A former door-to-door salesman who authorities said raped and murdered a 9-year-old girl in Washington State more than six decades ago was identified Friday, ending what one detective called the “Mount Everest” of cold case investigations.
The man, John Reigh Hoff, died by suicide at the age of 31 in 1970, but his daughter provided DNA to investigators in Spokane that helped solve the murder of Candy Rogers, the city’s police department said in a news release.
In a video released by the department, Det. Zac Storment compared the investigation to the world's tallest mountain, saying it was "the one we could never seem to overcome, but at the same time nobody ever forgot."
Candy was selling camp fire mints in her Spokane neighborhood when she vanished March 6, 1959. Sixteen days later, after a sprawling search effort turned deadly — two airmen with the Air Force died after their helicopter struck a power line — her body was found in the woods a few miles from her home.
Hoff, then 20, was in the Army and stationed at the Fairchild Air Force base in Spokane County. He wasn't identified as a suspect in Candy's killing, though two years later he was convicted of assault after tying up a woman with her own clothes and strangling her, the department said.
Hoff was discharged from the military and later worked at a lumber yard and as a door-to-door salesman before dying by suicide, according to the release.
This year, a combination of genealogical research, semen collected from Candy's body and DNA taken from Hoff's exhumed body identified him as the girl's killer, authorities said.
According to the release, DNA testing showed the samples were 25 quintillion times more likely to have come from Hoff than the general population, police said.