PARK COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — DNA left at a Colorado mountain post office played a major role in solving a decades old cold case, according to people close to the investigation.
Alan Lee Phillips, 70, was arrested on Feb. 24 and charged with the 1982 murder of two women outside Breckenridge.
Former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey says investigators found a bloody glove at one of the crime scenes, but the DNA on the glove didn’t match anything in the state’s database.
“That database has only existed since the early 1990s, so if somebody committed a crime in 1982, and stayed out of trouble, and didn’t commit any other crimes where they left DNA, they’re never getting in the database,” he says.
Morrissey now runs United Data Connect, which uses family genealogy websites to solve crimes.
He says last year, Metro Denver Crime Stoppers offered to pay to have them research DNA left at one of the two crime scenes from 1982.
“We get a DNA sample, in this case it was on a glove, it was blood,” he says. “What you have to do, is you have to build very large family trees to get up and down, and you go up and down the line.”
He says eventually, they found a direct match with Phillips, and told investigators working the case.
“Once we give that investigative lead to investigators, that this is potentially your suspect, they then have to obtain a DNA sample from the individual,” says Morrissey.
Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw says investigators spent “four or five weeks conducting surveillance” using help from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Morrissey says investigators were eventually able to legally obtain a DNA sample from Phillips, linking his DNA to the crime scene.
“My understanding is that he stopped at a fast food restaurant and he made a purchase, he bought food,” says Morrissey. “He carried the trash from that food into a post office and he came out without it, and they rushed right in, and got it out of the garbage. They collected it and they were able to get his saliva off some of the trash that he deposited.”
Morrissey says that saliva was a match with DNA found at the crime scene, ultimately leading to an arrest on Feb. 24.
“When you think about these two families today, they waited almost 40 years for answers,” he says. “DNA is incredibly important in solving those crimes where DNA was left.”
Records show Phillips’ next court appearance is scheduled for Friday afternoon. He is being held without bond.