Investigators say a pair of orange bootie socks, a glove and a rescue in the middle of a snowstorm on Guanella Pass helped them link Alan Lee Phillips to the slayings of two women outside Breckenridge on a winter night in 1982.
Phillips, 70, was arrested in February on suspicion of the killings nearly 40 years ago of Barbara Jo Oberholtzer, 29, and Annette Schnee, 21.
Oberholtzer had last been seen leaving the Village Pub shortly before 8 p.m. Jan. 6 after having drinks with friends, planning to hitchhike home.
According to testimony given Monday at a preliminary hearing for Phillips, Oberholtzer had a couple of main rules she went by when hitchhiking: She wouldn’t get into cars with two men, and she was wary of vans, in which she could be easily concealed.
But she never made it home that night, and Oberholtzer’s husband and friends went looking for her. Oberholtzer’s body was found the next day, Jan. 7, down an embankment of snow off the highway to Hoosier Pass. She had bled out from gunshot wounds.
Schnee worked at the Holiday Inn in Frisco and part-time as a waitress at Flip Side, a bar. She had last left a pharmacy in Breckenridge, and investigators assumed she meant to hitchhike home afterward as she often did. Her supervisor at the hotel reported her missing when she didn’t show up for her shift the morning after she disappeared.
A 13-year-old boy found her body while fishing on July 3 in Sacramento Creek in rural Park County. She had been shot in the back.
The similarities between the cases led investigators to believe they were related once they learned two women had gone missing, according to testimony from former Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent Jim Hardtke: Two young women hitchhikers who went missing on the same night and were both found shot to death in remote locations outside Breckenridge.
But the lightbulb moment for him that appeared to definitively link the two women’s deaths came when he saw an orange bootie sock on Schnee’s body — which appeared to be a match to one found at the scene where Oberholtzer’s body was discovered.
“In my mind I’d seen the orange bootie that was found on the top of Hoosier Pass where Oberholtzer’s body was, and it appeared to be a match to it — and it was light,” Hardtke said.
Despite living in Colorado since 1982, Phillips evaded authorities for 39 years. The same night the women went missing, Phillips got stranded on Guanella Pass and was rescued when he sent a distress signal using his headlights.
The court also heard Monday from Sgt. Wendy Kipple, a Park County sheriff’s office detective, and Charles McCormick, who began working on the case as a private investigator in 1989. Witnesses who testified Monday said they eventually developed a DNA profile from a bloodstained glove and tissue found near the scene of Oberholtzer’s body.
Though the DNA trail went cold for decades, eventually it was linked to DNA found on a paper napkin thrown away at a post office by Phillips in February 2021 after they began surveilling him.
The preliminary proceedings will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.