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The cold case of who murdered Racine native Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer is closed after a jury in Colorado convicted 71-year-old Alan Phillips on Sept. 15 of her murder and that of another woman.

Oberholtzer, 29, and Annette Schnee, 21, were shot to death on Jan. 6, 1982, outside of Breckenridge, Colorado, while hitchhiking from Breckenridge to Alma and from Breckenridge to Blue River, respectively. Oberholtzer moved to Colorado after she graduated in 1971 from Washington Park High School.

Her husband reported her missing the next morning, and investigators found her blood on several pieces of evidence they believed to be the result of Oberholtzer fighting back. Her body was discovered about 400 feet away with two gunshot wounds.

Data company helps convict Phillips of murder

The case of her murder went cold, but members of Schnee’s family hired Charlie McCormick, a private investigator, who tracked down leads for decades before learning about United Data Connect, a company specializing in forensic science and DNA. Scientists at United Data Connect extracted DNA from case evidence and matched it to two brothers. Only one of them—Alan Phillips—had ever lived in Colorado.

Using DNA from his garbage, scientists confirmed the DNA match that was firmly established after Phillips was arrested early in 2021 and they obtained a DNA sample directly from him. He never left the Breckenridge area and worked over the years as a miner and mechanic.

Oberholtzer’s sister, Laurie Merlo of Sturtevant, told the Lake Geneva Regional News that 40 years is a long time to go without knowing what happened to her sister.

“It’s been a long 40 years of wondering. I felt so happy for all the officials and sheriffs and detectives and everybody in Colorado who could put this to a close,” she is quoted as saying. “I feel cheated that I had to live most of my adult life without my sister. Her daughter feels the same way: cheated.”

Phillips was charged on March 22, 2021, with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree kidnapping each for Schnee’s and Oberholtzer’s deaths. A jury found him guilty of all eight charges. Phillips will be sentenced in November and faces the rest of his life in prison.

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