Science

Officers inadvertently rescue a man from a snowdrift after 2 women were killed near Breckenridge, Colorado

It was a bitterly cold evening in blizzard-like conditions on January 6, 1982, when two female hitchhikers disappeared from the popular ski resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado, and were later found shot.

Even if women are 29 years old Bobby Joe Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee, 21 — disappeared the same day, their cases not connected until Annette’s body was discovered six months later. She was wearing an orange stocking – a recent Christmas present from her mother. Investigators found her other orange stockings near Bobbie Jo’s body, and they knew then that the women had almost certainly been killed by the same person.


“48 Hours” investigates the 1982 murder of two women near a resort ski town in Colorado

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But for nearly 40 years, the identity of his killer confused police, even though he was in their custody on the night of the murders. It was only decades later when the killer was identified that the investigators learned the bitter truth.

On the night of the murder, the authorities launched an all-out effort to rescue a local miner, allen lee phillipsWhose truck got stuck in a strong snow storm. It was decades before police realized that Phillips had killed Bobby Joe and Annette just hours before the rescue.

Details of Phillips’ defense and his crimes came to light during his trial this year, where he was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and other charges.

Some recall that the weather on the night of the murders was brutal, with temperatures plunging to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. When Phillips’ truck became stuck in the snow on a mountain pass, he began using his truck’s headlights to signal SOS in Morse code. Incredibly, a sheriff flying on a commercial jetliner saw the signal through the falling snow and alerted the crew, who radioed dispatch to the sheriff’s office.

Local fire chief Dave Montoya heard the call and offered to drive nearby. When he arrived, he found a familiar face. He worked with Phillips in the mines. And Phillips had a major bruise on his face, Montoya recalls. He told Montoya that he got it when he collapsed while fumbling around in the snow.

Police now believe that Phillips suffered the injury when Oberholtzer struck her in the face with a special brass key ring made by her husband, Jeff. He specially made it for her in case she ever faced trouble while hitchhiking.

Partly because investigators did not believe Jeff Oberholtzer had a solid alibi, he became a suspect in his wife’s murder.

“48 Hours” Contributor Natalie Morales Oberholtzer, and highlights the 40-year journey to bring Phillips to justice in “Last Seen in Breckenridge”.

“As long as you live under this cloud of suspicion, what have you done?” Morales asked Oberholtzer about the location in Colorado.

Jeff Oberholtzer continued to reside in the area after his wife’s murder.

“It was very painful,” she replied. “Not only being prosecuted under the suspicion of the authorities, but also in the court of public opinion. People didn’t want a suspected murderer in their home.”

It would take a long time to uncover the full story, but Oberholtzer was eventually cleared.

annette snow
annette snow

snow family


As it turned out later, Phillips’ first victim that January day was Annette Schnee, the housekeeper at a local Holiday Inn. After Annette left work, she visited a doctor and then went to a drugstore in Breckenridge later that afternoon. Hitchhiking was very common in hill towns in the 1980s. Annette got some drugs at the drugstore and didn’t show up until after 4:45 p.m. that day.

Authorities now believe that Phillips picked up Annette in his truck.

A few hours later, at around 7:50 pm, Oberholtzer disappeared. That night Oberholtzer was at a pub with some friends, and at 6:21 p.m., she called her husband, Jeff.

“She said she’d be home relatively soon … She said she had a ride,” Jeff told “48 Hours.”

bobby joe oberholtzer
bobby joe oberholtzer

Laurie Merlo


Jeff said he fell asleep watching TV. When he woke up around midnight, and Bobby who was still not home, he sensed that something was very wrong. He said that he had gone out looking for her, and tried to report her missing. Breckenridge police told him they could do nothing for 24 hours, so he returned home.

A few hours later, Jeff said he got a call from a cattle rancher in the area, who said he had a Bobby Joe’s license on his property. Jeff fled and, on his way back, said he saw Bobby Joe’s distinctive blue bag on the side of the road and stopped to retrieve it. He said he also found two things: Bobby Joe’s right glove and a tissue, both of which had traces of blood.

No one knew it then, but decades later, those traces of blood would lead directly to Phillips. The police have always credited Bobby Jo with putting up enough of a fight to draw that blood.

