The case of D.B. Cooper and the hijacking mystery that accompanies that name has stumped and baffled the FBI as well as investigators for years, in fact, decades. Somehow, one anonymous man managed to send the entire media into a frenzy back in 1971. His 30-minute one-way trip to Seattle would soon turn become the trip that no one would forget for 45 years.
With his sky-high confidence and baffling looks, D.B. Cooper pulled of one of the most talked-about plane heists in history. However, new and very secretive evidence, which was found recently in the Pacific Northwest mountains area, may bring this puzzling case to an end.
Is this the missing puzzle piece the FBI needed to solve this odd case?
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D.B. Cooper Boards a Plane
This story begins the day before Thanksgiving, November 24th, in 1971. A man walked up to the ticket purchasing counter for the Northwest Orient Airlines at the Portland International Airport. He told those at the counter that he was Dan Cooper, he was mistakenly called D.B. by the media, and proceeded to buy a one-way ticket to Seattle using cash. This would be a 30-minute trip.
When the time came to board, Cooper took his seat, 18C, near the back of the plane. A flight attendant on the plane stated later that he lit up his cigarette, ordered a bourbon and soda, and appeared to relax into his seat, waiting for takeoff. The took off on-time with no apparent issues.
What type of airline was Northwest Orient? Click ‘Next’ to learn more, then on with our story.
Northwest Orient Airlines
Today, using the word “orient” is not only outdated, but in some cases, it is considered to be offensive. In the 1970s, however, the term was commonly used, including in business names. This particular airline was founded in 1926 as Northwest Airways, and it was headquartered in the Minneapolis area.
During and after World War II, the airline began transporting both soldiers and supplies to Russia and Japan, and when the war was over, it continued to travel along these routes. They also added other routes in the East, including in Seoul, South Korea and Manilla, Philippines. The airline then added flights from Tokyo to other areas in the East, which is when the company added the Orient to their name. The company kept the “Orient” until 1986, filed bankruptcy in 2005, and in 2008, merged with Delta Airlines.
The plane used that day was a Boeing 727. Was this plane choice on purpose? Click ‘Next’ to find out!
Flight 305 heading from Portland to Seattle was using a Boeing 727-100 as its plane. When the plane took off, it was approximately one-third full. It can carry between 149 and 189 passengers, and according to the records, there were 37 passengers that day, including Cooper. This plane was built to fly short and medium-length flights, so it was the perfect choice for the Portland to Seattle flight.
It is thought by some investigators, based on other evidence that will be discussed later in this article, that Cooper knew the basic layout of the Boeing 727, and that is why he chose this particular flight to hijack and his subsequent escape. After this incident, Boeing made some modifications to the design of the plane, so that nothing like this could happen again.
Was Dan Cooper dressed in any way that made him look suspicious? Click ‘Next’ to find out!
Man Carrying a Briefcase
The flight attendants on the plane said that Cooper was a white man, looked to be about 40-years-old, and was wearing a dark-colored suit, a black lightweight jacket overtop, loafers, a white-collared shirt, and a black tie. While he wasn’t wearing them in the beginning, during the flight he put on a pair of dark sunglasses.
Cooper was thought to be between 5 feet, 10 inches, and 6 feet, 0 inches. He is thought to be about 170 to 180 pounds, and was of average build. He had very short, dark brown hair that is combed back.
He is described as having “one of those faces,” which makes it difficult to properly ID him. Crewmembers said that he had a pleasant demeanor and was cordial to everyone despite what he was attempting to do.
After the plane took off, Cooper hands the flight attendant a note. Click ‘Next’ to find out what it said!
Flight Attendant Receives a Note
Once the plane was in the air and climbing to the proper altitude, the flight attendants were in their seats as well. One of these attendants was Florence Schaffner, and she was seated near to Cooper’s assigned seat.
Cooper casually handed her a note. She said later that she initially thought the piece of paper held the man’s phone number, and that it was just an attempt of a lonely man to hook up with her. She took the note and placed it, unread, in her purse.
When she did so, Cooper leaned over to her and whispered that she had better read the note because he was there with a bomb. She pulled the note back out, and read what it said for herself.
What did Schaffner do after she read the note? Click ‘Next’ to find out!
Sitting with a Hijacker
Florence Schaffner remembers that the note was written in print, with all-capital letters and what looked like a felt-tip pen. The printing was neat and easy to read. While Schaffner remembers what it said, the exact wording is unknown because Cooper took back the note at some point during the flight.
Schaffner said that the note told her that Cooper had a bomb with him, and it told her that she needed to sit down next to him. She complied with the request, and he proceeded to show her the bomb, as well as tell her his demands. Schaffner would later rush to the cockpit to let the pilot know what was going on.
Schaffner asked Cooper to let her see the bomb. Click ‘Next’ to find out what it looked like!
Looking at the Bomb
When Schaffner sat down next to Cooper, she asked him to see the bomb. She wanted to make sure it was really there before she relayed his demands to the pilot. Cooper agreed and opened up his briefcase so that she could see inside.
Cooper only lifted the lid wide enough and for long enough for Schaffner to see that there was eight red cylinders that were stacked four on top of four. These cylinders were attached to wires that were coated in red insulation. These wires attached the cylinders to a large battery. Cooper quickly closed the briefcase and gave Schaffner all of his demands that she had to relay to the pilots of the plane.
Was the bomb that D.B. Cooper showed Schaffner fake? Some think so. Click ‘Next.’
The Bomb – Real or Fake?
