February 9

This Day in History

Crime

Feb 9, 1960:

Coors brewery heir is kidnapped

Adolph Coors disappears while driving to work from his Morrison, Colorado, home. The grandson of the Coors' founder and chairman of the Golden, Colorado, brewery was kidnapped and held for ransom before being shot to death. Surrounding evidence launched one of the FBI's largest manhunts: the search for Joe Corbett.

Corbett, a Fulbright scholar at the University of Oregon, was headed to medical school when, in 1951, he got into an altercation with an Air Force sergeant. During the fight, he shot the man and ended up pleading guilty to second-degree murder. He was sent to San Quentin Prison for several years before being transferred to a minimum-security facility, where he easily escaped and began living under an alias, Walter Osborne.

Eight days after Coors was kidnapped, a car was found on fire in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The gasoline-fueled fire had been deliberately set, but it couldn't destroy the serial number imprinted on the engine. The car was traced back to Corbett, whose yellow Mercury had been spotted by many witnesses in the area of the crime in the days leading up to the abduction. Dirt from the car was ultimately traced back to the area where Coors was grabbed and taken hostage.

Seven months after the abduction of Adolph Coors in 1960, the millionaire's clothes were found in a dump near Sedalia, Colorado. This evidence led to the discovery of Coors' remains nearby. A ransom letter was traced back to Joe Corbett's typewriter. He had also ordered handcuffs, leg irons, and a gun through the mail in the months preceding the kidnapping. The FBI distributed 1.5 million posters with Corbett's picture and then tracked him all the way across Canada, from Toronto to Vancouver, where he was finally apprehended.

Corbett never testified at his trial and never made any statement, but the evidence was enough to convince the jury who convicted him in 1961. He was released in 1978.

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