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The Shocking Murder Case of Candace Hiltz

Nabeela has been an online writer for more than two years and has a particular interest in true crime.

Candace Hiltz

Candace Hiltz

Background Information on Candace Hiltz

Candace Hiltz was born December 22, 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, even if they were taller than her 5'2" frame. Her interest in justice led to her wanting to become a lawyer and attend Stanford Law School.

College and Pregnancy

She was enrolled in Brigham 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 of her baby, but please share in the comments if you know.) She wanted her child to be her primary focus and even thought of taking a few years' break from her studies. 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 enroll in Brigham 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 Justice.

Birth of Her Daughter

Candace gave birth to a baby girl named Paige. Unfortunately, baby Paige was born with hydrocephaly, the primary characteristic of which 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 she 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 from her disease. However, as short as Paige's life was, she did outlive her mother.

Candace's Older Brother

Candace had an older brother named James who suffered from many psychological issues, such as an extreme case of paranoia around other people. It was often described as a phobia and 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.

The First Incident with Robert Dodd

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 from known drug dealers and would happily make the other sheriff's deputies aware of his activities. Dodd left the house agitated and never returned to the home.

The Missing Dog

One night when the family was 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 on its own. However, the family couldn't help but feel like something suspicious may have occurred.

Candace's brother, James Hiltz.

Candace's brother, James Hiltz.

Sheriff's Deputy Robert Dodd

Sheriff's Deputy Robert Dodd

Murder and Inquiry

On August 15, 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 her 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 longer 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.

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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.

The Hunt for James and the Discovery of the Dog

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 clues 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 had 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 the family to 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 became concerned about the direction of these 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.

Unmarked, Overlooked Evidence at the Crime Scene

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 in the baby crib
  • The green blood-soaked comforter
  • A computer monitor stained with blood
  • Bloodied towels outside of the home believed to have been used by the killer
  • The blood-stained shirt Candace 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, log it and photograph 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.

Charges Against James

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 found not guilty by reason of insanity and was instead sent to Colorado Mental Health Institute.

The Autopsy Report

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 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 fact 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 she 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 the Colorado 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.

Robert Dodd's Misdemeanour Charges and the 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.

Update: 03/04/2020

Officer Dodd had been found guilty of Abuse of Public Records in 2018 with two counts of official misconduct. This was in regards to the Storage locker under his name containing evidence. He is scheduled to serve 15 days in jail. I am unsure of whether this has been served or where.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do you think the murder of Candace Hiltz may have been Sheriff Dodd? It seems to me it may have been.

Answer: I think Sheriff Dodd is the most likely suspect, although it is a question of whether he actually committed the murder or had people do it for him? Either way, if detectives are still looking at this case, he should be top of their list.

Question: Do you think Candace Hiltz had this coming to her for threatening a police officer, as I think she did?

Answer: Personally, no.

But I also probably would not go around threatening Police Officers or anyone in any form of power. That's just me. I think she saw injustice and took it upon herself to try correct it. Kudos to her for having the gut to do it. I think she was clever enough to know her actions would possibly have consequences.

I will never condone Dodd's actions.

I mean if he was in some form of an affiliation with Gangs, because remember this is all a part of the rumour mill with this case, then he should, as a police officer, own up to that.

At the end of the day a young woman lost her life and a very young child lost her mother. My personal views will always be that. Unless evidence suggests otherwise I don't think my views will change.

Question: Are you planning to stay on top of this case? It reeks to high heaven.

Answer: Hopefully. I have been checking for updates regularly, unfortunately nothing as of yet has come out the woodwork. I think it is sad that many of these cases just go cold. I can only suggest checking the comments of my article because I know some readers paste links to current news articles relating to this case.

Question: It seems almost obvious that Dodd killed her, do you think there are any real clues to suggest it may have been other individuals?

Answer: Currently, Dodd is the most likely suspect there is a mountain of evidence against him including those incriminating tapes found in the storage locker. However, research does suggest that any number of gangs who sold drugs in the area and were in alliance with Dodd could also be suspects.

However, I personally think if gangs were involved it was under Dodd's guidance.

The other suspect, Candace's brother, may well still be a suspect in this case. When writing this article I was pretty sure her brother was wrongly accused. However, I have recently learned more about Mental Health and the problems her brother had. If her brother was having a particularly rough day, yes he could be responsible. Mental Health affects every person differently. I am still on the fence about her brother.

Would love to hear your thoughts and thank you for your question.

Question: Do you think that Robert Dodd and the drug dealers possibly hired a crew to murder Candice?

Answer: It is possible. Anything I know about gangs comes from watching crime dramas on TV, so I'm not sure how reliable that information is. But I just assumed all drug dealers were willing to end the life of anyone who got in the way of their business.

© 2018 Nabeela Pathan

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