Looking back on the case of D.B. Cooper, some people believe that this bomb was not real. One of the main reasons for this is that Florence Schaffner claimed that there were eight red cylinders. It is likely that these cylinders were dynamite, but in most cases, dynamite is not red…except in Hollywood and in cartoons. Instead, dynamite sticks are usually tan or brown.
So, is it possible that the “dynamite” was actually a road flare? You might think that this is more likely; after all, flares are definitely bright red in color. However, road flares have a lot of print all over them. Florence Schaffner didn’t see this print, so it’s believed that these were not flares. What could they be? They could have been anything, but they probably weren’t really explosives.
Schaffner relayed Cooper’s demands to the pilots. Click ‘Next’ to find out what his demands were!
Cooper gave Schaffner a detailed explanation of what he wanted, which was $200,000 in “negotiable American currency,” two primary parachutes, and two reserve parachutes. He also wanted there to be a fuel truck waiting at the Seattle airport to refuel the plane.
Once Cooper was done, Schaffner quickly went to the cockpit to let the pilots know of the situation. She returned to Cooper’s side while the pilots radioed out to air traffic control over at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. They informed the local authorities about the hijacking. The FBI was also told about the problem, and they quickly got together the things Cooper wanted. The pilots and crewmembers were told to cooperate with Cooper so as not to endangered the other passengers on the plane or themselves.
The passengers were told there was a problem with the plane to explain the delay. Click ‘Next’ to continue reading!
Minor Mechanical Difficulty
The 36 other passengers on the plane were told that their arrival in Seattle was going to be delayed due to minor mechanical difficulty. The plane proceeded to circle the sky for the next two hours in order to give the FBI enough time to gather everything that Cooper wanted when they landed.
The FBI had to gather up the parachutes and the ransom money. They took the money from various banks around Seattle. They made sure to catalog all the serial numbers and take microfilm photographs of each bill. The FBI wanted to ensure that they knew when the bills were used. There were 10,000 $20 bills used for the ransom. At first they tried to give him military issued parachutes, but Cooper rejected those, demanding four civilian parachutes instead. The police were able to get them from a skydiving school nearby.
Why would Cooper reject the military parachute, but take the civilian one? Click ‘Next’ for a theory.
Military Parachutes are Trackable
It is extremely likely that D.B. Cooper rejected the military parachutes because he knew that these parachutes could be tracked. Back in the early 1970s, the military used a parachute known as the T-10. This parachute was released in the 1950s, and remained in use until 1976. So, this is the exact parachute that Cooper was used. He must have known, however, that they could be tracked, so if he wanted to make a clean escape, he was right to reject that offer.
Instead, he chose civilian parachutes, which were lighter and smaller than a military issue parachute. This parachute also wasn’t as trackable as a military parachute. Though this information isn’t known, it is likely that the skydiving school had some sort of tracking system for their equipment, but it certainly wouldn’t have been as advanced as a military tracking system.
During the flight, Cooper made references to local spots that could be seen from the air. Click ‘Next’ to continue!
Cooper Recognized Local Terrain
Florence Schaffner remembered afterward that Cooper appeared to be familiar with the local terrain of Seattle. As they circled around, he pointed out various areas. He recognized Tacoma from the air, and he also mentioned that McChord Air Force Base was about a 20-minute drive from the airport. This fact made many believe that Cooper was in fact a local to the area as he seemed to know it well.
Schaffner, we well as another flight attendant, Tina Mucklow, said that throughout the flight, Cooper was calm and polite. He was well-spoken and was pleasant to everyone. They said that he didn’t appear to be like the stereotypical person who you saw hijacking planes. He never appeared nervous, and wasn’t at all mean or nasty to anyone on the plane.
The other passengers were finally allowed to leave the plane Click ‘Next’ to continue the story!
Releasing the Passengers
Around 5:24 pm local time, Cooper was told that all of his demands were met and they would be landing the plane. At 5:39 pm local time, the plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, a little more than two hours past when it was supposed to arrive.
Cooper told the pilot that he wanted him to taxi the plane to an area of the tarmac that was brightly lit, but also isolated. He also demanded that the lights in the cabin be distinguished so as to deter the police from trying to shoot him. He probably figured that with the lights off the police wouldn’t want to risk accidently shooting one of the other people on board the plane.
The Northwest Orient’s Seattle manager approached the plane wearing regular clothes and delivered the money and the parachutes as requested. Once Cooper was assured that everything was there, he allowed all the passengers, as well as most of the flight crew, to leave the plane.
As the plane refueled, Cooper told the remaining crew what he wanted done next. Click ‘Next’ to continue!
Refueling the Plane
After all the passengers were off the plane, the plane was refueled. During this time, Cooper told the remaining crewmembers the new flight plan. They were to take a southeast course heading towards Mexico City. They were to go at a minimum speed that wouldn’t stall the aircraft, and they weren’t to go above 10,000 feet in altitude.
Cooper also said that the plane’s landing gear had to stay in the takeoff/landing position and the cabin had to stay unpressurized. The copilot told Cooper that with the configurations required for this flight, the plane could only fly about 1,000 miles before it needed to refuel. Cooper and the Crew decided that Reno, Nevada, about 700 miles away, would be the refueling location.
When the flight took off again, Cooper made everyone stay in the cockpit. Click ‘Next’ to continue the story!
Back in the Air
The plane took off again around 7:40 pm local time with Cooper, the two pilots, a flight engineer, and the second flight attendant, Tina Mucklow. After it was in the air, two fighter planes quickly followed them, one above and one below the plane. They managed to stay out of Cooper’s line of sight.
Cooper told Mucklow to head into the cockpit area and stay there with the door closed. She did as she was told, but she did notice as she left that Cooper began to tie something to his chest.
