Real Names: Barbara Jo Oberholtzer and Annette Kay Schnee
Nicknames: Bobbie, Bobbie Jo (Barbara)
Location: Breckenridge, Colorado
Date: January 6, 1982
Details: Breckenridge, Colorado, is a small ski resort in the Rocky Mountains with a population of 1,200. On January 7, 1982, a woman's body was found off of Highway 9 near a scenic overlook near the summit of Hoosier Pass, five miles south of Breckenridge. She had been shot twice. Only two pieces of evidence were found: a set of house keys and one orange sock. Police were mystified; the keys belonged to the woman but the sock did not. Six months later and thirteen miles away, another woman's body was found, this time in Sacramento Creek near a Highway 9 side road. She had also been shot to death. Incredibly, she was wearing the match for the orange sock.
The murdered women were both area residents. Twenty-nine-year-old Bobbie Oberholtzer was the first woman found. Twenty-one-year-old Annette Schnee was the second. They had both disappeared on the same day, January 6, and had been shot with a medium-caliber revolver. By all accounts, the two had never met. Their bodies were found thirteen miles and six months apart. However, police are certain that they were murdered on the same night by the same man. The chief suspect: Bobbie's husband, Jeff. Since the murders, he has staunchly maintained his innocence. In fact, according to him, just days before she vanished, the two had decided that they would try and have children.
Bobbie and Jeff were both from Racine, Wisconsin. They married on July 1, 1977, four-and-a-half years before her murder. He ran an appliance repair business, while she worked as a receptionist in Breckenridge. They lived in Alma, fourteen miles away. According to him, the day of her death, January 6, began normally. She left home at 7:15am and hitchhiked to work. Hitchhiking was quite common in the area and residents often stopped for people that they knew. At 6:20pm, she called home to tell him that she was at the village pub having drinks and celebrating her promotion with friends after work. He asked her if she wanted him to pick her up, but she said that she had a ride and would be home shortly. He then made dinner and waited for her to come home.
That night happened to be one of the coldest of that winter, with temperatures reaching thirty degrees below zero. At around midnight, Jeff woke up from a nap and realized that Bobbie still was not home. When the bars closed at 2am and she still had not returned, he knew something was wrong. He drove in to Breckenridge to look for her. Her friends told him that she had left the bar at around 7:30pm. They assumed that she had caught another ride home. Jeff told the Breckenridge police that she was missing. However, at the time, it was too early to file an official report. Finally, he drove back home to wait for her.
The next morning, a farmer who lived thirty miles outside Breckenridge found Bobbie's driver's license on his property. Jeff went with two friends to pick up the license. On the way, they made a disturbing discovery. While driving past a field, he noticed a blue spot in the snow. It was her backpack, which she had with her when she left for work. Also found was one of her gloves, spattered with blood, and several bloody tissues. Jeff's friends helped him organize a search. They insisted he remain at home while they set out cross-country.
Two hours later, the search party came across Bobbie's lifeless body. She was found more than fifteen miles from where her backpack was discovered. Police found three puzzling clues. Only her footprints were at the crime scene. A plastic cord was tied around one of her wrists. The single orange sock was found nearby. They had no idea who it belonged to. The same day Bobbie's body was found, Annette Schnee was reported missing. She was a chambermaid and a cocktail waitress who worked in Frisco and lived in Blue River. Like Bobbie, she often hitchhiked to work. From the start, police believed that the two cases were connected.
When investigators first asked Jeff if he knew Annette, he denied it. Several days later, after seeing her picture in the newspaper, he contacted them and said that he did know her and had given her his business card. He claimed that he had once picked her up when she was hitchhiking. He said that he never saw or heard from her after that. On July 3, 1982, six months after she had disappeared, her body was found. Police were stunned when they discovered she was wearing the other orange sock. Jeff's business card was found in her wallet. Her backpack was later found close to where Bobbie's body was found. Investigators began to focus on Jeff since he had connections with both victims.
