It was Jan. 6, 1982, a bitter cold evening with blizzard-like conditions, when two girls hitchhikers vanished from the popular ski resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado, and ended up later uncovered shot to dying.
Even even though the women—29-calendar year-old Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer and 21-12 months-previous Annette Schnee—disappeared on the identical working day, their scenarios have been not linked until eventually Annette’s entire body was found six months later. She was carrying an orange sock—a recent Christmas existing from her mom. Investigators had found her other orange sock in close proximity to the entire body of Bobbie Jo, and they knew then that the women of all ages almost definitely have been killed by the similar individual.
But for almost 40 decades, the identification of their killer puzzled police, even though he was in their grasp the evening of the murders. It was only when the killer was recognized many years later that investigators discovered the bitter truth.
On the night of the murders, authorities experienced released an all-out exertion to rescue a local miner,, whose truck became trapped in a raging snowstorm. It would be decades right before police realized Phillips experienced, only several hours just before the rescue, killed Bobbie Jo and Annette.
Aspects of Phillips’ rescue and his crimes had been disclosed for the duration of his trial this year, the place he was convicted of two counts of very first-diploma murder and other fees.
Some recall that the climate on the night time of the murders was brutal, with temperatures plunging to negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit. When Phillips’ truck got stuck in a snowdrift on a mountain move, he commenced using his truck’s headlights to sign SOS in morse code. Incredibly, a sheriff traveling overhead on a professional jetliner noticed the sign by the slipping snow and alerted the crew, who radioed down to dispatch at the sheriff’s business office.
Dave Montoya, a local fireplace main, read the contact and available to push up the move. When he arrived, he was met with a common experience. He had labored together with Phillips in the mines. And on Phillips’ deal with, Montoya remembers, was a notable bruise. He instructed Montoya he received it when he fell whilst wandering all-around in the snow.
Law enforcement now think that Phillips obtained the bruise when Oberholtzer strike him in the deal with with a particular brass vital ring built by her husband, Jeff. He particularly designed it for her in case she at any time encountered hassle even though hitchhiking.
Partly because investigators did not feel Jeff Oberholtzer had a stable alibi, he grew to become a suspect in his wife’s murder.
“48 Hours” contributorinterviewed Oberholtzer, and highlights the 40-calendar year journey to deliver Phillips to justice in “Final Found in Breckenridge” airing Saturday, Nov. 19, at 10/9c on CBS, and streaming on Paramount+.
“To dwell beneath this cloud of suspicion for as extended as you did, what did that do to you?” Morales asked Oberholtzer on locale in Colorado.
Jeff Oberholtzer ongoing to reside in the location even immediately after his wife was murdered.
“It was extremely painful,” he replied. “Becoming under suspicion from not only the authorities, but also getting tried using in the court docket of general public feeling. Folks failed to want a suspected murderer in their dwelling.”
It would get a extensive time for the full story to unravel, but Oberholtzer was at some point cleared.
As it turned out, Phillips’ very first victim that January day was Annette Schnee, a housekeeper at a community Holiday getaway Inn. Just after Annette left do the job, she frequented a doctor and then hitchhiked to a drug retail outlet in Breckenridge afterwards that afternoon. Hitchhiking was extremely frequent in the mountain towns again in the 1980s. Annette received some medication at the drug retail store and was not seen soon after 4:45 pm that working day.
Authorities now consider Phillips picked up Annette in his truck.
A number of hours later on, at about 7:50 pm, Oberholtzer disappeared. Oberholtzer was at a pub that evening with a couple friends, and at 6:21 p.m., she referred to as her spouse, Jeff.
“She said she’d be household rather soon … she reported she experienced a journey,” Jeff told “48 Hrs.”
Jeff reported he fell asleep observing Television. When he woke up all-around midnight, and Bobbie Jo was nonetheless not household, he felt some thing was terribly incorrect. He stated he went out wanting for her, and experimented with to report her missing. Breckenridge law enforcement instructed him they could not do anything at all for 24 hours, so he returned property.
Just several hours later, Jeff said he gained a simply call from a rancher in the spot, who claimed he had located Bobbie Jo’s license on his property. Jeff rushed more than and, on his way, he reported he noticed Bobbie Jo’s unique blue backpack on the side of the road and stopped to retrieve it. He reported he also discovered two items: Bobbie Jo’s suitable glove, and a tissue, both of which had traces of blood.