About 20 minutes after takeoff, those in the cockpit noticed that a warning light had started to flash letting them know that the plane’s steps was being activated.
Cooper jumped from the plane and disappeared. Click ‘Next’ to find out how they began investigating the case!
They quickly got on the intercom to ask if Cooper needed any help. He told them that he did not need help. Shortly after, they noticed that the air pressure changed, indicating that Cooper had opened the door.
The crew felt the plane made a sudden lurch upward around 8:13 pm. It was a major enough movement that it caused the pilot to do some maneuvering to level out the plane. At 10:15 pm, the pilot managed to land the plane in the Reno, Nevada airport. At this point, FBI agents, Reno police, and state troopers met the plane and surrounded it. They did a thorough search of the plane and quickly determined that Cooper was in fact no longer on the plane.
The investigation into what happened to Cooper begins immediately after the plane lands. Click ‘Next!’
The Investigation Begins
The FBI quickly went aboard the plane once it was determined that Cooper was no longer there and began looking for any clues or evidence that could point them in the right direction. They were able to find 66 fingerprints that were unidentified.
Agents also found a black clip-on tie that was found on Cooper’s seat that they believe was his. They also found two of the four parachutes that were given to Cooper. One of them was opened and had two shroud lines cut from it.
The FBI, as well as the police departments in Seattle, Portland, and Reno, began interviewing anyone who could be considered an eyewitness, especially those who had direct contact with Cooper. Sketch artists were able to put together a series of composites that could help them ID the man.
The FBI began putting together a list of possible suspects. Click ‘Next’ to find out who the first suspect was!
The First Suspect
The FBI and the local police departments began creating a list of possible suspects. The first thing they did was see if anyone could be found with the name Dan Cooper, just in case the man actually used his real name, which they thought was unlikely.
They found an Oregon man who had a minor police record with the name D. B. Cooper. He was contacted by the Portland police, but his involvement in the hijacking was quickly dismissed.
However, a reporter named James Long was in a hurry to make his deadline and incorrectly said that the hijacker’s name was D.B. Cooper. Other reporters ended up republishing the error, and soon the name D. B. Cooper became ingrained into the minds of Americans.
The FBI tried to determine where Cooper may have landed. Click ‘Next’ to see what may have happened!
Where Did He Land?
The FBI was determined to find out precisely where Cooper may have landed so that they could do a more thorough search for him. However, this proved to be harder than they thought. Even small differences such as the plane’s speed as well as are far he free-fell before opening the parachute affected where he may have landed.
They weren’t even sure Cooper had deployed his parachute because the pilots flying the fighter planes didn’t see anything actually exit the plane. The pilots also didn’t see anything on their radars, nor see a parachute open. However, it was night time and Cooper was wearing all black so these facts could have made seeing him nearly impossible.
Recreations of the flight path were conducted to determine where he landed. Click ‘Next’ to read more!
Flight Path Recreation
A recreation of the original flight path was done so that they could determine more precisely where he jumped, as well as, where he may have landed. They used the same plane and pilot, and they flew at the same time.
FBI agents pushed out a 200-pound sled to mimic Cooper’s jump. They were able to recreate the upward motion that the flight crew felt during the initial flight. They were also able to determine his exact jump time.
They were able to determine that the plane was flying over the Lewis River, which is in southwestern Washington, during a heavy rainstorm. With all this information, they could narrow the search field to the southernmost section of Mount St. Helens.
The FBI was able to focus their search efforts in much smaller areas. Click ‘Next’ to see what happened!
Narrowing the Search Field
With the new information, the FBI was able to narrow their search to Cowlitz and Clark counties, which included the areas north and south of the Lewis River, respectively. Officers for those counties searched the areas both by foot and by air. Door-to-door searches were also conducted of all farm houses within those two counties.
Search parties also did a thorough search of the nearby Lake Merwin by boat. They also searched Yale Lake, which was immediately to the east of the search zone. No traces of Cooper or anything that left the plane with him were ever found by any search party.
After a while they stopped looking and picked up again in the spring. Click ‘Next’ to continue the story!
Searching in the Spring
When no new information was found, it was decided that they would stop searching and pick it back up in the spring. Once the spring thaw of 1972 happened, they began searching again. There were 200 Army men that were sent out to help the FBI search the area. This time they were hoping to find further evidence, or possibly Cooper’s skeletal remains.
They investigated for 18 days in March, and an additional 18 days in April. They even employed a submarine to search the depth of Lake Merwin. This was the most extensive search done in U.S. history at the time, and they came up with no significant evidence that could be related back to the hijacking. The only thing of note was skeletal remains found by two women in an abandoned structure near Clark County, but it was later deemed to be that of a teenage girl who had been murdered some weeks previous.
Those involved in determining the drop zone realized that they may have made a mistake. Click ‘Next!’
Later on, the original pilot, Scott, realized that his flight path during the late night trip was further east than he originally thought. Additionally, it was found that wind direction at the time of the flight may not have been factored in to the calculations. This addition would make the calculations off by as much as 80 degrees.
They now think that the drop zone would be further southeast than the original area estimate. This would make the search area near the Washougal River. This area was thoroughly searched but nothing new was discovered. Because this area and the original area are so close to Mount St. Helens, it is possible that any evidence that may have been there was destroyed when the volcano erupted in 1980.
The FBI made the serial numbers for the ransom money know to the public. Click ‘Next’ for more information!
Search For The Money
In the late part of 1971, the FBI made the decision to create a list of all the serial numbers to the ransom money, made copies, and then distributed those lists out. They handed these lists out to banks, race tracks, casinos, and various other businesses in the surrounding areas, as well as the rest of the United States.