The next day, January 7, worried friends formed a search party and set out on skis in search of Bobby Jo. Around 3 o’clock that afternoon, they found her body in a snowbank where Phillips had shot and killed her.

Then-agent Jim Hardtke of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) stated that Bobby Joe was fully clothed, and that a later autopsy would reveal that he had not been sexually assaulted. He had a pair of zip ties on one wrist. Not far away was that special keychain Jeff had made.

Another object was found near Bobby Jo’s body – an orange sock or bootie. There appears to be no direct connection to the crime scene, or at least none that is readily apparent according to Hardtke.

Hardtke said, “It was one of those mysterious things you pick up at a crime scene that you keep until you don’t know what it is or will never find out.”

One of the many twists in the case is that at the time, authorities did not yet know Schnee was missing. He had never even heard his name.

Two days later – on January 8 – a co-worker of Annette’s called the Frisco police to report that Schnee had not turned up for work at the Holiday Inn for two days. It was the exact opposite of Annette, said her sister, Cindy French.

Police traced Schnee’s movements to the drugstore in Breckenridge, but there his trail disappeared. It was as if she simply disappeared.

“Mom would just say, ‘I just want to know why, how,'” French recalls. “‘And no one can give it to me. No one knows why or how.'”

But on July 3, 1982 – nearly six months after Schnee was last seen alive – a young boy who went fishing came across her body in a stream about 23 miles from where she was last seen in Breckenridge . Agent Hardtke participated in the autopsy. Authorities stated that no bullet had been recovered, but forensics showed that Annette had been shot in the back as she was running downhill toward that stream.

Hardtke suspected that Annette had been sexually assaulted, but found it impossible to tell how long her body had been in the stream. Hardtke based his assumption of sexual assault on the state of Annette’s clothing. The zip of his jeans was torn and his shoes were on the wrong feet.

Got Booty Sock With Annette Schnee
Even though Bobby Joe Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee disappeared on the same day, their cases were not connected until the discovery of Annette’s body six months later. In the picture, he was wearing an orange stocking. Investigators found her other orange stockings near Bobbie Jo’s body, and they knew then that the women had almost certainly been killed by the same person.

evidence


During the autopsy, Hardtke witnessed something that would change the investigation forever.

“On her left foot, I saw an orange bootie,” he said. “And in my mind, I’m remembering the orange bootie that was found at the top of Hoosier Pass … very close to where Bobby Oberholtzer’s body was found … so it tied the two together. “

As Hardtke told “48 Hours,” “Holy s***, it’s amazing. This connection… ties things together.”

Piecing together the timing of events on the day of the murders, detectives believed that Phillips first picked up Schnee while she was hitchhiking, assaulted and killed her. During that attack, Schnee loses her orange bootie to Phillips’ truck. Later that day, police believe Phillips picked up Oberholtzer as a hitchhiker and attempted to assault her as well.

Detectives believe that when Oberholtzer fought back and jumped out of his truck, he kicked an orange bootie that had been left there by Annette.

The orange socks/shoes convinced the police that they were looking for a killer, but Phillips’ identity remained hidden for decades. In early 2020, Park County Detective Sgt. Wendy Kippel heard about something called genetic genealogy, in which specially trained genealogists upload a DNA sample from a crime scene through publicly available DNA databases.

Kippel submitted DNA from blood collected in connection with the Oberholtzer murder to United Data Connect, a genetic genealogy company based in Denver.

“On January 9th, 2021, I got a call from the genealogist and he said, ‘I have two more names for you.'”

“And what two names were you given?” Morales asked Kipple.

“Alan Phillips and Bruce Phillips,” replied Kipple.

“And Bruce Phillips was the brother who never lived here, who had no ties to Colorado. And what did you learn about Allen Phillips?” Morales asked.

“Alan Phillips still lived nearby,” said Kippel. “He worked here at the Henderson mine, for decades he worked there. He had his own mechanic shop. And he’s still here.”

Arrest of Allen Lee Phillips
Alan Lee Phillips was arrested and charged with the murders in February 2021 – nearly four decades after the murders.

Park County Sheriff’s Office


As it turned out later, he was the same person the authorities had rescued in a blizzard long ago, the man with a major facial injury. But it took nearly 40 years to connect that rescue victim to the man who killed Annette Schnee and Bobby Joe Oberholtzer.

On 7 November this year, Phillips was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

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