No one particular understood it then, but a long time later, individuals traces of blood would direct instantly to Phillips. Law enforcement have usually credited Bobbie Jo with combating back adequate to attract that blood.
The up coming working day, Jan. 7, concerned friends fashioned a research get together and went out on skis on the lookout for Bobbie Jo. All-around 3 pm that afternoon, they located her body in a snowbank in which Phillips experienced shot and killed her.
Jim Hardtke, then an agent for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), reported Bobbie Jo was entirely clothed, and an autopsy would later on reveal she was not sexually assaulted. A pair of zip ties have been on a single of her wrists. Not far away was that specific critical chain designed by Jeff.
There was one more item observed not significantly from Bobbie Jo’s body—an orange sock or bootie. It appeared to have no immediate connection to the crime scene, or at least none that was readily apparent, in accordance to Hardtke.
“It was just 1 of individuals mysterious things that you select up at a criminal offense scene that you hold right until you know what it is or will never ever come across out,” Hardtke said.
A single of the many twists in the situation is that, at that issue, authorities did not nevertheless know that Schnee was missing. They had hardly ever even listened to her identify.
It was not right until two days later—on Jan. 8 — that a co-employee of Annette’s referred to as Frisco police to report that Schnee had not appear to get the job done at the Vacation Inn for two days. That was incredibly not like Annette, explained her sister Cindy French.
Police traced Schnee’s actions to the drug store in Breckenridge, but there her path vanished. She appeared to have basically disappeared.
“Mom would just say, ‘I just wanna know why, how,'” French remembers. “‘And nobody can give it to me. No one is familiar with why or how.'”
But on July 3, 1982—nearly 6 months just after Schnee was previous seen alive—a young boy out fishing arrived upon her system in a stream, about 23 miles from wherever she was past found in Breckenridge. Agent Hardtke attended the autopsy. No bullet was recovered, but forensics confirmed that Annette was shot in the back as she was functioning downhill toward that stream, authorities stated.
Hardtke suspected Annette experienced been sexually assaulted, but it was extremely hard to notify given the total of time her physique had been in the stream. Hardtke based mostly his assumption about the sexual assault on the state of Annette’s apparel. The zipper on her denims was damaged and her sneakers were being on the erroneous toes.
In the course of the autopsy, Hardtke spotted anything that would endlessly adjust the investigation.
“On her remaining foot, I discovered an orange bootie,” he mentioned. “And in my head, I am remembering the orange bootie that was uncovered at the leading of Hoosier Pass…very shut to where by Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer’s physique was found…so it tied the two with each other.”
As Hardtke told “48 Hrs,” “Holy s***, this is amazing. This ties…the circumstances alongside one another.”
In piecing with each other the timeline of events the working day of the murders, detectives considered that Phillips 1st picked Schnee up hitchhiking, assaulted and killed her. Through that assault, Schnee lost her orange bootie in Phillips’ truck. Later on that day, law enforcement imagine Phillips picked up Oberholtzer hitchhiking and attempted to assault her as nicely.
Detectives believe that that when Oberholtzer fought back again and jumped from his truck, she kicked out the orange bootie remaining there by Annette.
The orange socks/booties confident law enforcement that they had been wanting for a killer, but Phillips’ id remained concealed for decades. In early 2020, Park County Detective Sgt. Wendy Kipple listened to about something identified as genetic genealogy, in which specifically skilled genealogists upload a DNA sample from a crime scene via publicly readily available DNA databases.
Kipple submitted the DNA from the blood gathered in connection with the Oberholtzer murder to United Information Connect, a genetic genealogy enterprise found in Denver.
“On Jan. 9, 2021, I get a cellphone phone from the genealogist, and he claims, ‘I have two more names for you.'”
“And what were the two names you were provided?” Morales asked Kipple.
“Alan Phillips and Bruce Phillips,” replied Kipple.
“And Bruce Phillips was the brother that hardly ever lived below, failed to have any ties to Colorado. And what did you study about Alan Phillips?” Morales requested.
“Alan Phillips nonetheless lived nearby,” Kipple mentioned. “He had labored below in, in the mine, Henderson mine, for decades he labored there. He experienced his have mechanic shop. And he was even now here.”
As it turned out, he was the person authorities had rescued that very long back night in a snowstorm, the gentleman with the significant bruise on his face. But it took almost 40 several years to link that rescue sufferer to the male who killed Annette Schnee and Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer.
On Nov. 7 of this year, Phillips was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the likelihood of parole.