Northwest Orient went as far as to offer a reward of 15% of any money that was found. They said they would offer this up to and including $25,000. In the beginning of 1972, the list of serial numbers was given out to the general public. This caused problems because several people attempted to print counterfeit bills with those serial numbers in order to claim a reward.
As the years passed, further rewards were offered. Click ‘Next’ to continue reading the story!
Further Rewards Offered
When another year passed and the money was still out there, further rewards began being offered. The Oregon Journal printed the numbers again and offered its readers $1,000 to the first person who handed in one of the ransom bills to either their office or the FBI field office.
The same thing happened in Seattle. The Post-Intelligencer made an offer as well, though this time with a $5,000 reward.
These offers remained in effect until Thanksgiving 1974, exactly three years after the hijacking. They were still no closer to finding the missing money. It wouldn’t be until 1975 that Northwest Orient’s insurance company would pay out the airline’s claim of $180,000 for the ransom money. They would only do this because the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered them to pay it.
What happened when the statute of limitations got close to expiration? Click ‘Next’ to find out!
Statute of Limitations
In 1976, with the manhunt still going on, people began to worry as the expiration of the statute of limitations drew closer. Others thought there was nothing to worry about with this because the statute varies case by case. One even argued that Cooper forfeited his immunity on various grounds.
However, all concerns were soon considered mute when in November of that year, a Portland grand jury returned an indictment against Dan Cooper, without him being present, for air piracy for his actions that day, as well as for the Hobbs Act. This allows for them to prosecute Dan Cooper whenever they finally catch him, no matter how long it takes.
There were several pieces of evidence that turned up over the years. Click ‘Next’ to see what was found first.
The Plane’s Placard Found
In 1978, a placard was found, and investigators found that it came from the 727 plane that Cooper hijacked. This placard had instructions on it that explained how to lower the stairs on the plane.
This placard was found by a logging road in Washington by a deer hunter. This location was quite a bit north of Lake Merwin, but still well within the basic flight path.
Many people believe that this placard fell off when Cooper lowered the stairs and jumped out of the plane. Since placards aren’t that big, it would have traveled a lot further than Cooper himself would have traveled. The location of the placard when found may not be a good indicator of where Cooper would have landed.
Some of the ransom money was found in 1980. Click ‘Next’ to find out who found it!
In 1980, some of the ransom money was recovered. Eight-year-old Brian Ingram was on vacation with his family along the Columbia River, which flows through both Washington and Oregon. He had been digging in the sand to help dig up an area for a fire pit. When doing so, he found three bundles of cash that had been buried in the sand.
These bundles of cash were buried just a few inches from the surface, and they had the rubber bands still attached from when they were bundled up to give to Cooper. The money that was found added up to be about $5,800. This was the first time that any of the missing ransom money had been found, and this would be the last time.
The FBI checked the serial numbers, and they were a match. Click ‘Next’ to continue the story!
Checking the Money
The money that Ingram found was badly disintegrated, but they were able to check the serial numbers. They found that they were indeed a match for the ransom money that was given to Cooper.
The money was in three bound packets. Two of the packets had 100 $20 bills, and the third had 90 $20 bills. They were still arranged in exactly the same order they were in when they were given to Cooper.
This find brought many people back out in droves hoping to find the rest of the money, or possibly other clues. It also brought out another round of conjecture and confusion. It ultimately created more questions than it solved. Many people believe that the money fell out when Cooper jumped out of the plane, and it landed in the river, and then eventually made it to shore where it got buried in the sand.
Portions of a parachute have turned up, too. Are they from the Cooper parachutes? Click ‘Next’ to find out!
Finding the Parachutes
In 1988, a part of a parachute was brought up from the bottom of the Columbia River. It came from the same section of the river as the bills were found. However, the FBI found that it could not have come from the parachutes that were given to Cooper.
In 2008, children in Amboy, Washington also found a piece of a parachute. They had been digging in the ground after their father had been grading the area for a road. As they dug around, they realized that there was a piece of fabric sticking up. They pulled it out as far as they could before cutting the ropes with scissors. The FBI investigated and found that it was a World War II era parachute.
To this day, the placard and the ransom money have been the only true pieces of evidence to found in this case.
There have been several suspects over the years. Click ‘Next’ to find out who the first one was.
Theodore Mayfield was a Special Forces veteran for the Army. He was competitive skydiver, as well as an instructor. He was thought to be a suspect early on in the investigation because he was known to the lead investigator, Agent Himmelsbach, due to a prior dispute at the airport.
However, he was ruled out as a suspect not long after this, partly because he had called Agent Himmelsbach just two hours after the plane landed in Reno to offer his advice on skydiving practices. He also offered to help come up with plausible landing zones.
He has served time in 1994 for negligent homicide when two of his students died after their parachutes failed to open. He was also considered indirectly responsible for 13 more deaths because of faulty equipment and poor training.
Why was he considered a suspect again in 2006? Click ‘Next’ to find out!
Ted Mayfield – 2006
Two amateur researchers decided that Mayfield could still be a logical suspect. They had assembled a case that was circumstantial, but also convincing, or so they thought. They theorized that Mayfield called Himmelsbach, not to offer his advice but to set up an alibi.
Mayfield continued to deny any involvement in the hijacking. He stated that the FBI had called him multiple times during the fight to ask him questions about skydiving, parachutes, and various techniques.
The FBI continued to say that they had ruled Mayfield out as a possible suspect a long time ago. Mayfield passed away in 2015.
The next suspect was someone who came forward himself. Click ‘Next’ to see how he was ruled out!
