The same day that Annette Schnee and Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer went missing from Breckenridge, Colorado, a man is rescued on a mountain pass. Decades later, police tie him to their murders.
Jeff Oberholtzer told “48 Hours” he knew something was horribly wrong when his wife, Bobbie Jo, didn’t come home the night of Jan. 6, 1982. The next day, he found some of her belongings, including a bloody glove and a tissue, strewn on the side of a highway outside of Breckenridge, Colorado, not far from where they lived.
At the time, no one knew the DNA from this evidence would be critical to solving the mystery of her death — and that of another young woman – almost 40 years later.
Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer goes missing
Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer was a free-spirited 29-year-old who had recently moved to Colorado. She and her husband Jeff settled in the town of Alma, around 30 minutes south of the popular ski resort of Breckenridge.
On the evening of Jan. 6, 1982, Bobbie Jo called Jeff, saying she was out for drinks with friends in Breckenridge and would be home soon. Bobbie Jo frequently hitchhiked, as did many people at that time, and told Jeff she would get a ride. But she seemingly vanished around 7:50 p.m. after leaving a local pub
When she didn’t make it home, Jeff went to the police, but was told it was too soon to file a missing person’s report.
Alarming items found at a ranch
The next morning, a rancher rang Jeff and told him that he found Bobbie Jo’s driver’s license and some of her other items in his driveway. Jeff headed to the ranch and, on the way, found Bobbie Jo’s backpack, and that bloody glove and tissue in the snow.
A group of friends then set out to search for Bobbie Jo on the snow-covered Hoosier Pass, between Breckenridge and Alma. Bobbie Jo usually took this route home.
A gruesome discovery
The group of friends, on cross-country skis, found Bobbie Jo’s lifeless body lying off the road, on the side of a snowbank on Hoosier Pass, about 10 miles outside of Breckenridge, where she was last seen.
This photo is of investigators at the crime scene after the body was discovered.
Zip ties indicate a brutal murder
Investigators say Bobbie Jo’s body was frozen due to the frigid temperatures. Her hands were close together with zip ties around her left wrist.
Evidence of bullet wounds
Investigators believed Bobbie Jo was shot at close range in the chest, and that she had been trying to escape her attacker.
A mysterious item was found at the crime scene
In the parking lot of Hoosier Pass, not far from Bobbie Jo Oberholzer’s body, lay a sole orange bootie sock.
“It didn’t belong … It didn’t fit anything connected to Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer,” then Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Jim Hardtke told “48 Hours.” “It was just one of those mysterious things that you pick up at a crime scene.”
A key hook for self-defense
Also found in the parking lot was a large brass hook key ring that Jeff Oberholtzer made for Bobbie Jo to use if she ever needed to defend herself.
A second woman is reported missing
On Jan. 8, the day after Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer’s body was discovered, a coworker of 21-year-old Annette Schnee reported her missing.
After establishing Annette’s final movements, investigators learned that she was last seen in Breckenridge around 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, just hours before Bobbie Jo went missing. Annette also often hitchhiked, one of the reasons investigators suspected the cases could be connected.
Annette’s body is discovered
Annette Schnee’s body was discovered on July 3, 1982, six months after her disappearance.
A young boy was fishing at Sacramento Creek about 23 miles outside Breckenridge when he came across Annette’s body fully clothed and face-down in the water.
Investigators believe Annette was shot in the back at a downward angle and may have been on her knees or running downhill away from the shooter.
Evidence of sexual assault
While authorities found no physical evidence, Annette was sexually assaulted, and her clothing was in disarray. The zipper on her blue jeans was broken and her shoes were on the wrong feet when her body was found.
Orange bootie socks connect the cases
At Annette Schnee’s autopsy, former CBI Agent Jim Hardtke noticed Annette was wearing an orange bootie sock on her left foot, which appeared to match the one found at Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer’s crime scene.
“…I’m saying…this is amazing. This ties the cases together,” said Hardtke.
Investigators believe Annette lost one sock in the killer’s vehicle when she fled, and it remained there until hours later when he picked up Bobbie Jo, and it fell out when she escaped.
A major break nearly 40 years later
The murders of Annette Schnee and Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer mystified authorities for nearly 40 years. But over that time, advances in DNA allowed them to isolate an unknown male profile from the blood found on Bobbie Jo’s glove and the tissue.
In early 2020, Park County Detective Sergeant Wendy Kipple and her team took a chance and gave a sample of that unknown DNA to United Data Connect, a Denver-based company that runs DNA profiles through publicly available genealogical databases.
After a year, Kipple got a call about two possible matches: 69-year-old Alan Lee Phillips and his older brother, Bruce Phillips.
A new lead with a dark past
Det. Sgt. Kipple contacted Bruce Phillips, who said he never lived in Colorado, but his estranged brother Alan Lee Phillips did. Kipple discovered Alan Lee Phillips had been convicted of assault and burglary in 1973 — almost a decade before Bobby Jo and Annette went missing — and served six months behind bars.
The police report from that incident included this booking photo of the then-22-year-old Phillips, and his signed confession. In the confession, Phillips admitted to picking up a woman who was hitchhiking in Breckenridge and physically assaulting her by an empty cabin.
A Sonic Drive-In bag becomes important evidence
After digging deeper into Alan Lee Phillips’s background, Det. Sgt. Kipple and her team were convinced he was the man who murdered Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee. But they needed proof, so they set out to secretly obtain his DNA to see if it matched the blood found on Bobbie Jo’s belongings.
In late January 2021, they began covertly tailing Phillips and finally, after five weeks, they got a big break. When Phillips went to a Sonic Drive-In one day to grab some food, detectives were right there. Later that day, he discarded the bag in this post office trash can, near where he lived. Kipple and her team were there to retrieve it after he left. Phillips’s DNA was pulled from saliva on a napkin in the bag.
On Feb 23, 2021, the DNA results concluded it was Alan Phillip’s blood that was on Bobbie Jo’s glove and that tissue.
Later, DNA testing conducted on the orange bootie found near Bobbie Jo’s body, would confirm the murders were linked: Annette’s DNA was on the inside of the sock and Bobbie Jo’s DNA was on the outside.
A shocked Alan Lee Phillips arrested
On Feb. 24, 2021, Alan Lee Phillips was arrested for the women’s murders, during a traffic stop near his home. He was initially charged with two counts each of first-degree homicide, kidnapping and assault. He denied any involvement in the crimes.
In her interview with CBS News correspondent, Natalie Morales, Det. Sgt Wendy Kipple described how Phillips was “shocked” when she handcuffed him.
A bizarre twist
After Alan Lee Phillips’s arrest, a local fire chief recalled a strange incident, from the very same night Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee went missing back in 1982.
An airline passenger had spotted lights below flashing out an SOS call for help and reported it. In a raging snowstorm, a local fire chief drove up the mountain pass outside of Breckenridge, where he found Alan Lee Phillips, whose truck had gotten stuck in a snowdrift. The fire chief rescued Phillips, not knowing at the time Phillips killed two women hours earlier.
At the time, stories of Phillips’s rescue made the local newspapers. One even appeared adjacent to a story about Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer’s body being found.
Two consecutive life sentences
On September 15, 2022, a Park County jury found Alan Lee Phillips guilty of two counts each of first-degree murder, felony murder, and kidnapping. A little over seven weeks later, he was given two consecutive life sentences for the murders of Annette Schnee and Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer.
During the sentencing, Phillips’s lawyer told the court that his client maintained his innocence and has been wrongfully convicted.