Who Killed Candy?
by Robert A. Waters
It’s been 40 years since Candace Clothier was murdered. The case is as much a mystery today as it was back in 1968 when the pretty sixteen-year-old went missing. My good friend Todd Matthews came across this case when he was researching the “Tent Girl” mystery which he later solved. For a while, investigators thought the two murders might be linked but no evidence was ever found to support that conclusion. [Photo of Candace Clothier]
Candy, as she was known to her friends, left her home in the Torresdale section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the evening of March 9, 1968. She was five feet tall and weighed 116 pounds. On that blustery evening, the dark-eyed high school student wore olive-green slacks, a gold-yellow sweater, and a tan jacket with a black fur-trimmed hood. She had only a dollar in her pocket which she intended to use for bus fare. She planned to hang out for a couple of hours with her boyfriend who worked at a filling station in nearby Mayfair.
When she didn’t return home that night, her father contacted police. Elmer Clothier was a well-respected city fireman. A story in the Philadelphia Inquirer stated that Candy was “from a good family and had been doing well in school. Her parents said she had no reason to run away.”
In the first days, 150 police officers, including 100 recruits, searched a five square mile radius near her home. A reporter for the Inquirer wrote: “As [searchers] worked their way through the largely wooded area, a State Police helicopter circled overhead trying to find traces of the girl. Aiding were 13 police dogs and handlers.” A communications truck was stationed nearby and cops used walkie-talkies to communicate. Unfortunately, nothing of importance was found.
Then, on April 14, three fishermen noticed a burlap sack that had washed up on an island in Neshaminy Creek. It was in a rural area of Northampton township in Bucks County, a few miles north of Philadelphia. When the curious fishermen opened the bag they found a body. According to newspaper reports, the bag resembled a mail sack and was tied around the neck of the body.
When Elmer Clothier arrived at the morgue to identify his daughter, he had to be sedated. Within three months, the 49-year-old firefighter would die of “natural causes” while on the job. Although most of her clothing was missing, the pitiful remains of Candy were identified through her yellow sweater and a ring. Later, her dentist confirmed the match.
Northampton township Police Chief Anthony Fergione took charge of the investigation. He announced that the body had probably been thrown or dropped from Chain Bridge and floated downstream where it lodged on the bank of the island. Fergione ordered dive teams to search the creek which was about eight feet deep. Police searched the area surrounding the creek and found Candy’s bra between Chain Bridge and Worthington Mill Bridge. No other evidence was located.
David E. Bassert, M. D., performed the autopsy. “This examiner began his investigations at 3:15 P. M.,” Bassert wrote. “By that time, police had removed the bag in which the body is reported to have been encased and the stocking-like cap which had been over her head, and her underpants. Also retrieved was a yellow sweater...” Although he found fractures of the fourth right rib, collarbone, and hyoid bone, Bassert concluded they occurred after death. Candy had no fluid in the lungs, meaning she did not drown. His conclusion was that “no definite anatomical cause of death is recognized.” He could not tell if she had been sexually assaulted although there seemed no other reason for the crime.
Even though her death was “undetermined,” it was obvious to all that the teenager had been murdered.
Police interrogated her boyfriend. He insisted that Candy had never shown up. Since he was working, he was never considered a serious suspect. Investigators also spoke to all bus drivers who were working that evening. None recalled seeing anyone who resembled Candy. Cops concluded that she was probably abducted before making it to the bus stop, possibly in the parking lot of a grocery store she would have had to cross to get there.
Chief Fergione and his investigators interviewed more than 1,000 people and polygraphed at least eighty of them. But he never developed a suspect. Then he learned about the “Tent Girl.” In 1968, the body of an unknown girl had been found off a desolate highway near Georgetown, Kentucky. She was wrapped like a cocoon and tied in a canvas bag used by carnivals for storing tents—-hence the nickname “tent girl.” Cops estimated she was 16-19 years old. Despite their dedicated efforts, she remained unidentified.
Chief Fergione used his vacation to drive to Kentucky to compare notes. There were so many similarities between the Tent Girl and Candy Clothier that he became convinced that the cases were somehow related. “Autopsy findings were the same in both cases,” he said. “[There was] no cause of death. Both showed a slight discoloration of the skin covering the skull in the same spot on the right side. Both bodies were wrapped in cloth bags, tied with lengths of rope from top to bottom, and the feet tucked under the torso.”
Thirty years later, Todd Matthews would solve the Tent Girl case. The unknown girl was identified as Barbara Hackman-Taylor, the wife of an itinerant carnival worker named Earl Taylor. Investigators determined that he likely murdered his wife because she planned to leave him.
Here are a few questions that need to be answered:
Was Earl Taylor anywhere near Philadelphia on the day of Candace Clothier’s disappearance? Can he be linked to a carnival in the area?
Were any of Candy’s old classmates later convicted of serious violent crimes?
Was anyone in her neighborhood later convicted of a violent crime?
Were there similar murders in the area during that time? It so, were those murders solved or unsolved?
Was a foreign hair found in her hand? It has been reported that police found several hairs in her hand. All belonged to Candy except one. (This is not mentioned in the coroner’s report.) If there was a foreign hair, is it available for DNA testing?
If anyone has additional information about this case, please contact me. I would also invite readers to check out the new Discovery Channel true crime blog hosted by Todd Matthews. It promises to be a dynamite blog that focuses on unsolved murders and unidentified victims.