Jack Coffelt was an ex-convict, as well as a conman. One of his claims to fame was that he supposedly chauffeured around Abraham Lincoln’s last known descendant, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith. He came forward in 1972 saying he was D. B. Cooper. He even attempted to sell his story to Hollywood.
Coffelt claimed that he had landed near Mount Hood, which is about 50 miles southeast of Ariel. He claimed he had been injured in the fall, and had lost all the ransom money during his jump. Pictures of Coffelt showed some resemblance to the composites of Cooper, but Coffelt had been in his mid-50s in 1971.
What made his claim credible was that Coffelt had been in Portland the same day as the hijacking, and he had even sustained a leg injury that could be consistent with a skydiving accident.
What happened when the FBI reviewed Coffelt’s claims? Click ‘Next’ to find out!
The FBI took Coffelt’s claims seriously, and investigated them as they should. However, they determined that the claims lacked significant details, and differed quite a bit from information that hadn’t been made public. They ruled his claims as false based on this information.
However, a cell-mate of Coffelt’s, named James Brown, continued to claim that his friend was Cooper, and did so even long after Coffelt had died in 1975. Various news programs considered the story, but ultimately decided not to air it after they determined that the story was probably false.
Another possible suspect had been a Vietnam veteran. Click ‘Next’ to find out who it was!
Richard Floyd McCoy Jr.
Richard Floyd McCoy Jr. had been an Army veteran who had done two tours in Vietnam. After he left the Army, he had become a warrant officer for the Utah National Guard. He was also an avid recreational skydiver. In 1972, he staged the best copycat hijacking of a plane. The two hijackings were very similar.
He was arrested two days later with the ransom cash on him. He was tried and sentenced to 45 years in jail. He escaped with accomplishes two years later after crashing a garbage truck into the gates of the jail, but was killed in a shootout three months later. Many people believed that he was D. B. Cooper, but not everyone was convinced.
Why did people think McCoy was D. B. Cooper? Click ‘Next’ to connect the pieces!
Richard Floyd McCoy Jr. Continued
Both parole officer Bernie Rhodes and a former FBI agent named Russell Calame thought that McCoy was really D. B. Cooper. They claimed that there were a lot of similarities between the two hijackings. There were also multiple claims from his family that the clip-on tie found in the cockpit belonged to McCoy.
McCoy, himself, refused to admit or deny that he was really Cooper. The FBI agent that shot and killed McCoy even said that he shot D. B. Cooper.
All of this aside, the FBI doesn’t consider McCoy a real suspect in the Cooper case because he doesn’t match Cooper in age or appearance. They also thought that McCoy had more knowledge about skydiving than Cooper appeared to have. Lastly, there was credible evidence that pointed to McCoy being in Las Vegas during the time of the Cooper hijacking.
Another Vietnam veteran was a suspect of the Cooper case. Click ‘Next’ to find out more!
Robert Rackstraw was a retired pilot, and he served as a part of the Army helicopter crew during the Vietnam War. He came to be known to the investigators of the Cooper case in February 1978. He had been arrested in Iran, and then deported back to the United States. It would be several months later after he had been out on bail that he tried to fake his own death.
Rackstraw had made a false mayday call saying he was bailing out of a rented plane near Monterey Bay. He was later arrested on charges of foraging federal pilot licenses. It was at this time that he was noticed by Cooper investigators, who thought that he resembled the Cooper composites. He was eventually released as a suspect in 1979 when they couldn’t find any direct evidence of his involvement.
Rackstraw became a suspect again in 2016. Click ‘Next’ to find out how!
Robert Rackstraw Continued
Robert Rackstraw came back into the investigation in 2016 thanks to a History Channel documentary as well as in a book. The author of the book, Thomas Colbert, filed a lawsuit saying the FBI should release all of their information on the Cooper case to the public. He claimed that the FBI was refusing to do so in order to undermine their theory that Rackstraw was Cooper.
Colbert claimed they were doing so in order to prevent any embarrassment the agency may feel for not doing enough to link Rackstraw to the Cooper case. However, the FBI claims that one of the flight attendants aboard that day saw pictures of Rackstraw and saw no similarities to her memory of Cooper.
The next possible suspect was a man who served in World War II. Click ‘Next’ to find out who it was!
Duane Weber was a World War II veteran, and had served time in six prisons between 1945 and 1968. These were for things like forgery and burglary. His name was given to the FBI as a possible suspect by his widow. She did so based on his supposed deathbed confession.
Three days before he died in 1995, she said that he told her that he was Dan Cooper. At first, the name meant nothing to her, but a friend of hers told her about the significance of that name, and of the hijacking. She said that she looked up the name D. B. Cooper in her local library and found a book, and found that it held notations in her husband’s handwriting.
What did the FBI do with this information on Weber? Click ‘Next’ to find out!
Duane Weber Continued
There are a number of other reasons that Duane Weber remains a popular suspect. Weber was a chain smoker, and he drank bourbon, just like Cooper did when he was on the plane. He also had a chronic knee injury, which he would often joke that he received when “jumping out of a plane.” Weber was also linked to the Columbia River, which he visited, alone, in 1979…four months later, young Brian Ingram discovered the cash in the same area.
His wife, Jo, also added some information that is cause for concern. For instance, she said that Duane had a dream one night and was talking in his sleep about jumping from a plane and leaving fingerprints on the stairs. She also said that she had found a Northwest Airline ticket in the paperwork for their taxes.
This next suspect in the D.B. Cooper case was also a service member. Click ‘Next’ for more information.
William Gossett was another suspect in the D.B. Cooper case. He was a member of the U.S. Marines, the US. Army, and the Army Air Force. He was a decorated veteran, too, having served in both the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Thanks to his military experience, he was also experienced with a parachute and in survival tactics.
