The Heir to the Coors Brewing Company, His Kidnap, and His Murder.
Adolph Coors III was a low-key and well-liked beer executive. His father, Adolph Coors Jr., was a hard taskmaster, who ultimately gave control of the brewery to his 3 sons (Adolph III and his brothers, Bill and Joe). The brothers were expected to join the family business, although Adolph’s dream was to own a cattle and horse operation, and his brother Bill once confessed he had wanted to be a violinist until they both succumbed to “the family responsibility.” Ironically, much to his father’s disgust, Adolph III was allergic to beer. Adolph graduated from Cornell University, where he was president of the Quill and Dagger society. Coors was also a semi-professional baseball player. At the time of his death, he was CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Coors Brewing Company in Golden, Colorado. Coors married Mary Urquhart Grant in November 1940.
On February 9, 1960, a milkman moving a car blocking a bridge to the side of the road noticed a reddish-brown stain on the bridge and a hat on the edge of the river bank below. The milkman reported the matter to the local police, who quickly determined that the car belonged to Adolph Coors, III. Heir to the Coors Brewing Company fortune, Coors had left his house—not far from the bridge—that morning, but had not been seen since. Searchers soon spread out over the area looking for the missing 45-year-old father of four. The hat belonged to Coors, but no trace of him was found during the wider search. Adolph Coors’ wife, Mary, received a typewritten note that day demanding a ransom for the return of her husband. Under the guidance of law enforcement, she followed the instructions regarding contacting the kidnapper but heard nothing back.
State and local police pursued leads closer to the scene of the crime, conducting extensive interviews and other investigative activities. They soon focused on a canary yellow Mercury that had been seen in the area on several occasions and tried to track down its driver, a man who called himself Walter Osborne. The FBI learned that Osborne had disappeared around the time of Coors’ abduction, but before doing so had obtained a gun, handcuffs, and a typewriter (of the brand used to type the ransom note). The Bureau also learned that Osborne had obtained an insurance policy at a previous job, and that policy designated a man named Joseph Corbett as his beneficiary, and ultimately that Walter Osborne was Joseph Corbett Jr. Joseph Corbett, Jr. was placed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for the murder of the Coors Brewery heir, Adolf Coors.
Joseph Corbett Jr. (October 25, 1928 – August 24, 2009) was a former Fulbright scholar at the University of Oregon. Corbett was convicted of shooting a man in the back of the head in 1951, which he claimed was self-defence. Corbett was placed in a maximum-security prison in California, and due to good behaviour, was later transferred to minimum security, from which he then escaped. Corbett had an ongoing fascination with Lindbergh kidnapping case.
Throughout the summer of 1960, Corbett, Jr.’s trail remained cold. But tragically, the trail leading to Adolph Coors ended on September 11, 1960, when hikers in the woods about 12 miles southwest of Sedalia (a town south of Denver) came across items of clothing, and skeletal remains determined to belong to Coors. A jacket and shirt had bullet holes that showed he had been shot in the back, and an analysis of a shoulder bone confirmed this.
A manager of a rooming house in Winnipeg called police to report that a man who looked like the Corbett had recently stayed at her flophouse. When the FBI knocked on the door, Corbett answered, “I give up. I’m the man you want.” Joseph Corbett had carefully planned the kidnapping, but like most major crimes, things happen that are never anticipated. Corbett had followed Coors for week and discovered he crossed a one-lane bridge every day on his way to work in an isolated country area near Morrison, Colorado. Corbett parked his car on the bridge, pretending it had broken down, and when Adolph Coors approached to help him, Corbett pulled out a gun and ordered Coors in the vehicle. But instead of complying, Coors fought him and took off running. Corbett shot Coors in the back, multiple times, killing him. After the murder, Corbett burned his car to destroy any evidence.
The FBI was able to prove the ransom note was typed on Corbett, Jr.’s typewriter, on paper with an unusual watermark that Corbett had purchased. Adolph Coors’ niece had recognized Corbett as being in the vicinity of Coors in the weeks prior to the murder. But the most damning evidence came from one of the first cases of remarkable work done by a forensics lab. They examined Corbett’s burned-out canary yellow Mercury, which was recovered in New Jersey shortly after Coors’ disappearance, and found that even though the interior had been burned out, there was soil still stuck on the car that contained minerals only found in the area near the bridge, where Coors had been murdered. On March 19, 1961, Joseph Corbett, Jr. was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled and released from prison on December 12, 1980 (which seems a little light considering he’d been convicted of 2 separate murders). Corbett would shoot one more person. On August 24, 2009, Corbett, who was 80 and had been suffering from cancer, was found dead in his apartment as a result of a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.