What happened on January 6, 1982? That afternoon, Annette left her chambermaid job in Frisco early because she was not feeling well. She was last seen leaving a pharmacy in Breckenridge at 4pm while in deep conversation with an unknown, dark-haired woman. She was supposed to work at a bar called The Flip Side at 8pm that night. Police believe that around 5pm, she set out to hitchhike home and get ready for work. The killer picked her up and drove twenty miles south of Breckenridge, taking her down a small, dead-end road. She was then either made to disrobe or was undressed by him. She was sexually assaulted and then allowed to get dressed. While she was doing so, she apparently found one long sock and put it on, but could not find the second one. She then put a bootie on her other foot and put her boots on. She apparently escaped; while running away, she was shot in the back.
Police believe the killer then drove back to Breckenridge and found a second victim: Bobbie. He drove her ten miles south of Breckenridge to the parking lot of a scenic overlook, where he apparently attempted to rape her. Police believe that she fought with him and subsequently escaped from his vehicle. While escaping, the other orange bootie came out with her. She then ran down the highway towards her home. It is believed that he tried to stop her and talk to her. When he pulled out a gun, she ran into the snow. He then shot her twice as she turned away from him. After that, she ran up over a small embankment of snow and then down the other side into deep snow, where she was later found dead.
Jeff does not believe that Bobbie would have gotten into a vehicle with strangers. He points out that they had talked earlier about him giving her a ride, and that she could have called back if she needed one. He thinks that she knew someone at the bar and that they left together with the promise of them taking her home.
Approximately two months after Bobbie's murder, Jeff submitted to a polygraph exam and passed. From day one, he has insisted that he had an alibi. According to him, during the time the murders were committed, he was with an acquaintance who had dropped by for a visit. For nearly nine years, no one could find this man. Finally, in December 1990, he surfaced. When police interviewed him, he stated that he had been in Jeff's house that night. However, the times he gave to police did not match up with the times Jeff gave them. As a result, they were unable to determine whether or not the man was with Jeff during the time of the murders.
Jeff is upset that he remains the main suspect in the case. He believes that if investigators had focused on other avenues and leads instead of focusing on him, they could have been able to find out who really killed Bobbie and Annette.
Suspects: Police considered Jeff a suspect in both murders. They felt that it was more than a coincidence that he had known both victims and discovered Bobbie's backpack in a remote field. Two months after the murders, he was given a polygraph test, which he passed. He claimed to have had an alibi for the night; an acquaintance had stopped over for a visit. Police could not find him for several years. When he did surface and was questioned, however, his time and Jeff's time of the visit did not match up.
Jeff believes that Bobbie was killed by someone she knew. He does not believe that she would have gone with a stranger, because he had given her the option to be picked up by him.
Police looked into several different suspects in this case. One was cab driver Thomas Edward Luther, who beat and raped a hitchhiker after picking her up in Breckenridge in February 1982. While in jail, he allegedly bragged about being responsible for the murders. According to his girlfriend, he did not come home on the night of the murders. He also lied to investigators and said he was at work at the time. Another suspect was alleged serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. Yet another suspect, Tracy Petrocelli, murdered his fiancée in 1981 and went on a multi-state crime spree. During this time, he stayed at Annette's workplace, the Holiday Inn in Frisco.
Police would like to question the unidentified dark-haired woman last seen with Annette on January 6. She was described as a white female, 5'4" tall, and slender build. She is not considered a suspect. They would also like to identify a man whose photograph was found in her wallet.
The weapon used in the murders was a .38/.357 handgun using a Remington/Peters copper jacketed hollow point bullet. It has never been located.
- This case first aired on the May 1, 1991 episode.
- It was also profiled on Sensing Murder, The Oprah Winfrey Show, A Current Affair, and On the Case with Paula Zahn during the investigation. The former followed the perceptions of psychics Pam Coronado and Laurie Campbell. They suggested Annette had not died where she was found and separately came up with the same first name of her killer.
