The murder of nine-year-old Candy Rogers has been called the most notorious cold case in our city's history. As we approach the 60th anniversary of the unthinkable crime, her family clings to hope justice may still come.
Candy's cousin Penny Melcher was just a teen when Candy was killed. She says she loved her like a little sister. Her husband Randy grew up in Spokane, and like so many who lived here at the time, remembers how the case rocked our town.
"This impacted the entire city of Spokane in a way I'll never forget," he said. "It was just awful."
Candy was just a little girl out selling mints for her Camp Fire girls group on March 6, 1959. No one could have known the evil that would find her.
"I think, and you're making me cry now, but the shock goes so deep that you can only start to deal with it in bits and pieces," Penny said.
Candy was a good kid. She was as beautiful as she was kind.
"She was very, very pretty and so nice," Penny said.
In recent years, Penny connected with Candy's childhood best friend. This friend was the last person to be with Candy the night she was abducted while selling those mints.
"This is words from (Candy's best friend,) that a green sedan was driving slowly down the street that Candy was walking on," Penny said. "She thinks the two men inside had military uniforms on."
That, and the scattered mints at the bottom of Doomsday Hill are all police had to go on. Until the inevitable came. Candy's body was found near Old Trails Road in a rural part of West Spokane.
"When those guys found her body, she was buried not very deep in the ground and just covered over with brush," Penny said.
Police honed in on numerous suspects over the years. It seemed for a while at least, everyone was a suspect.
One of them was a man named Hugh Morse. Records show he lived near Candy. Police believe he had murdered other women across the country. He vanished from town after Candy's body was found. He died in 2003 in a Minnesota prison while serving a sentence for one of those brutal crimes.
Police later found a problem with the Morse theory. DNA recovered from Candy's panties was not a match to him. Some, including her family members, believe that's because there could have been two killers. There was also grape gum found with Candy's remains. Police were hopeful they'd get a DNA profile from that as well. Unfortunately, that was unsuccessful.
SPD Major Crimes detectives continue to work the case. They have that DNA profile, and because of that, Penny believes the case is solvable. She begs anyone who can help, even all these decades later, to do what's right and call police.
"Oh it would mean….so much," she said.