Man convicted in 1982 murder of Breckenridge hitchhikers gets two consecutive life sentences
A Park County judge handed down two consecutive life sentences to the man found guilty of kidnap and first-degree murder related to two hitchhikers who disappeared from Breckenridge in 1982.
Barbara Oberholtzer, 29, was found dead on Jan. 7, 1982, near Hoosier Pass with a bullet wound through her chest along with a zip tie around her left wrist. A tissue, bloody glove and her backpack were located 7 miles north of Fairplay.
Six months later, Annette Schnee, 21, was found a few miles away from the location of Oberholtzer’s body. Schnee’s body was discovered face down in Sacramento Creek in Park County with a gun shot wound through her back.
Both were reportedly hitchhiking separately from Breckenridge before their disappearance, and evidence in both cases included a pair of orange socks, one found on Schnee’s body and one found near Oberholtz’s body.
The case went from cold to active after United Data Connect, a Denver-based forensic genealogy service, identified two possible matches on Jan. 9, 2021 from the evidence — Phillips and his brother.
Phillips was monitored for nearly two months as investigators looked for DNA gleaned from napkins, food scraps and trash that Phillips may have discarded, according to past Summit Daily News reporting with lead investigator Wendy Kipple.
Kipple says DNA recovered form a Sonic bag in 2021 matched the DNA obtained from blood on Oberholtz’s glove. Oberholtz’s reportedly carried a “big brass hook” with her when hitchiking for self defense, and investigators say Phillips was found with a gash on his head when he was recovered after sending out an S.O.S. signal while stranded on Guanella Pass.
According to past reporting, officials emphasized the roles that Kipple and retired Denver homicide detective Charlie McCormick played in the case. Kipple, was involved in the case since 2013, and McCormick, a Breckenridge resident who serves as a special investigator for the Park County Sheriff’s Office, has been on the case since 1989.
Following Philips’ arrest, Oberholtzer’s husband, Jeff wrote a note that was read aloud at a press conference in March 2021.
“I pray that the arrest of Alan Phillips for the murder of my wife, Bobbie Jo, and Annette Schnee will finally, after all these decades, bring closure and peace to this hideous nightmare for myself along with all the lives he’s horribly affected by his actions,” Jeff Oberholtzer wrote. “I cannot thank enough all who never gave up the search for the truth. They are without doubt extremely dedicated and extraordinary individuals. Phillips is finally in the hands of the judicial system. May justice be served.”
According to the jury’s decision and judge’s motion, justice was served, bringing the 40-year-case to a close, pending any possible appeal from Phillips.
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