- It was excluded from Amazon Prime episodes.
- Some sources spell Bobbie's name as "Bobbi".
- This case is not to be confused with Orange Socks, a nickname for Debra Jackson, a formerly unidentified murder victim.
Results: Solved. Initially, police believed that the blood found on the tissues and Bobbie's gloves belonged to her. However, in the early 1990s, DNA testing determined that it came from a male. The testing also determined that it did not belong to Jeff. As a result of this and other evidence, including several alibi witnesses, he was eventually cleared as a suspect in the murders. Testing also determined that the blood did not belong to suspects Luther or Petrocelli either.
On February 24, 2021, seventy-year-old Alan Lee Phillips was arrested and charged with the murders. He was also charged with kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. Investigators, aided by United Data Connect, used genetic genealogy to link the DNA evidence to him. This process involves taking a DNA sample from an unknown suspect and placing it in a public DNA database. Genealogists then create a "family tree" of the suspect based on matches from relatives in the database, until they are able to narrow the tree to a specific individual. Investigators suspect that Phillips may have been involved in other crimes throughout Colorado. He is being held without bail. In September, a judge ordered him to stand trial for the murders.
Interestingly, it was discovered that on the same night as the murders, Phillips was rescued from nearby Guanella Pass after his truck got stuck in the snow there. Scratches were noticed on his face, but he claimed that they occurred after he tripped in the snow. It is believed that he got stuck there shortly after committing the murders.
Sadly, Bobbie's brother, Kelly, and father, Thomas, passed away before the case was solved.
- Bobbie Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee on Unsolved.com
- Rocky Mountain Cold Case - Website on the Orange Sock Murders
- Officials probe death of ex-Racine woman (Page 1) (Page 2) - January 8, 1982
- Native of Sioux City missing in Colorado - February 6, 1982
- Dental work identifies body - July 8, 1982
- Lucas probed in two slayings - January 26, 1984
- "Unsolved Mysteries" visits ski town - January 22, 1991
- TV show will air Schnee murder mystery - April 30, 1991
- Show exposes unsolved murder - May 10, 1991
- "Current Affair" features Schnee - November 14, 1991
- In the wrong place at the wrong time - May 16, 1993
- Cold Case: Two young women disappear within three hours of each other in 1982 - July 19, 2005
- Local cold case to be showcased on national TV show - September 26, 2006
- 25 years after women died, psychics shed a little light - January 6, 2007
- Breckenridge: Female hitchhikers kidnapped and murdered - December 6, 2014
- Investigators ask for help in 1982 double murder of Bobbie Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee - January 6, 2015
- Annette Schnee and Bobbie Oberholtzer: New Effort to Solve Their Murders 33 Years Later - January 14, 2015
- Breckenridge investigator looking for new clues in unsolved 1982 double homicide - February 11, 2015
- Two Women Killed by Same Perpetrator at Separate Locations at Different Times on Same Night in 1982 - May 10, 2017
- The pair of orange socks that link two grisly murders - December 8, 2018
- National TV show will focus on 1982 Breckenridge cold cases connected by a pair of orange socks - May 13, 2019
- Arrest made in 1982 killings of 2 women in Breckenridge - March 2, 2021
- Park County Sheriff Announces Arrest of Alan Lee Phillips in 39-Year-Old Cold Case Murders of Bobbie Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee - March 3, 2021
- Families get closer to closure after arrest in murders of young Colorado women - March 3, 2021
- Genetic genealogy leads to alleged killer of 2 Colorado women taken, killed hours apart in 1982 - March 6, 2021
- Alan Phillips, saved from a snowdrift in 1982, killed two women the same night, police say - May 25, 2021
- Obituary for Bobbie's brother Kelly
- Bobbie Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee on Find a Grave