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Man convicted in '60 Coors slaying found dead

A man convicted in the 1960 slaying of the Coors brewery founder's grandson, one of Colorado's most notorious cases, has died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man convicted in the 1960 slaying of the Coors brewery founder's grandson, one of Colorado's most notorious cases, has died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

Chief Denver deputy coroner Michelle Weiss-Samaras said Tuesday that Joe Corbett, 80, was found dead Monday from a single shot to the head in his south Denver apartment, where he had lived for nearly 29 years. She said he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Authorities could not find next of kin.

Corbett, a convicted murderer who walked away from a California prison in 1955, was convicted of killing Adolph Coors III during a botched kidnapping attempt. He served 19 years in prison before being released in December 1980, according to Colorado Department of Correction records.

Corbett was a onetime Fulbright scholar at the University of Oregon who had entertained dreams of going to medical school. He had a lifelong fascination with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1932, according to a 1996 interview with The Denver Post during which he maintained his innocence for the Coors slaying.

A message left for a spokeswoman for Molson Coors, the company created by the 2004 merger of Adolph Coors Co. and Canada's Molson Inc., was not immediately returned.

The apartment manager declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday. Neighbors did not return messages.

Coors, 44, vanished near Morrison on Feb. 9, 1960, while en route to work as chairman of the Adolph Coors Co., which was founded by his grandfather, one of Colorado's prominent citizens. His body was found Sept. 11, 1960, in the hills southwest of Sedalia. He had been shot to death.

The FBI traced a note demanding $500,000 to a Royalite typewriter purchased by Corbett. He was captured in Vancouver, Canada, in October 1960 and convicted in March 1961.

He drove a Salvation Army truck before retiring.

"It would be futile to retry the case now," Corbett said in the 1996 interview with the Post. "What's the point? It just goes against all my instincts, all my conditioning to say anything at all now that would add to my notoriety."

Corbett pleaded guilty in 1951 to second-degree murder in the slaying of an Air Force sergeant and served time in California's San Quentin prison before being transferred to a prison in Chino, California, where he escaped and headed to Denver.

Coors' slaying was ranked as one of the top 10 Colorado stories of the century by newspaper editors and broadcasters who are members of The Associated Press.