The Murders of Barbara Jo Oberholzer & Annette Schnee
Barbara Jo Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee were both murdered at separate locations on January 6, 1982, just outside of Breckenridge, Colorado. Both murder cases remained unsolved until an arrest was made on February 24, 2021. Genetic genealogy and DNA comparisons linked both victims to a local Dumont Colorado resident, Alan Lee Phillips. Phillips was 70 years-old at the time of his arrest.
Barbara Jo Oberholtzer
Barbara Jo Oberholtzer, 29, was described as 5’3, 100 lbs., with strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes.
Oberholtzer had been hitchhiking south of Breckenridge, CO. She was last seen at 7:50 p.m. on January 6, 1982, as she was leaving the Village Pub after having met friends for drinks. When she didn’t arrive home, her husband and friends began looking for her. She was discovered at 3:00 p.m. the following day, 10 miles south of Breckenridge. She was found lying on her back, approximately 20 feet down a snowy embankment, on Colorado State Highway 9. The spot where she was discovered was approximately 300 feet from the small parking lot that is at the 11,000 ft summit of Hoosier Pass. Investigators estimated that it had been dark, freezing, and possibly snowing at the time of her death. The medical examiner determined her cause of death was because of a gunshot wound to her chest with a.38/.357 hanThe dgun. A second bullet graze was found on her right breast. Investigators determined that she had been shot at the scene where her body had been found. Also found on her body was an orange-colored bootie sock, trace blood on one of her winter gloves, and a keychain laying on the ground.
Oberholtzer’s purse was found 20 miles south of her body, on US Highway 285, heading toward Denver. Investigators have never found the weapon. Due to the weather, no further clues were found.
Annette Kay Schnee
Annette Kay Schnee was described as 5’3″, 102 lbs., with brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen hitchhiking south of Breckenridge, CO, at around 4:45 p.m. on January 6, 1982, after having left a local pharmacy. The manager of the Holiday Inn, where she worked, reported her missing when she didn’t show up for work the next day. Her body was discovered 6 months later on July 3, 1983, approximately 20 miles south of Breckenridge, CO. A 13-year-old boy found Schnee was lying face down in the cold Sacramento Creek, which helped to preserve her remains. Investigators noted she had clothes on, but they were disheveled. The medical examiner determined her cause of death as a gunshot wound to her back by a.38/.357/9mm handgun, yet no bullet was found. Investigators also found an out-of-place orange colored bootie sock with her remains.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent Jim Hardtke quickly noticed the similarities between Oberholtzer and Schnee. Although the women did not know each other, both women were last seen hitchhiking on the same day. They both died from a gunshot from a similar weapon in a very rural mountain setting, and both crime scenes had an out-of-place orange colored bootie sock. Investigators preserved all DNA trace evidence. There were few additional clues in either women’s murders, which caused both cases to grow cold. Retired Homicide Detective turned Private Investigator, Charles McCormick, began working the case in 1989. Multi-agencies worked the case for 39 years until the most unlikely details of another incident on that same night were linked to the victims.
Alan Lee Phillips
On the night of January 6, 1982, Jefferson County Colorado Sheriff’s Deputy, Harold E. Bray, had just started his short United Airlines flight from Denver, CO to San Francisco, CA. As the plane passed over the closed 11,665 ft. Guanella Pass, Bray noticed a stranded motorist using its headlights to tap out “SOS” in morse code. He informed the flight staff, which contacted air traffic control. Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department and county emergency services were dispatched. Phillips was discovered sitting in his small pickup near the summit in -20 degree weather. He had no chains on his truck tires and had slid into snow drifts on the closed pass.
Phillips explained that he had gotten drunk at a friend’s house and had attempted to drive home over the pass. He had told rescuers that at the time, it seemed like a good idea. Phillips had also stated that he had walked to an area ski resort but decided that it was way too cold to continue on, so he returned to his pickup. He had a large bruise on his face. He explained he had gotten the injury when he went to relieve himself and had slipped in the snow and hit his head on the bumper of his pickup. His dramatic rescue made national news. It was reported as being a remarkable rescue and how lucky he had been at the time of his rescue.
Phillips, 30-years-old at the time of his rescue, was a local resident of Dumont, CO. He remained in the area for the next 39 years. He became a father to three children and continued his career as a mining equipment mechanic.
The DNA evidence that had been carefully preserved in 1982 was entered into a public genealogy database and after several years of investigation, detectives were able to make a familial DNA match. To confirm the genetic link of evidence, investigators collected a napkin that had been discarded by Phillips in a public trashcan. Genetic researchers compared the DNA from the crime scenes to the DNA sample from the napkin and they found it to be a genetic match. This is one of the several cases that the Metro Denver Crime Stoppers in partnership with United Data Connect, have assisted with the funding in using genetic genealogy.
On February 24, 2021, police started a traffic stop and arrested Phillips. Prosecutors charged him with two counts, each of murder with deliberation, first-degree kidnapping, and first-degree assault with a deadly weapon in the deaths of Barbara Jo Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee.
The courts held Phillips arraignment in September 2021. His trial is pending.
The press conference held by the Park County Colorado Sheriff’s Office regarding Alan Lee Phillips’s arrest can be found here.