Spokane police Detective Brian Hamond believes he knows where to look for the man who raped and murdered 9-year-old Candice Elaine Rogers 49 years ago.
Hamond is confident the killer is named in the case files his predecessors assembled in the year after Candy Rogers was abducted while selling Camp Fire Girls mints near her home.
“There were so many good suspects back then,” Hamond said. “The investigators were incredible. They did not leave a single stone unturned.”
Police checked out enough people to fill seven 11-by-14-inch sheets, each with two single-spaced columns of names.
In addition, more than a dozen men “confessed” over the years to killing Rogers. Because of their records, some of them weren’t easily dismissed as suspects.
A prime suspect who didn’t confess – at least not to police – was Hugh Bion Morse.
He was a serial killer who murdered two Spokane woman and nearly killed a third in a cross-country spree of violence against women and girls. But DNA evidence that became available in 2001 indicates Morse didn’t assault Rogers.
Even so, Hamond said, “You can’t ignore some of the things that so strongly made him a suspect at the time. … I’m not concentrating my efforts on him. I’m just not willing to put it to sleep yet.”
Hamond has plenty of other strong suspects.
“It was amazing how many people there were in the area who had sex crimes in their history,” he said.
He declined to name most of the people he is investigating. About half of them have died, including Morse, but Hamond still doesn’t want to show his hand.
However, he identified two suspects who killed themselves.
One was 50-year-old Alfred Graves, who lived at 815 N. Cannon St. He suffocated himself with carbon monoxide in his car on the day Candy Rogers’ body was found.
Graves left a suicide note in the vehicle parked on Downriver Drive.
“Alfred Graves was considered a pretty good suspect back then, and he was never cleared by DNA,” Hamond said.
The text of Graves’ suicide note wasn’t recorded, but Hamond thinks other reasons caused officers to suspect Graves in Rogers’ murder.
There had been allegations that he “attempted some inappropriate contacts with some women,” Hamond said. Also, police found newspaper clippings about molested women and children in the room where Graves had been staying. They found bobby pins and some sections of rope in the trunk of his car.
Hamond said he is particularly interested in the rope because a photo of Candy Rogers’ body shows marks that seem to indicate a rope had been tied around her waist, although no rope was found with her body.
The other suspect who killed himself was James Howard Barnett, 49, of 2125 W. Sinto Ave. He hanged himself in his cell at the Spokane County Jail on Feb. 7, 1960, four days after he was arrested on suspicion of a sex crime against a child.
It wasn’t announced at the time, but Barnett wrote a message on his cell wall in his own blood: “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Hamond said Barnett’s widow, Rena, apparently wasn’t aware he was in jail when officers came to tell her he was dead. “That (expletive) killed Candy Rogers, didn’t he?” she reportedly told the officers.
“I’ve been following up on that,” Hamond said.
He said he wouldn’t have been able to do so except for work by his predecessor on the case, retired Detective Minde Connelly, and Glen Whiteley, president of the Spokane Law Enforcement Museum.
All Connelly had to go on was someone’s vague recollection of the comment by Barnett’s widow. The couple’s names had long been forgotten.
Connelly enlisted Whiteley, who consulted a genealogist and spent about two years dredging up Barnett’s name, Hamond said.
Hamond has found no record of autopsy samples that could provide a genetic profile of Barnett or Graves, and he wants stronger evidence before seeking a warrant to exhume their bodies. Such evidence might include genetic samples from living relatives.
Although he thinks the killer is likely to emerge from the list of people police and sheriff’s detectives interviewed or investigated in the year after Rogers was murdered, Hamond said he has investigated five new suspects based on tips he has received.
One of Hamond’s more tantalizing leads involved a call from a woman who believes she was the last person to see Candy Rogers alive. She reported seeing a bright green car driving slowly toward Rogers, who was walking about a block away, near A.M. Cannon Park.
In fact, one man police investigated shortly after Rogers’ death had a car “so green they called it the Green Hornet,” Hamond said.
When the suspect sold the car, he told the buyer he needed a quick sale to pay for a trip to California. The buyer sold it to someone in Oregon, who thought it was suspicious that there was children’s clothing in the car.
Hamond said the first owner was cleared as a suspect because his DNA didn’t match that of Rogers’ rapist.
Detectives couldn’t tie the car to Rogers’ murder, either, but Hamond noted a green car seat cover was found near the crime scene.
“These are the little things” that are hard to dismiss, Hamond said. “This thing can consume you.”
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