Three decades ago this week, two young women disappeared and were brutally murdered. The deaths rocked the small mountain communities along Highway 9 and Hoosier Pass in Colorado. Investigators are still on the case and still searching for anyone... any clue... to solve the murders.
Some of the original detectives from 1982 are still working this cold case as members of the 11th Judicial District Homicide Task Force. They have never given up. The investigators have encouraged regular news report updates and kept public attention on the case over all these years. The Task Force, with the support of the 11th Judicial District Attorney's Office, developed a website devoted to the story of Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer and Annette Schnee, and also committed significant resources to the presentation of the case, website, and developments to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in 2011.
Out of respect for those who have given so much to the tireless pursuit of justice in this double homicide, we will step out of the way and give readers their reflections in their own words. Further links and information follow the story.
Charlie McCormick is a former Denver Homicide Detective and currently a Private Investigator and member of the 11th Judicial District Homicide Task Force in Colorado. (In the Spring of 2006, Charlie McCormick is filmed on Hoosier Pass near the site of Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer's murder. photo left by Park County Bulletin)
This coming Friday, January 6th, will be the 30th anniversary of the murders of Park and Summit Counties locals BOBBIE JO OBERHOLTZER (age 29) and ANNETTE KAY SCHNEE (age 21). Thirty years ago, as the sun set on that late Wednesday afternoon, the temperature began its plunge to an eventual -25F below zero. Both women were simply attempting to go home at the end of a work day. Sadly, neither woman would survive the night.
At around dusk Annette Schnee was last seen leaving the Breckenridge Drug Store on Ski Hill Road and Main Street. Evidence indicates she was intending to hitchhike to her home six miles south of Breckenridge in Blue River. She did not make it home. Her body was found six months later on July 3, 1982, laying face down in Sacramento Creek in a remote area of Park County. She had been shot in the back.
Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer was last seen by friends at around 8:00 P.M leaving the Village Pub, a bar/restaurant in The Village complex at the south side of Breckenridge. Evidence also indicates Bobbie was hitchhiking home to her husband sixteen miles to the south in Alma. She did not make it home. Her body was found the next afternoon just off of Highway 9 near the summit of Hoosier Pass. She had been shot twice and left to bleed and freeze to death in the snow.
I was a homicide detective with the Denver Police Department and, after leaving the department, I moved to Breckenridge in 1976. In 1989, I was asked to assist in this investigation and have been working the case with other investigators from then to the present. This investigation has been a major part of my life for 23 years. I am not sure why, but I have never been able to let it go.
I have mixed feelings on this, the 30th anniversary. On one hand I am deeply concerned that this case will fade into the past as many unsolved murders do. On the other hand, I am always hopeful that new information or evidence will come forward to assist us in identifying those responsible for these brutal murders of two young innocent women. Our work over the last 30 years has produced certain DNA evidence that would allow for a successful prosecution. The subject(s) who participated in these killings, if still alive, are now entering the end stages of their lives - likewise for anyone having knowledge of the events of that night, either by word of mouth or by being a witness.
Recently, I had occasion to prepare a PowerPoint program on this case for presentation to a Cold Case Review Board organized by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The board consisted of around thirty investigators from all over the state. Preparing and presenting this case compelled me to review the 38 case books containing all aspects of this investigation - from January 6, 1982 to the present. Over the years, hundreds of investigators and citizens have given generously of their time, energy, and talent in this case. The murders themselves are tragically unique. The fact that they have been under constant unremitting investigation for thirty years is unheard of as far as I know.
All "cold cases" benefit from publicity based on the valid theory that "someone out there knows something." This case is no different. If you are that "someone," thirty years of silence is long enough. I truly believe that personal anguish or guilt of this nature is not something with which one should live a life or take to the grave. If you know something, give it up... If not now, when?
