Meanwhile, we can curl up this holiday weekend with the recent publication of the book "The Death of An Heir: Adolph Coors III and the Murder that Rocked An American Brewing Dynasty." The author is Philip Jett.
On a very ordinary day on his way to work in February 1960, 44-year-old chief executive of Coors was way-laid on a bridge. Soon after a ransom note had been sent. But he was already dead.
The jury convicted Joe Corbett, who had been tested as a genius but dropped out of college before his senior year. Previously he had been convicted of another murder but had escaped prison.
Because of the detailed description of the manhunt the book would interest law enforcement.
And because of the aggressive defense, it would interest lawyers.
Had there been a change of venue, Corbett might have been acquitted. There were no eye witnesses. No formal confession (he did say, upon arrest, "You have your man"). And the evidence was only circumstantial.
In the beginning of deliberations, the jury was divided. The vote was:
- 4 guilty
- 3 not guilty
- 5 undecided.
The foreman made it his business not to have a hung jury.
Perhaps what pushed those not convinced of guilt to a conviction was that the prosecutor told them to take the evidence in context, not in isolation. In isolation, some pieces didn't fit together.
Corbett, after serving 18 years of a life sentence, got parole. Like so many on parole, he screwed that up. But not long afterward he got parole again. Given that second chance, he indicated he would return to college and become certified as a lab technician, a skill he had learned in prison. But, like so many who blow it once or more, he never did that. In his 80s, he committed suicide when suffering cancer.
Adolph Coors III's immediate family didn't catch any luck. Essentially the town distanced itself from widow Mary. She didn't prove to be one of those inspiring stories of human beings who blossom after adversity. Her daughter Brooke died of cancer at age 26. She left behind a husband and young son. At age 60, Mary died of injuries from a fall down the stairs at a friend's home. Along her painful journey, Mary's own mother had died at age 50 and her father at age 59.
As for the wider Coors circle, the brothers involved with the company seemed to circle the wagons. They became paranoid that they could be next. They even inflicted lie-detector tests on applicants for jobs (that was the 1960s).
Corbett, who claimed being not guilty for the rest of his life, seemed to suffer the least. He was not mentioned in his father's obituary.
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