A former Sioux City woman’s shooting death ends in conviction 40 years later

Annette Schnee's murder mystery solved 40 years later.
Annette Schnee's murder mystery solved 40 years later.(Colorado District Attorneys' Office)
Published: Sep. 17, 2022 at 11:57 AM CDT
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PARK COUNTY, Colorado (KTIV) After more than 40 years and a two-and-a-half-week-long trial, Alan Phillips has been brought to justice in the murders of Annette Schnee and Bobbi Jo Oberholtzer, according to a news release from the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. All information below is attributed to the (CDAC)

Bobbi Jo Oberholtzer
Bobbi Jo Oberholtzer(Colorado District Attorneys' Council)

On a very snowy January 6, 1982, 21-year-old Annette Schnee formerly of Sioux City went missing while hitchhiking home from Breckenridge to Blue River. Later that night, 29-year-old Bobbi Jo Oberholtzer was hitchhiking home from Breckenridge to Alma when she disappeared.

Oberholtzer’s husband reported her missing and the next morning they discovered Bobbi Jo’s driver’s license and other ID cards, her blue backpack, an orange booty, wool glove, and tissue covered in blood. Later that afternoon, her body was found 400 feet from the top of Hoosier Pass, off the road, hidden by snowbanks. She had been shot twice. On July 3, 1982 a boy fishing outside Fairplay found Annette Schnee’s body. She had been shot once in the back. She was wearing an orange booty that matched the one from the Oberholtzer scene. The case went cold, but throughout the years it would be revisited many times.

The Schnee family hired Charlie McCormick who worked on it for decades and eventually he heard about United Data Connect, a forensic science company specializing in DNA work. Once involved, United Data Connect was able to extract DNA from some of the case evidence and match it through genealogy to two brothers. Only one of them, Alan Phillips, had lived in Colorado.

Investigators tested a DNA sample from some of his garbage and determined that he was a match. He was arrested, tested again, and the original DNA match was confirmed. More of Oberholtzer’s clothes from her death were tested and resulted in further DNA matches. Phillips, a miner and automobile mechanic, lived in the area the past four decades. He was arrested in early 2021. On March 22, 2021 Phillips was charged with three counts of First-Degree Murder and one count of Second-Degree Kidnapping for both victims.

The trial began on Aug. 29, 2022 in Park County District Court with 11th JD Deputy DA Mark Hurlbert and Deputy DA Stephanie Miller prosecuting the case. On Sep. 15, 2022, after five hours of deliberation, a jury convicted 71-year-old Phillips on all eight charges. He will be sentenced in November and faces life in prison. 11th Judicial District DA Linda Stanley said, “Bobbi Jo was a fighter and is a hero. She fought back and because of that we were able to get DNA evidence to convict Annette and Bobbi Jo’s killer after all this time.” “It is an incredible feeling to have justice after so long,” DDA Hurlbert said, “and to bring some closure to the families.”

Some of the victim’s families were able to see Phillips brought to justice including Schnee’s mother, brother, and two of her sisters as well. Also, one of Oberholtzer’s daughters and her husband, Jeff, who testified at the trial. Co-Counsel DDA Miller said, “This is not only closure for Jeff Oberholtzer, Bobbi Jo’s husband, to know what happened to his wife, but also a relief for him to have his name cleared after being named the main suspect for so long.” Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw is also thankful to bring this case to a close.

He credits the Park County Sheriff’s Office, 11th Judicial District Attorneys, CBI investigators and crime analysts and United Data Connect for all coming together to bring closure and justice in this case. DDA Hurlbert said this is a great reminder that cold cases are never closed, “This absolutely gives hope to people. This case being so old, this shows there’s no case that can’t be solved.” About CDAC The Colorado District Attorneys’ Council (CDAC) is a statewide organization representing the district attorneys for all 22 of Colorado’s judicial districts. CDAC promotes safe and healthy communities for all in Colorado through training of personnel, legislative drafting and liaison, legal research, management assistance, case tracking and dissemination of data to other criminal justice agencies.