--- Charlie McCormick
Jim Hardtke was an investigator with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations in 1982 when the murders occurred and was assigned to the case. He is now retired, but still connected to this decades-old case as a member of the 11th Judicial District Homicide Task Force. (In the Spring of 2006, Jim Hardtke is filmed at Sacramento Creek near the site of the discovery of Annette Schnee's body. photo left by Park County Bulletin)
What are my thoughts and impressions today, 30 years after the murders of Bobbie Jo and Annette?
In a word, frustration, but tempered with a touch of hope. Over the decades, the investigation has gone from very cold to very exciting. I left CBI in late 1988 and it seemed at the time that the investigation was at a complete dead end. At CBI, a few agents took some interest in the case and in the rare instance that a tip or some new evidence came in, nobody hesitated to follow up on it as quickly and thoroughly as possible. We tried to keep both the local media and the Denver media aware of the case, hoping for that one tip that would lead us to the killer(s).
As time went by, science improved dramatically, and at the same time, Charlie McCormick took a deep interest in the case. Today he has a wall full of binders, with every bit of information gathered by the several law enforcement agencies involved. He can tell you that he has read, re-read, and read again every piece of paper in those 30+ huge binders. I am extremely impressed with the dedication Charlie has invested in this case. When/if it is solved, it will be because of his tenacity.
This case can be solved. At this point in time, it will be science that allows the killer(s) to be identified. We have DNA. In the beginning, we had scant evidence. Today, that evidence may be the basis of a conviction. As time continues to go by, science may be able to tell us more about who the killer(s) is/are.
Of all the cases I've worked or been involved in, this is the one that has stayed with me. I am now retired, after 40 years in law enforcement. I have forgotten a lot of cases, a lot of faces, a lot of details. But I haven't forgotten that night up on Hoosier Pass. The details remain vivid. And in the ensuing years, this case has taken me back to Colorado a few more times to work with Charlie and others in an effort to dig up leads, tips, or even a solution.
--- Jim Hardtke
Betty Royse is the recently retired investigator for the Office of Thom LeDoux, 11th Judicial District Attorney for Colorado. She provides the following report on the presentation of the cold case record to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in October of 2011. (First crime scene discovered on Hoosier Pass. photo left courtesy 11th Judicial District Homicide Task Force)
The Oberholtzer/Schnee cold case homicide investigation was reviewed by the Colorado Cold Case Homicide Task Force last October. This prestigious group is comprised of experts from a variety of disciplines, and represent the most experienced and knowlegable forensic minds from around the state. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation coordinates the group which meets twice a year and reviews cold cases from agencies requesting assistance on the progress and direction of an investigation. The 11th Judicial District was very fortunate to have been selected to present the Oberholtzer/Schnee investigation since the number of cases reviewed is limited due to the in-depth process of review.
District Attorney Thom LeDoux and 11th Judicial District Homicide Task Force members Charlie McCormick and Betty Royse traveled to the Boulder Sheriff's Office to make the presentation. McCormick condensed the facts of the nearly 30 year investigation into a Power Point presentation that covered all aspects of the case from the initial discovery to the present, leading Task Force members through chronological events in a clear and concise manner.
The 11th Judicial District cold case team is anticipating the written report, giving our investigators advice and ideas on the future direction of the investigation, a critique of what has already been done, and potential leads that may have been overlooked.
Since the inception of the CBI Cold Case Task Force and similiar task forces in many law enforcement agencies, many previously unsolved cold cases have been resolved, bringing justice and closure to families that have waited a long time. We are hopeful and optimistic that with the help of the CBI Task Force and the valuable tips from citizens (it only takes one person with the right information) we will be able to close the Oberholtzer/Schnee file for the last time.
--- Office of the District Attorney, 11th Judicial District, Colorado
Thank you for keeping interest in this case alive by reading this reflection on the 30 year remembrance. Please visit the Rocky Mountain Cold Case website at
http://www.rockymountaincoldcase.com/ and read the other news stories linked from the site.
If you have any information on this case or any of the people involved - no matter how insignificant it may seem to you - please contact the Task Force right away. Contact information is as follows:
11th Judicial District Homicide Task Force || (970) 453-6378
Park County Office of the District Attorney || (719) 836-2080