Sounding like every true crime fanatic’s dream, a storage hunter who won a unit at auction found himself with evidence from a decade-old murder case.
Anyone who’s seen Storage Wars will know that it’s a risky game when it comes to bidding on storage units.
While some end up buying themselves a pile of trash, others hit the jackpot – but even for those who fall into the latter camp don’t always take home the gold.
Whatever the case, Rick Ratzlaff from Colorado, US, was willing to take a chance when he noticed a unit containing police car lights back in 2017.
Speaking to KKTV at the time, the Canon City resident said: “There was a lot of police lights off cop cars, and I wanted one.
“So I kept bidding on it until I got it.”
But Rick, who paid $50 (£40) for the stash ended up with a lot more than he bargained for.
As he dug through the content, he discovered shocking evidence from the unsolved 2006 murder of 17-year-old Candace Hiltz.
“I noticed envelopes that said ‘evidence’ on them,” he explained.
“At first I didn’t think it was that big until I started pulling out shell casings and hatchets… what really fazed me was when I pulled out bloody clothes.”
Alongside the evidence, Rick found a blood-stained rope.
“I learned it was a murder, it happened in 2006,” he said.
The death of Hiltz was initially investigated back in 2006 when the teen was found with fatal shot wounds at her family’s home in August that year.
Although her brother James Hiltz was a person of interest, he was never charged and the case went cold.
After calling the police, Rick said Fremont County Sheriff James Beicker came to collect the evidence.
What transpired is that the storage unit had previously been rented by Sheriff Lieutenant Detective Robert Dodd.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigations launched an inquiry to find out why Dodd had kept the evidence in personal storage rather than leaving it in police records, and the lieutenant was placed on administrative leave as the investigation continued.
Hiltz’s mother Dolores believed it was due to a cover up, telling reporters at the time: “[Dodd] had to steal the evidence from the basement of the sheriff’s office. He did that either to protect himself or someone else.”
Dolores went on to allege that five days before her daughter’s death, she had seen Hiltz engaged in an altercation with a police officer who had accused her brother of trespassing.
When she raised her voice, he allegedly threatened to arrest her before Hiltz accused him of accepting envelopes from drug dealers.
Three days after the interaction, which saw the cop eventually storm off, the Hiltz family dog was found killed and tied to a tree.
A couple of days later, Candace Hiltz, a mother of one, was also found dead.
Dolores believed officers intentionally covered up details about the case.
Ultimately, Dodd – the detective behind the storage unit – was found guilty of abuse of public records and two counts of second-degree official misconduct. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail.
But to this day, the Hiltz homicide remains unsolved and no one has been formally charged with the murder.