Evidence from the 2006 murder of a teenager was found last month in a Freemont, Colo., self-storage unit that had gone to auction after the tenant, a sheriff’s detective, failed to pay the rent. Fremont County Sheriff's Office (FCSO) Lt. Det. Robert Dodd was placed on administrative leave after a bloody rope and ax believed to be connected to the death of 17-year-old Candace Hiltz was discovered on Dec. 17, according to the source.
After purchasing the contents of the unit, Rick Ratzlaff found several manila envelopes marked "evidence,” boxes of paperwork, and FCSO gear and equipment, including uniforms and patrol-vehicle sirens and lights. "I knew it was Robbie Dodd’s unit because his uniforms had name badges on them, and there were pictures of him in the unit," Ratzlaff told the “Pueblo Chieftain” newspaper.
The biggest envelope held the bloody rope, while the others contained two blood-soaked socks and a weapon. “It was a chrome ax that also had blood on it,” Ratzlaff said.
Following the discovery, Ratzlaff contacted FCSO Sheriff James Beicker, who later confirmed the evidence was connected to Hiltz’s case. The teen was found shot to death on Aug. 15, 2006, in a family home in the Copper Gulch area.
Ratzlaff met the sheriff and FCSO Cpt. Jeff Worley at the storage unit on Dec. 30. Ratzlaff’s wife recorded the meeting and provided a copy of the video to the newspaper. After examining the items, Beicker contacted the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the source reported. He also cataloged and photographed everything, and then placed all of it into evidence at the FCSO headquarters. CBI, which retrieved the items on Jan. 3, is now handling the investigation.
Beicker held a news conference on Jan. 16 to announce Dodd’s leave and that no further information would be provided by FCSO. District attorney Molly Chilson and deputy district attorney Thom LeDoux declined to comment on the case.
Hiltz’s family is now considering a lawsuit against FCSO for mishandling evidence. Candace's brother, Casey Hiltz, told the “Daily Record Canon City News” that Dodd should be fired. "This shouldn't have happened. It's destroyed our family, and not knowing who’s out there," he said.
Casey said he recognized some of the items found in the storage unit, including a shirt he had identified after his sister’s death. "The ax and rope, those weren't used in my sister's murder," he said.
Hiltz's mother, Dolores, told the source she wasn’t surprised the items were found in a storage unit. She has long maintained that her daughter’s death was part of a cover-up, and evidence wasn’t collected or handled properly during the investigation. The house wasn’t quarantined after the murder, and evidence was left inside for three days, she said. "It's been 10 years of silence and harassment," Dolores said, adding her family has been targeted by the sheriff’s office. "I never thought I would experience this type of corruption ever before in my life.”
James Hiltz, Candace's other brother, was a person of interest during the initial investigation but has never been charged, a source reported. The family doesn't believe he was involved.