Gossett has been on the FBI’s radar for many years, and he was never eliminated as a potential suspect in the case, even after passing away in 2003 at the age of 73 from natural causes. He is the only major suspect in the case who was never eliminated.
There are other surprising coincidences between Gossett and the D.B. Cooper case. Click ‘Next!”
William Gossett Continued
In addition to the skills that William Gossett had, according to friends and family, he would often talk about the D.B. Cooper case. He also often implied that he had special knowledge of the case, and admitted to several of his sons that he actually WAS D.B. Cooper. He also made this confession to a retired judge that he knew, and to a close friend, according to his son.
According to Galen Cook, an attorney who has been investigating the Cooper case, the judge conferred with this story, and said that he told William Gossett to keep his mouth shut, don’t bring it up again, and to not do anything that he would regret. Greg Gossett, the son of William Gossett, contacted Cook to tell him that his father would keep files with articles on D.B. Cooper and also showed him large amounts of cash right before Christmas in 1971, which was right when the skyjacking occurred.
John List committed a major crime right before the skyjacking. Could he be D.B. Cooper? Click ‘Next.’
John List was another suspect in the D.B. Cooper case, and again, he was another military man. He was an accountant and a veteran of the Korean War. He also fought in World War II. What makes his case so interesting in only two weeks before the skyjacking, he murdered his mother, his wife, and his three children. He then withdrew $200,000 from the bank and disappeared.
Investigators in the Cooper case were focused on John List for several reasons. First, it was the suspicious timing of his disappearance and he had been described as looking similar to Cooper. In addition, as a fugitive on the run, he really had nothing to lose.
John List was eventually captured. He also made a confession. Click ‘Next’ to see what he said.
John List Continued
After John List was captured in 1989, he made a confession that he murdered his family and stole the $200,000 from his mother’s bank account. However, he denied his involvement in the skyjacking, and he also denied that he was D.B. Cooper.
Many people still consider John List a suspect in the D.B. Cooper case. In fact, there are articles about him, and he is still featured in documentaries about this mystery to this day. However, the FBI has a different view of List, and he is not considered a suspect in this case. There has never been any strong evidence, either; it’s all circumstantial. John List died in prison in 2008, and never claimed to be D.B. Cooper.
There are even MORE suspects who could be the real D.B. Cooper. Click ‘Next’ to meet a new one.
Kenneth Christiansen was a rather later suspect in the D.B. Cooper case, and not brought to light until 2003…and he was already dead. You see, a man named Lyle Christiansen was watching a documentary about the skyjacking, and he believed that his late brother, Kenneth Christiansen, was actually Cooper.
Lyle Christiansen contacted the FBI several times about this, and even a film director, but no one would listen. He then contacted a PI named Skipp Porteous. In 2010, Porteous wrote a book about Kenneth and his similarities with Cooper. Just a year later, the History channel featured this connection.
What were the connections between Cooper and Christiansen? Click ‘Next’ for more.
Kenneth Christiansen Continued
Kenneth Christiansen was a trained Army paratrooper, and actually worked for Northwest Orient. He was a heavy smoker, a bourbon drinker, which was what Cooper drank on the flight, and was left-handed. It is also believed that Cooper was left-handed, too, based on witness accounts.
Soon after the skyjacking, Christiansen used cash to purchase a home; cash that he really shouldn’t have had according to family. He also told Lyle before dying of cancer that he had a big secret, but couldn’t reveal it. After his death, his family found more than $200,000 in cash in his bank account, a collection of valuable stamps, and gold coins. The family also found a full folder of news clippings about Northwest Orient, which mysteriously stopped right before the skyjacking.
Even after all of this, the FBI never considered Christiansen to be a viable suspect in the case.
This next suspect was accused by his niece, and his last name is actually Cooper! Click ‘Next.’
Lynn Doyle Cooper
Lynn Doyle Cooper, who went by L.D. Cooper, became a suspect in the D.B. Cooper case in 2011 after his niece, Marla Cooper, accused him of being the skyjacker. When she was a child, she remembered that L.D. and another uncle were planning some type of scheme, and the next day, the hijacking occurred. Her uncles were not home at the time, and when L.D. returned to the house, he was wearing a bloody shirt.
L.D. Cooper died in 1999, and Marla remembered that he was obsessed with a comic book hero called “Dan Cooper.” In August of that same year, a new sketch was released by New York magazine, which looked remarkably like L.D. Cooper. Is he the real D.B. Cooper?
The FBI looked into L.D. Cooper as the real D.B. Cooper. What did they find? Click ‘Next.’
L.D. Cooper Continued
The FBI talked to Marla Cooper, and they asked for some items of L.D. Cooper’s. They obtained a guitar strap that was made by L.D., and used it to look for fingerprints. However, they found none. They also looked for some DNA, which they were able to gather.
The FBI already had DNA from the plane, which could belong to D.B. Cooper. However, they are not 100% certain that the DNA they have actually came from Cooper. Though it is true that the DNA was taken from the tie that Cooper was said to be wearing, it is not 100% certain that it is his. After all, there were other people on the plane, too. When the FBI compared L.D. Cooper’s DNA with the possible DNA from D.B. Cooper, they were unable to make a match.
Is it possible that D.B. Cooper could have actually been a woman? Click ‘Next’ for this bizarre twist.
Barbara Dayton was an amateur pilot and librarian, and at first glance, she would be an unusual suspect in the D.B. Cooper case. Born as Robert Dayton in 1926, he served as a Merchant Marine and then the Army during the second World War. After he was discharged, he worked in construction and learned to be a pilot, but was unable to get a commercial pilot’s license after trying several times.
