March 2017: Coors Kidnapping Ransom Note

Photo of a typewritten ransom note delivered to Mary Coors, whose husband was kidnapped and murdered in 1960.

The March 2017 Artifact of the Month is the ransom note from the 1960 kidnapping and murder of Adolph Coors, III. (Click image to view high-res.)

This month marks the 66th anniversary of the conviction and sentencing of Joseph Corbett, Jr. for the murder of Adolph Coors, III, heir to the Coors Brewing Company fortune.

On February 9, 1960, a milkman discovered an abandoned station wagon blocking the middle of the bridge over Turkey Creek near Morrison, Colorado. The milkman reported it to the local police, who determined the car belonged to Adolph Coors, III, who now appeared to be missing.

The next day, the FBI’s Denver Division, as a result of the federal kidnapping statue, joined the case to provide assistance to the state and local investigators. Coors’ wife Mary received a typewritten ransom note and contacted the kidnapper, but she never heard back. The FBI Laboratory took a look at the evidence, including the note, while state and local law enforcement began pursuing a lead—a canary-yellow Mercury that had been seen in the area. The driver, Walter Osborne, had disappeared, but not before obtaining a gun, handcuffs, a typewriter, and an insurance policy—whose beneficiary was Joseph Corbett.

As it turns out, Corbett’s son, Joseph Corbett, Jr., had previously been convicted of murder but had escaped from prison in California. The FBI obtained a fugitive warrant for Corbett, Jr. and placed him on the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

In September 1960, some hikers came across pants bearing Coors’ initials, which led investigators to Coors’ remains.

The case remained of significant interest to the public and the media, and ultimately, magazine readers in Canada broke the case wide open when they reported a man who resembled Corbett, Jr. to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI. The next day, the manager of a rooming house in Winnipeg reported a man who looked like Corbett, Jr. had stayed at her losing and was driving a fire-engine red Pontiac.

This new information led a Vancouver Police officer to report a similar vehicle to the authorities, and with the assistance of the FBI Toronto Legal Attaché office, law enforcement approached the hotel room where Corbett, Jr. was staying, and he surrendered. Corbett, Jr. was tried in Colorado on the murder charge and was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The March 2017 Artifact of the Month is the Coors kidnapping ransom note, which was analyzed by the FBI Lab and is believed to have been typed on Corbett, Jr.’s typewriter, which was taken from the automobile that law enforcement had recovered shortly after Coors’ disappearance.