Killer Saved From Snowstorm Sentenced for 2 Murders

Alan Lee Phillips killed hitchhiking women in Colorado
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2021 7:54 AM CDT
Updated Nov 7, 2022 5:20 PM CST
Famous Rescue in 1982 Has Chilling Twist
A view of Guanella Pass and trailhead from Mount Bierstadt.   (Wikimedia/Laura Scudder)
UPDATE Nov 7, 2022 5:20 PM CST

A man convicted of killing two women who disappeared near a Colorado ski resort town 40 years ago after DNA testing identified him as a suspect was sentenced on Monday to two terms of life in prison with no possibility of parole. Alan Lee Phillips, 71, was convicted in September of two counts of first-degree murder and other charges in the killings of Annette Schnee, 21, and Barbara "Bobbi Jo" Oberholtzer, 29, who had been hitchhiking in Breckenridge. The women's relatives called for the maximum punishment for the slayings that forever changed their families, the AP reports. Investigators said Phillips was rescued the night that the women disappeared when his truck got stuck on the top of Gaunella Pass during a snowstorm.

May 25, 2021 7:54 AM CDT

Two women disappeared while hitchhiking in Breckenridge, Colo., on Jan. 6, 1982. That same night, in the midst of a snowstorm, a man in a pickup truck became stuck on a nearby mountain pass. Amazingly, the Jefferson County sheriff at the time spotted the man's flashing headlights while passing over the 10,000-foot Guanella Pass on a flight bound for California. After the flight crew radioed for help, Clear Creek County fire chief Dave Montoya located the driver, 30-year-old Alan Phillips, within minutes. "He saw me and said, 'Oh, God, I'm saved,'" Montoya recalls, per KUSA. He says Phillips claimed to have gotten lost while driving home drunk. When Montoya asked about the bruise on the side of his face, Phillips said he'd bumped into his trunk in the blinding snow, per the Washington Post. But nearly four decades later, that story would be called into question.

Police now say Phillips had hours earlier killed two women who'd separately hitchhiked home from work. The body of Barbara Oberholtzer, 29, was found not far from Guanella Pass on Jan. 7. Six months later, the body of Annette Schnee, 22, turned up nearby. Both had been shot to death. The connection was made through genetic genealogy, with DNA from the crime scenes definitely linked to Phillips, who's been living within 20 miles of Guanella Pass for the past 13 years. "We ended up picking up the guy straight out of hell," Montoya tells KUSA. "He got his mercy … but he did bad things before that and he's got to pay for them." Arrested March 3, the 70-year-old is charged with murder, kidnapping, and assault. For Charlie McCormick, a retired detective who's been investigating the murders for 32 years, the outcome is "phenomenal, something I thought I would never see." (More murder stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.