Colo. police arrest suspect in 1982 cold-case killings of 2 hitchhikers
The two women's bodies were found in the Rocky Mountains months apart
By Kieran Nicholson
The Denver Post
PARK COUNTY, Colo. — Authorities, including longtime investigators, held a news conference Wednesday afternoon about the recent arrest of a Colorado man suspected in the deaths of two young women, whose bodies were found near Breckenridge, in 1982.
Alan Lee Phillips, 70, of Clear Creek County, was arrested Feb. 24 for the deaths of Annette Schnee, 21, and Barbara "Bobbi Jo" Oberholtzer, 29, according to investigators.
Phillips is being held on suspicion of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of kidnapping, said Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw.
The two women worked in Breckenridge and were believed to be hitchhiking home, separately, when they were both abducted and shot on Jan. 6, 1982. Oberholtzer's body was found on the summit of Hoosier Pass the day after her disappearance. Schnee's body was found six months later in a rural area in Park County.
McGraw said he can't begin to fathom the pain and suffering that the victims' families have endured over the past 39 years, but with the arrest "their journey for justice has a much clearer path."
Jeff Oberholtzer, Bobbi Jo's husband, described the nearly four decades since the murder as a "hideous nightmare." Family members asked for privacy at this time, McGraw read statements from Oberholtzer and others. One family member said that she has "lived with a monster in my mind since I was 11 years old."
Charlie McCormick, a retired Denver police detective, has been working on the cold case since 1989.
"I've been trying to define my emotions and it's been hard to do," McCormick said at Wednesday's news conference. "I never thought I would see the day. It's been a long haul."
Investigators used DNA evidence to link Phillips as a suspect through "genetic genealogy," said Mitch Morrisey, a former Denver district attorney and co-founder of United Data Connect.
UDC, Denver Metro Crime Stoppers, the CBI and the FBI joined local investigators in Park and Clear Creek counties in identifying Phillips as a suspect.
McGraw described Phillips as a retired mechanic who has lived in different Colorado locations over the years. The suspect was arrested in a planned traffic stop, without incident, handcuffed and taken to jail. Phillips had been under surveillance at the time of his arrest.
"I'm not shocked he was still around," McGraw said. "It happens, I was not surprised."
Park County Sheriff's Sgt. Wendy Kipple has also worked on the case for years. "It's a relief to have this done, have an arrest, and give closure to the families," she said. "These cases get into you and you can't let them go."
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