In 1969, Robert Dayton underwent gender reassignment surgery and became Barbara Dayton. At this point, she made waves for a claim. What did she have to say? You will certainly want to keep reading.
Barbara Dayton confessed to being D.B. Cooper. What else did she have to say? Click ‘Next.’
Barbara Dayton Continued
Barbara Dayton admitted to several people that she was, in fact, D.B. Cooper. She said that she disguised herself as a man and committed the crime to get back at the FAA and the airline industry for not allowing her to get her pilot’s license. She then claimed that she had hidden the money she had taken in a cistern in the area of Woodburn, Oregon. This is where she claimed to have landed after parachuting from the plane.
As you might expect, Barbara Dayton later claimed that the entire confession was a made-up story. However, this came after she learned that the FBI could still charge her with hijacking if they believed her to be D.B. Cooper; there was no statute of limitations. However, the FBI has never made a comment on Dayton’s claims, and she passed away in 2002.
The FBI recently admitted defeat in the case of D.B. Cooper. Was it too early? Click ‘Next.’
The FBI Stops Working on the Case
In July or 2016, the FBI stopped working on the D.B. Cooper case. They had been working on the case for 45 years, they had worked on clearing more than 1,000 suspects, and they had looked into any credible lead they came across. However, nothing led then closer to discovering the identity of D.B. Cooper.
Though the FBI had officially closed the case without solving it, not everyone was happy to give up on the case. There are many others out there who are still fascinated with the case, and who have recently discovered new evidence…you will learn about that if you keep reading.
Is it possible that the FBI could reopen the D.B. Cooper case? Click ‘Next’ to find out.
Is the FBI Really Giving Up?
Though the FBI is really giving up on the D.B. Cooper case, it is always possible that they will re-open the case. This could be coming sooner, rather than later, based on the new evidence that has been found if you keep clicking.
Ultimately, the FBI had to use their manpower and their resources to other cases, and they had to put these resources on cases that were modern and more pressing than a 45 year old cold case. The FBI has said multiple times that if anyone has information on the D.B. Cooper case, they would love to see it.
One group hasn’t given up on the D.B. Cooper case. Who are they? Click ‘Next.’
The Citizen Sleuths is a group that is focused on the D. B. Cooper case. It is made up of scientists and interested armchair detectives who are interested in the D. B. Cooper mystery. Thanks to the research that these people have done, we might be extremely close to finally solving this case and finding out who D. B. Cooper really was.
In fact, this group studied the case of D. B. Cooper for three years, and like FBI profilers, they have even come up with a profile of who D. B. Cooper might be. You will learn more about this profile if you keep clicking through!
How did Citizen Sleuths start? Click ‘Next’ to learn more about the man who inspired them.
The Inspiration of the Citizen Sleuths
The Citizen Sleuths began to investigate the D. B. Cooper case when information on the case was released by Special Agent Larry Carr, who had previously worked on the case. He had released all of the FBI’s information in hopes that someone out there would eventually be able to solve the case. Special Agent Carr was told that he was not able to spend any more government money or resources on the case, so he turned to everyday people.
Special Agent Carr believes that there is a connection between the real D.B. Cooper and the comic book character, Dan Cooper, which was mentioned earlier in this list. He said that the comic books were only in French, not English, so in his mind, it is a no brainer that D. B. Cooper is fluent in French.
One of the main members of Citizen Sleuths has an interesting job. Click ‘Next’ to learn more.
Citizen Sleuths Has an Interesting Member
One of the most interesting members of Citizen Sleuths is Tom Kaye. He is a paleontologist. This is interesting, as you would never expect that a paleontologist would be working on a case like this. Instead, you would expect that he would be working on jobs like digging up dinosaur bones.
Tom Kaye also is interested in astrophysics, and he works on research in both fields. Though he spends much of his time studying the remains of dinosaurs, he also works diligently to solve the case of D. B. Cooper.
What tools are the Citizen Sleuths using to gain insight into the D. B. Cooper case? Click ‘Next.’
The Team is Using a Powerful Electron Microscope
One of the pieces of equipment that the Citizen Sleuths is using to help gain information about the D. B. Cooper case is an electron microscope. Usually, this type of equipment is used to magnify things much more strongly than a typical microscope.
What are they using it for? They are re-examining every piece of evidence that the FBI has handed over. Why? Because the case happened so long ago that the evidence has never been looked at this closely before. In other words, we have the technology now to do a much better investigation than was initially done in the 1970s.
What did the team find when they looked at the money found in the Cooper case? Click ‘Next.’
The Team Looks at the Money
Remember, some of the money from the D. B. Cooper case was found by Brian Ingram in 1980. However, it had never been thoroughly examined, and some of the bills had turned a blackish color. Though some of the bills looked beaten up, you could still identify them as $20 bills.
Up until now, the best theory about what happened to the money to make it black had to do with the river. It was believed that the cash had landed in the river and tumbled in the water for many years before washing up on the beach. That had caused organisms to essentially dye the bills.
Citizen Sleuths has crushed that theory. What do they believe now?
58 The Electron Microscope Reveals Shocking Information
So, you are probably very interested to learn what was found when the money was examined by the electron microscope, right? Well, they learned that the material that was causing the bills to turn black was not from a living organism, at all. Instead, it was silver.
This was shocking to the researchers, as it would be very unusual for them to find silver on money like this. Though this didn’t give them any more information about the identity of D. B. Cooper, it gave them the respect of the FBI…and this would change everything for Citizen Sleuths and the D. B. Cooper case.
What did the FBI do next? You won’t believe it. Click ‘Next.’
