Weird History The Murder Of Beer Mogul Adolph Coors III Launched The FBI's Biggest Manhunt In Decades  

Lassie Smith
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Coors bottles loudly proclaim the beer is "Born in the Rockies," and one can only imagine the icy mountain streams behind those sweet silver labels. Coors is a regional sector of the world's third-largest brewer, Molson Coors, and operates the largest single brewery facility in the world from its headquarters in Golden, Colorado. However, tragic circumstances almost caused the Coors family to lose its beer-brewing fortune, and after the heir lost his life.

The Coors beer family started brewing in the late 19th century, and made it through Prohibition relatively unscathed. What almost ruined the company, however, was the kidnapping and murder of Adolph Coors III in 1960. The crime got serious international attention, but even after after the Adolph Coors III murder was confirmed, the suspect remained at large. Eventually the killer, Joe Corbett, was tracked down in Canada after having spent months on the FBI's Most Wanted list. 

On February 9, 1960, The CEO O... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Murder Of Beer Mogul Adolph Coors III Launched The FBI's Biggest Manhunt In Decades
Photo:  Thistle33/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

On February 9, 1960, The CEO Of Coors Was Kidnapped On His Way To Work


Adolph "Ad" Coors got up at 5:30 am and drove to work at the family business on February 9, 1960, like he always did. On the way, he stopped to help what looked like a motorist in distress. The motorist turned out to be Joseph Corbett  — a kidnapper who planned to ransom the Coors heir. 

Corbett had been planning the kidnapping for years. For days leading up to the crime, Corbett's car, a yellow Mercury, was seen in the area as he cased the route Coors drove every morning. On the morning of February 9, he was waiting for Coors at the bridge near Morrison, Colorado. When Coors stopped, something must have gone wrong. Instead of being kidnapped, Coors wound up dead. 

His Wife Received A Ransom Not... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Murder Of Beer Mogul Adolph Coors III Launched The FBI's Biggest Manhunt In Decades
Photo:  Federal Bureau of Investigation/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

His Wife Received A Ransom Note The Day After Her Husband Disappeared


An estimated three hours after Coors encountered Corbett, his car was discovered by a milkman passing by the area. The car was still running and the milkman noticed a brownish stain on the bridge, a pair of glasses, and a hat. He called authorities, who soon identified the car as belonging to Ad Coors.

The day after Coors's disappearance, his wife, Mary, received a ransom note asking for $500,000 and to place an ad in the Denver Post offering a John Deere tractor for sale, as a sign the money was ready. The note was typewritten, and read in part: "Call the police or FBI: he dies. Cooperate: he lives." With the assistance of the FBI, Mary followed the instructions given by the kidnapper, but nothing happened and Coors remained missing. During the following weeks, Mary Coors received over 50 hoax notes, but there was never any word from her husband, or from Corbett.

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Photo:  Douglas County History Research Center, Douglas County Libraries./Public Domain

The FBI Conducted The Largest Manhunt Since The Kidnapping Of The Lindbergh Baby


 The search for Adolph Coors III in 1960 was the largest the FBI had undertaken since the disappearance of the Lindbergh baby in 1932. Though Mary Coors followed the instructions of the kidnapping letter, the disappearance of her husband was automatically a high-profile case. 24 hours after his car was discovered on the bridge, the federal kinapping statute was invoked and the FBI joined forces with local Colorado authorities to launch a full investigation. They started with the ransom note, which reportedly had a watermark and unique typeface.

Eventually authorities identified the owner of the yellow Mercury as William Osborne, but when they tried to trace him, nobody had reported seeing him in several days. Osborne was also known to have acquired a gun, handcuffs, and a typewriter before he disappeared.

Through tracing Osborne's insurance policy — which named Joseph Corbett as the beneficiary — they finally named a chief suspect. He was placed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

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Photo:  Federal Bureau of Investigation/Public Domain

Joseph Corbett Was Already A Fugitive Murderer


Joseph Corbett was a native of Seattle, WA and a Fulbright scholar who attended the University of Oregon. He was bound for medical school when he got into a fight with an Air Force sergeant in 1951 (or, by one account, a hitchiker) and shot and killed him. Corbett plead guilty to second degree murder and was incarcerated at San Quentin for several years. During a prison transfer to a minimum-security facility, Corbett escaped. He ended up in Colorado, using the alias William Osborne.