Arrest Made in 1982 Breckenridge Cold Case

Annette Schnee and Barbara Oberholtzer
Annette Schnee and Barbara Oberholtzer, pictured above, were not seen hitchhiking together but went missing on the same day near Breckenridge and are suspected to have been killed by the same individual. / COLORADO BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION

Colorado authorities last month announced an arrest in the 1982 killings of Annette Schnee and Barbara Oberholtzer in Breckenridge. Alan Phillips was arrested Feb. 24 and charged with the murders after investigators identified him through genetic genealogy software. 

On Jan. 6, 1982, Oberholtzer and Schnee were last seen hitchhiking separately near Breckenridge and both went missing the same day. Oberholtzer was found by police the next day, just outside of town, dead from gunshot wounds and with her house keys and an orange sock that didn’t appear to belong to her. Schnee’s body was found six months later in a creek more than 10 miles away and also dead from gunshot wounds. Investigators found a single orange sock on Schnee and linked the two cases quickly.  

Police were initially suspicious of Oberholtzer’s husband for the crimes because he later found her backpack abandoned in a field and knew both women, but he insisted he had an alibi. Investigators moved on from him as a suspect in the early 1990s after blood found near Oberholtzer’s body and on tissues in her backpack was determined to belong to an unidentified male. 

Over the following four decades, investigators had few leads on suspects after ruling out Oberholtzer’s spouse, but Schnee’s family contracted a private investigator who stayed on the case for decades according to a March 3 article from Oxygen. Charlie McCormick charged the family just $1 a year for decades while he worked closely with Summit County Detective Richard Eaton to pursue any leads possible, according to Oxygen. 

Park County Detective Sergeant Wendy Kipple and McCormick had both been working on the case since 1989, according to a March 2 article from 9News. Both investigators expressed relief after the arrest in a late-February news conference. 

Phillips was arrested without incident during a traffic stop and he is being held at the Park County Jail without bail according to 9News.

This article appeared in the March 22 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read other articles from that issue, order a copy online. Subscribers can request a digital PDF of the issue.

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