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At 17, Candace Hiltz faced a future filled with possibilities and challenges. She was an exceptional student and dreamed of going to law school. She was a devoted mother with an infant daughter, Paige, who was born with hydrocephalus.
Tragically, Candace's life came to a shocking and violent end. On August 15, 2006, just before Paige’s first birthday, Candace was brutally murdered in her home in Fremont County, Colorado. She suffered seven gunshot wounds, including six to her head and one to her chest, the Canon City Daily Record reported. Paige was found just a few feet from her mother’s lifeless body.
Fifteen years after the murder, theories about who killed Candace have circulated in the community and on podcasts. Was it a family member? Was it a crooked cop as her mother, Dolores, has said?
In an expanded episode of “Cold Justice,” airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen, veteran prosecutor Kelly Siegler and investigator Abbey Abbondandolo go to Fremont County, Colorado to assist with the case.
Alongside Fremont County Sheriff’s Office Det. Peter Rasmussen and Undersheriff Derek Irvine, the team digs deep to sort truth from hearsay.
“This case has left a black cloud over this office,” said Irvine, adding that investigators are contending with “rumor control, social media, podcasters that will do a story on this case without any of the facts.”
Investigators start by reviewing the savage murder. Jesse Weaver, Candace’s boyfriend and Paige’s father, had come to the house and found Paige seemingly alone. He called Dolores, who found Candace stuffed under a bed.
Candace had suffered a .410 shotgun wound to the face, a 45 Long Colt revolver wound to the chest, and five .22 rounds to the back of her head. There was no robbery or sexual assault.
The original investigation began with people close to the victim. Weaver was interviewed and cleared as a suspect. Candace’s brother, James “Jimmy” Hiltz, who had dealt with various psychological issues, was also an early suspect.
At the time of the murder, Jimmy had separated from his wife and kids and was living homeless in the hills behind his sister and mother’s trailer. He was a suspect in a string of local burglaries. Jimmy went missing after Candace’s murder and a manhunt ensued.
There had been a dispute between Candace and James over her dog, which was found dead, shot with a .22 caliber gun. The original investigation didn't link Jimmy directly to the murder, and the case went cold.
In 2016, it reignited when the contents of a personal storage locker belonging to former Fremont County Sheriff’s Office detective Robert Dodd, who was originally in charge of overseeing Candace’s case, were auctioned off. The contents include files and evidence connected to her murder. Red flags were raised.
Dodd was convicted in 2018 for official misconduct and abuse of public records.
Since then, suspicions persisted, and podcasts fanned the flames, that the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office was involved in the murder.
“Candace’s mother initially told investigators that she suspected her son, Jimmy, as the person who killed Candace,” says Siegler, adding that Dolores changed her mind after a few days. Since Dodd’s conviction, Dolores has publicly voiced her distrust of the police.
“We’re going to tackle the rumors about Candace’s murder,” says Abbey. They begin with one purporting that Candace had a verbal altercation with a sheriff’s deputy in which she accused him of taking bribes. The rumor mill maintains that the officer killed her dog as a warning, then murdered her.
In an interview, Sgt. Trace Hall says that he was the officer who interacted with Candace. Hall went to the Hiltz trailer to speak with Dolores about Jimmy’s involvement in another burglary. According to Hall, Candace intervened and yelled at him. He asked the teen to stay out of his conversation with her mother.
The team determines that the theory that cops had a motive to kill Candace, as well as the dog, is unsubstantiated.
Investigators interview former Sheriff Jim Beicker, who initiated the Dodd storage-shed investigation. “According to the former Sheriff, all of these items were collected in the woods after Candace’s murder,” says Siegler. “They were initially considered to be potential evidence but later deemed to be trash.” They should have been properly disposed of, according to Beicker.
The “Cold Justice” team systematically reviews evidence recovered from the locker — a blanket, a decorative axe, and a length of dirty rope — to compare them to facts about the crime scene. They rule the items out as being tied to the murder.
“What Dodd did was stupid and it was it was out of laziness,” says Beicker. “But he did not intentionally compromise this case.” Or participate in a cover-up, adds Siegler.
Dodd echoes that sentiment. “I screwed up,” he says, later adding that he was “embarrassed for the mistake I made with the property. I feel guilty about talking about this. Because we need to focus on Candace.”
Investigators turn their attention to Jimmy, who has been in and out of a mental hospital. In a phone interview, Jimmy’s ex-wife, Jessica, punches a hole in the family’s insistence that Jimmy was incapable of violence.
She says he suffered from delusions, a condition exacerbated by his substance abuse. “Jimmy’s attacked me in the past,” she said. In a separate interview, Jesse Weaver, Candace’s ex-boyfriend, recalled a few other instances of Jimmy becoming physically violent.
Another rumor about Jimmy was that he didn’t own any firearms. Investigators learn that guns and ammunition matching the ones used to kill Candace were among items stolen in a series of local burglaries in 2006.
There was also a rumor that there were multiple shooters in Candace’s slaying. Forensic firearms expert Chris Robinson demonstrates an alternate theory of a single shooter using two different guns. He also believes that the gun used to kill the dog was the same one used to murder Candace.
“We can finally eliminate the theory that Candice could have only been killed by multiple shooters,” says Siegler.
Investigators turn their attention to a piece of physical evidence recovered from the area where Jimmy was living in the hills.
“This mysterious bone fragment has been sitting in evidence for 15 years,” says Siegler. “So we have sent it off to our DNA lab for analysis. If it matches Candace’s DNA, that will be a huge piece of evidence that Jimmy may have discarded it in the same woods where he was living and burglarizing homes.”
The bone fragment did in fact match Candace’s DNA.
After reviewing all the evidence, Det. Rasmussen and Undersheriff Irvine presented the case against Jimmy Hiltz to the DA. “She likes the case,” says Siegler, “but isn't ready to move forward just yet.”
Upon hearing the “Cold Justice” conclusions, Dolores Hiltz refuses to accept that the circumstantial evidence points to her son killing her daughter.
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