed to taunt the family.

Investigators began to question the family on James' whereabouts and if he had any friends or workmates. The family began to question the direction of the questions as James' mental illness did not allow him to interact with his own family, let alone any outside associates. Dolores explained this to the officers stating that he also had no history of violence and was always in and out of the Colorado Mental Health Institute. Dolores further explained that James didn't even own or have access to a firearm but officers disregarded this and carried on questioning Dolores about her son, for over four hours.

After the officers completed their 'investigation', the family were allowed back into their family home. Dolores and her sons had found several pieces of evidence that had just been unmarked and left behind.

  • A shotgun shell was found in the baby crib
  • The green blood soaked comforter
  • A computer monitor stained with blood
  • There were bloodied towels outside of the home believed to have been used by the killer
  • Candace's blood stained shirt she was wearing that day.

Dolores stated they took only fifteen items form the family home, including a small piece of carpet and a piece of panelling. She was more shocked because Officers Dodd and Briscoe weren't rookie investigators. They should have known that anything left behind could be vital to the case. Dolores and her sons decided to gather up the evidence, logged it and photographed it all. Dolores went down to the Sheriff's station but didn't get to talk to anybody. A little later, Deputy Briscoe came to their home with a search warrant and took the evidence the family had collected.

The Sheriff's department issued a statement saying they were looking for James and warned the public that he may be armed. They found James three day after Candace's murder. Despite their ongoing case against James, he was charged with first and second degree theft and trespassing. According to the Sheriff's department, James had broken into a house and stole hatchets and flashlights and he was held on a $500,000 bond at Fremont County jail. James had never actually been charged with anything to do with Candace's murder case however, he still appears to be at the top of the Sheriff's department suspect list. He was not found guilt by reason of insanity and was instead sent to Colorado Mental Health Institute.

The eleven page autopsy when released, showed that Candace was brutally murdered with malicious intent. Dolores, had two major problems with the autopsy. The first being when it came to the crime scene investigation part of the autopsy. In the autopsy, it said Candace's boyfriend actually entered the house and saw that the baby was alone so he took the baby outside to his wife. Then he went back inside and saw that Candace was unresponsive. Dolores states that Candace did not have a boyfriend and that she was in face the person to find Candace herself. The second problem she had was that she believed Candace had only been shot with two separate guns not three. In the autopsy it said that Candace was shot was a shotgun, a medium caliber and a small caliber handgun. Dolores says that when her and her sons were picking up the evidence left behind, they only found shell casings from two guns, a shotgun and a 22 caliber.

Five months after Candace's death, Dolores filed a complaint at Colorado's Attorney General's office as she believed the case was not conducted correctly. She even showed the pictures she had taken of the evidence with her sons, as proof that the case was mishandled.

10 years later - December 2016

Rick Ratzlaff,who had many negative encounters with the Fremont County Sheriff's department, was at an auction for storage units. He managed to buy a unit for $50.00. The unit had some police lights, old police uniforms and some case files in it and Rick even managed to find some pieces of evidence. He discovered an Axe, Blood-stained rope and a pair of bloody socks. They were all sealed in separate plastic bags which were in a manilla envelope labelled evidence. It turns out these pieces of evidence were from the Candace Hiltz murder case. Why would there be evidence from an ongoing investigation in a storage unit? Rick managed to find out the previous owner who happened to be non other than Deputy Officer Dodd's unit.

Having had previous encounters with the whole Sheriff's department, Rick did not feel comfortable just handing over the evidence so he called police officers to come look at his storage unit. When the police showed up, Rick's wife actually recorded the conversation between Rick and the police. Rick mentioned his conversation with the officers was quite threatening and they forced him to keep his mouth shut about the evidence found in the locker.

The evidence found in the locker is actually now with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, who say that they are looking into all the misconducts and unsolved cases of the Fremont County Sheriff's department.

The Hiltz family believe they will finally get some closure and hope the CBI will look over all the evidence and come to some sort of conclusion to Candace's case. In April 2017 Officer Dodd, left the force to retire and in May 2017 he was charged with two counts of misconduct. Then a little while later video evidence was found in a landfill that connected him to a sexual assault case.

My thoughts

I definitely do not think James Hiltz had any connection to Candace's murder and think that the Fremont County Sheriff's department were just pointing the finger at him because he was an easy target.

I do think Robert Dodd is a number one suspect. He was threatened by Candace because she could testify against him and she was evidence that he had been working with drug dealers. Firstly, this altercation Candace had with Officer Dodd, then the fact that he was an investigating officer of her death and also the fact that there was evidence found in a storage locker under his name that had been locked up and left there.

There are a lot of people who believe that maybe the father to Candace's daughter, Paige murdered her, but I couldn't really find any information on him at all. Another theory is that Candace was murdered by strangers and although it seems a little odd, it does happen.

To my surprise, this case is still ongoing! It's been a year since the case was taken over by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations and there hasn't been any new information regarding this case.

© 2018 Nabeela Pathan

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