Convicted Killer Ralph Candelario: Case of Missing 1st Wife Reopened

An image of Dena Candelario from a recent Dateline NBC report. Additional images and a video below.
An image of Dena Candelario from a recent Dateline NBC report. Additional images and a video below.

In recent months, we've been reporting about Ralph Candelario, who was convicted of killing his wife, Pam Candelario, in Walsenburg after initially claiming that she was slain by intruders who also injured him.

The Candelario case was featured this past Friday on Dateline NBC — and the impact of that national exposure is definitely being felt.

Turns out Candelario's first wife, Dena Candelario, has been missing since 2004 — and now, investigators are reportedly reopening the investigation into her case.

A quick recap of the Pam Candelario killing from our previous coverage:

As is made clear by a January 2014 report by KRDO-TV we noted in our previous coverage, authorities in Walsenburg originally bought Ralph's intruder story — or at least didn't openly contradict it during the early stages of the investigation.

The station noted that police arrived at the Candelarios' home, located at the intersection of West Third and Hendren streets in Walsenburg, at around 7 a.m. on January 15.

Ralph Candelario.
Ralph Candelario.
Booking photo via The Signature

The call had been prompted by Ralph's cries for help from the sidewalk in front of the couple's residence.

Pam was found dead inside the house.

At first investigators thought a shooting had taken place.

Only later did they learn that Pam had been bludgeoned to death.

KRDO reported that the Candelarios weren't supposed to be home at the time of the killing. An acquaintance told the outlet that they were supposed to catch a flight to Oregon, but it was delayed.

So they returned home, and during the wee hours of the morning on the 15th, Ralph said two men entered the home and stayed for hours. By the time he was able to escape, Pam was dead, he maintained.

Neighbors were terrified at the idea of homicidal strangers on the loose; one told KRDO she slept with a gun the night after the killing. And Ralph attempted to reinforce his account in a rambling letter originally shared with a local newspaper, the Huerfano World Journal. Read it below.

Ralph and Pam Candelario.
Ralph and Pam Candelario.

Eventually, though, prosecutors came to believe that Ralph had committed the crime and concocted the story as a cover — and a jury agreed.

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Ralph was supposed to be sentenced on March 15, but the hearing was reportedly delayed a day by a suicide attempt. Candelario tried to slash himself using a disposable razor.

On March 16, however, he appeared in court, where he learned that he would spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Dateline NBC report detailed these developments — but it also touched on the mysterious disappearance of Dena twelve years ago, when she and Ralph were living in Pueblo. Among those interviewed was Dena's son, Aaron, who talks about his mom in a clip from the show on view below.

Now, according to the Pueblo Chieftain, the Pueblo Police Department is taking a fresh look into Dena's disappearance.

A CBS4 graphic featuring a photo of Lynn Henthorn.
A CBS4 graphic featuring a photo of Lynn Henthorn.

This development recalls the story of another notorious convicted Colorado killer: Harold Henthorn, who was convicted of killing his second wife, Dr. Toni Henthorn. However, his first wife, Lynn Henthorn, was killed in what was officially ruled an accident.

U.S. Attorney John Walsh's account notes that Lynn "died from injuries sustained from being crushed by a car while he was changing a tire in a remote location. The car allegedly came off the jack as he was throwing the tire in the trunk, crushing his wife, who was under the car for unknown reasons. There were no witnesses other than Harold Henthorn and a life insurance policy on her had been taken out several months prior."

After Harold was arrested for Toni's death, the investigation about Lynn's passing was reopened — though no new charges have been pressed thus far.

It's too soon to tell if things play out differently with Ralph Candelario. But the increased scrutiny on him is giving new life to an investigation that has lain dormant for years.

Here's a Dateline NBC clip focusing on Dena Candelario.


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