After a brief hiatus, Natalie Morales is back on the news beat.
In one of her first efforts for CBS News, Morales was called upon to explore a decades-old murder in Colorado for “48 Hours.” “It was more like a baptism by ice,” confesses Judy Tygard, the executive producer of the long-running program. “We had Natalie traipsing through the forest and the snow and out on these bitter, cold, deserted passes in Colorado, and we gave her a very simple task: Master a 40 year old case in a few weeks.”
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On Saturday, Morales will tell viewers about an investigation into the 1982 murders of two young women, Annette Schnee, 21 and Bobbie Jo Oberholtzer, 29, near the resort ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado. The case had gone cold until investigators – some of whom have been trying to solve it for years – were able to get a DNA match from evidence via a public genealogy database. Investigators learn that the killer was rescued by a local fire chief from a snow-covered mountain pass the very same night he dumped the bodies of the two women.
“There were so many what-ifs and almosts,” says Morales. “It took finally having the right break.”
Viewers will likely recall Morales from her time at NBC News, where she was a regular on “Today” — serving as the show’s news reader until producers decided to eliminate that position — as well as “Dateline.” She also spent time on “Access Hollywood.” She joined CBS in 2021 to lead the afternoon roundtable show, “The Talk,” but the intent, says Morales, was always to do work for CBS News as well. Her work at “The Talk” continues.
“It was always part of the deal coming in,” she says, adding that “I just had to wait a certain amount of time.” TV-news correspondents and anchors must often abide by the terms of non-compete clauses in their contracts.
Morales is keeping open lines of communication with the various executive producers at CBS News, where she is now expected to contribute to the division’s entire programming portfolio, which also includes “CBS Mornings” and “CBS Sunday Morning.”
“I’m ready to step it up and do more for the network,” says Morales. “I hope that they put me in al things – put me in, coach! – wherever they feel there’s a need.”
Morales is one of a handful of prominent new hires made at CBS News, which has long had a reputation for having an insular culture. Under the aegis of co-presidents Neeraj Khemlani and Wendy McMahon, a retooled news-and-stations unit of Paramount Global has brought in correspondents like Robert Costa from The Washington Post, sports commentator Nate Burleson, and Scott MacFarlane, a veteran of Washington coverage.
Morales “knows how to get to the heart of a tough story with compassion and grace,” said Khemlani in a statement in October.
The Colorado case came to the attention of “48 Hours” producers in the early spring of 2021, says Tygard, and a trial date set in the fall made it of more immediate interest. “When it went to trial was around the time when we had access to Natalie, and it all came together,” she says, noting that she “will take as much Natalie as I can get” for the show, though she will have to negotiate with other producers who might also want to take up some of Morales’ time.
Morales doesn’t have a hard goal of how many CBS News pieces she might do each year, but notes she’s maintaining dialogues with many producers about what might be possible. “The Talk” has a hiatus around the holidays which may open windows of time for her. She hopes viewers will gravitate to her first major story for CBS News, if only because, despite the grisly circumstances, it offers some measure of hope. Morales says she has done stories in which people feel that “justice will never happen for them,” but this investigation shows the merits of continuing efforts to solve a case. “If you put the right people on it and give it a little bit of time, with the right technology, it can happen,” she adds.
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