Joe Corbett, free from prison since 1980 for the 1960 murder of Adolph Coors III, took his own life Monday with a gunshot to his head.

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DENVER — Joe Corbett, free from prison since 1980 for the 1960 murder of Adolph Coors III, took his own life Monday with a gunshot to his head.

Corbett, 80 and diagnosed with cancer, was convicted in 1961 for the kidnapping and slaying a year earlier of the grandson of the founder of the Coors brewery. Corbett always maintained that he was innocent.

If his conviction was valid, Corbett took any firsthand knowledge of Coors’ abduction and death to his grave.

He told The Denver Post in 1996 that he wished only to be left alone, and that trying to prove his innocence would only attract unwanted attention.

“I don’t want to stir things up again, because it just gets me all wrought up,” he said in one of the only interviews he ever gave.

He said he was haunted by whispers: “There goes the guy who killed Adolph Coors.”

His neighbors at a Denver apartment house, where he spent the last third of his life, knew little about him.

“Every time I went to the bank, I’d see him walking,” said Tom Dang, owner of a store across the street from the apartments.

He would see Corbett returning home lugging sacks from the grocery a mile and a half away, and he was struck by Corbett’s spry pace.

Dang had no idea the man was convicted in one of Colorado’s most notorious crimes.

The story riveted the nation nearly 50 years ago — from Adolph Coors III’s disappearance to the discovery of his body in a dump south of Denver seven months later to Corbett’s arrest in Canada in 1960.

“I see myself as a pretty commonplace man who through sheer, bizarre circumstances got involved in something notorious,” Corbett told a parole board in 1979.

Coors was a 44-year-old husband, father of four and chairman of the Golden brewery. He was on his way to work when he was abducted.

Investigators turned their attention to a car seen in the area that eventually led them to Corbett. It turned up eight days later, set afire in Atlantic City, N.J. Investigators tracked Corbett from there to Toronto and on to Vancouver, B.C.

When he was arrested, he reportedly told the FBI agent, “I’m your man.”

Coors had been shot twice in the back.

Investigators made a case that the $500,000 ransom note was produced by Corbett’s typewriter, and a store clerk remembered him buying the brand of typing paper used for the letter.

Corbett’s co-workers at Benjamin Moore Paint told police he had bragged of an impending “big score” of a half-million dollars or more.

Corbett had escaped from prison in California in 1955 after serving two years for murder after he shot an Air Force sergeant during a fight in 1951.

Corbett refused to talk to investigators about the Coors murder or provide an alibi. He did not testify at his trial.

After he was freed from prison in 1980, Corbett drove a truck for the Salvation Army until he retired.