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New DNA evidence has helped detectives crack a brutal 62-year-old murder case.
In March 1959, nine-year-old Candy Rogers went missing while selling Camp Fire Girl mints in West Central Spokane, Washington state.
The day after she disappeared, three Fairchild Air Force Base airmen died when a helicopter flew into high-voltage lines above the Spokane River while searching for her.
Two weeks later, Rogers' body was found, having been raped and strangled to death. And until now, her murder remained a mystery.
However, modern DNA evidence has finally led police to the culprit: US Army deserter John Reigh Hoff.
Police used a private lab in Texas, which specialises in analysing degraded DNA evidence, to test a semen sample found on Rogers' clothing linked to three brothers: John Reigh, Andrew and Terry Allen Hoff.
And in September this year, John Reigh's daughter, Cathie, who was Rogers' 'big sister' at the girl guide group, volunteered to submit a DNA sample, which showed that her dad was almost certainly the killer.
Sadly, Hoff was not able to be brought to justice for his heinous crimes because he killed himself in 1970.
Detectives, however, exhumed his body recently and confirmed the DNA belonged to him.
Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl said the fact the killer would never be brought to justice was a bitter pill to swallow.
He said: "It is our hope that at least by solving this case it brings a measure of comfort and closure to the family and to the loved ones in this community as well.
"We have a kidnapping of an innocent nine-year-old who was brutally and violently assaulted and murdered.
"A nine-year-old who had absolutely no concept of evil that exists. There are few crimes that are more impactful to a family member than the murder of a loved one."
Spokane Major Crimes Detective Zac Storment added: "It's the Mount Everest of our cold cases, the one we could never seem to overcome, but at the same time, nobody ever forgot."
Rogers' cousin Joanne Poss broke down in tears when she was informed of the breakthrough.
She said: "I feel like Candy's loss was just a horrible loss. She was just so cute."
Former Spokane Police officer Brian Hamond worked on Rogers' case from 2006 until 2020.
The detective, who retired earlier this year, had hoped to solve the case himself, but said he was glad the nightmare was finally over.
He said: "If it wasn't for the genealogy company, it probably wouldn't have been solved because his name was nowhere in the list of suspects [or] people mentioned."
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