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The guard

The police say the 1982 Mountain Rescue Service is the key to double crime

Alan Phillips accused of killing two hitchhikers in 1982. Phillips, 70, was rescued from the Colorado mountain pass that night. Alan Phillips was arrested in March for the deaths of Annette Schnee and Barbara Jo Oberholtzer 39 years ago. Photo: AP investigators in Colorado have linked the extraordinary rescue of a stranded motorist from a frozen mountain pass in 1982 with the murders of two young hitchhikers on the same day – one of the most notorious and persistent cold cases in the state. 70-year-old Alan Phillips was arrested in March for the murders of 21-year-old Annette Schnee and 29-year-old Barbara Jo Oberholtzer, who went missing while hitchhiking near the Breckenridge ski area, where they both worked. Four decades of advancement in DNA testing enabled detectives to finally compare Phillips’ genetic genealogy to samples found at the murder sites. The appearance of his mug shot on local television caught the attention of retired fire chief Dave Montoya, who recognized the man he rescued from the top of Guanella Pass on a freezing January night 39 years ago. Phillips drew attention to himself by flashing an SOS message through the headlights of his truck. It was discovered by a sheriff who was on a plane flying overhead and then relayed to authorities by the plane’s pilot. The bodies of the two victims were found months apart, but detectives now claim Phillips, a father of three, abducted, assaulted and murdered both women on January 6, 1982, the day he was saved. He was arrested in Dumont, Colorado, 20 miles from Guanella Pass, and is due to appear in court for the first time in September. “We picked up a guy straight from Hell,” Montoya told Denver’s KUSA TV. Montoya said the circumstances of the rescue were “the craziest I’ve ever heard of,” and remembered reaching out to Phillips soon after the Clear Creek County Fire Department received the alert. “Sure, there he was in his little pickup and he saw me and said, ‘Oh God, I’m saved,” said Montoya. “He said he was drunk and decided to go home. And I said,” You came over the pass? ”And he said,“ Well it seemed like a good idea. ”I thought, how the hell was this guy so lucky that all of that stuff went together?” Montoya said he did noticed a large, fresh bruise on Phillips’ face from the then 30-year-old when he left his truck to urinate and collided with it on his return without visibility. Detectives believe Phillips, an auto mechanic, shot both women and dumped their bodies before attempting to drive over the mountain when the temperature dropped to -20 F. Oberholtzer was found by her family 10 miles south of Breckenridge the following day on a snow dam about 20 miles from the place some of their belongings the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Snow was found six months later by a Park County youth. The CBI said she was discovered covertly in a stream with a gunshot wound to her back. Charlie McCormick, a private investigator who worked on the case as a private investigator for the victims’ families from 1989 and later as a law enforcement volunteer in Denver, said genetic genealogy research opened the case. The process involves uploading crime scene DNA to genealogy databases in the hopes of finding a family match. It was a “phenomenal” moment when the lead researcher called to say the link with Phillips was found, McCormick said. The detective said he was surprised Phillips lived so close to the crime scene. “If I had done something like this, I would be gone a long time,” he told KUSA TV. “After avoiding it all these years, now he has to deal with it.” After Phillips’ arrest in March, Schnee’s mother, Eileen Franklin, 88, said her family had been through “39 years of hell.” “I thought there would be no closure. I thought I might be gone before I closed this case, ”she told Denver’s Channel 7 News. “I’m ready to go when now is my time.”



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