The FBI Hands Over the Tie
You might remember that the tie that D. B. Cooper was wearing the day he skyjacked the plane was left when he jumped. We have mentioned it a few times, mostly because it had DNA on it. The tie had been locked in an FBI office for four decades, and finally, they were going to let Citizen Sleuths take a look at it.
Why is the tie so important? Well, a tie is the least washed item in a man’s wardrobe, which means it collects a lot of debris…microscopic debris…like pollen, DNA, and clothing fibers. Once examined, this could lead the team to the exact location that D. B. Cooper came from.
What did Citizen Sleuths find when they looked at the time? You have to click ‘Next!’
60 The Surprising Information Found by the Electron Microscope
When the team from Citizen Sleuths got their hands on the tie, they knew exactly what they wanted to do with it…they wanted to look at it with the electron microscope. They had no idea what they would find, but when they did it, they were very surprised.
The results of the examination showed that there were various particles of metal on the fabric of the tie. One metal was titanium. This is really unusual because this was not a common metal in 1971, and there were only one or two ways to come in contact with this metal back in the 1970s…and this new information could blow the case wide open.
Other metal was found, too. This helped them come up with an idea of D. B. Cooper’s job. Click ‘Next.’
Citizen Sleuths Have a Good Idea of What D. B. Cooper Did for Work
Thanks to the results from the electron microscope, Citizen Sleuths are able to make an educated guess on what D. B. Cooper likely did for work. First, it’s possible that Cooper worked in the airline or aircraft industry. Titanium was often used in the industry back in the 1970s. However, in most cases, the titanium used was titanium alloy. What they found was pure titanium, so it’s more likely that he worked in another place.
When the tie was further examined, the team also found aluminum and stainless steel. This gave them even more information, and they now believe that it is likely that D. B. Cooper worked in a chemical plant of some type.
Citizen Sleuths is getting help from other people, too. Click ‘Next’ to see even more new info.
If we really want to solve the case and find out the real identity of D. B. Cooper, we really need the help of amateur sleuths. One such sleuth is a man named Geoffrey Gray. He wrote a book about the skyjacking, which is called “Skyjack.” Thanks to his efforts, there are now even more FBI files on the D. B. Cooper case available on his website.
How many new files are now available thanks to the efforts of Gray? Hundreds. You, too , can take a look at what he has found if you want to join the case on your own. His online magazine and website is called “True Ink.”
What are Geoffrey Gray’s hopes in regards to these files and this case? Click ‘Next.’
These New Files Could Raise Public Curiosity
Now that this new information from the FBI has been released, Geoffrey Gray hopes that he and other investigators into the case could use crowdsourcing to finally help to solve it. His main hope is that the curiosity of people will be raised and renewed.
If you are curious about what these files contain, you should definitely take a bit of time to look into the files that are available on the website. The more people who become interested in the files, the closer we get to finally solving this mystery.
Where did Geoffrey Gray get these files? Click ‘Next’ to find out more.
Geoffrey Got the Files from FBI Contacts
You are probably wondering where Geoffrey Gray got the files in the first place. After all, you can’t just walk into the FBI to get files. Remember, Gray wrote a book on the Cooper case, and in order to do that, he had to interview people from the FBI.
Gray ended up getting hundreds of documents, and some of them are extremely long and detailed. None of the files are classified, so he was able to post them to his website without breaking any laws or putting any classified information at risk.
How can you help Geoffrey Gray? Keep clicking ‘Next’ to find out.
Helping Geoffrey Gray is Easier Than You Think
If you are still reading this, you are likely very interested in the case of D. B. Cooper. Are you interested to find out how you can have a hand in really solving this case? You can, and all it takes is a little bit of time.
So, put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and dig into the files that are on Geoffrey Gray’s website. You will be fascinated by the information available on the site, and you might even make a connection between one of the key suspects and some new information that no one has seen before.
What other information have we uncovered about the D. B. Cooper case? Click ‘Next.’
Other Interesting Information About the Cooper Case
It’s possible that D. B. Cooper could have died when he jumped. Jumping from a commercial airliner is no easy feat, and even though he had parachutes, we have no idea if he even knew how to use them.
Though there is speculation that Cooper did die during the jump, there has never been any body found in the search area, and other evidence, such as the found money, lends to the fact that he did, indeed, survive the jump.
The flight attendants also gave information to make it likely that he survived. Click ‘Next.’
The Flight Attendants Saw Him Put on the Parachutes
D. B. Cooper asked for four parachutes before he jumped, both front and back parachutes. He wore two, and then left two on board. Before the crew was asked to go into the cockpit, the flight attendant saw Cooper put on the parachutes.
Though originally, it was thought that Cooper was a novice because he asked for both front and back parachutes, he also refused directions on how to use the parachutes. This would indicate that he knew how to use one. He also knew how to put them on without assistance.
What else can we tell you about the D. B. Cooper case? Click ‘Next’ to read more.
Did D. B. Cooper Even Jump?
We know that D.B. Cooper was on the plane, and we know that he put on the parachutes. At that point, the crew was ushered into the cockpit, so no one saw anything else. That was, in fact, the last known sighting of D. B. Cooper. Though we know he opened the door…did he really jump?
There is speculation that Cooper didn’t jump. He could have made it look like he jumped, instead. There are also crazy theories that he climbed down onto the landing gear of the plane. Possible? Probably not, but again, no body has ever been found.
There are theories about the money, too. Click ‘Next!’
The Mystery of the Money
Another thing that people keep questioning about the D. B. Cooper case is how he was able to keep the money together so well. Remember, he received $200,000 and then jumped. But, only $5,800 was ever found. How did this money stay together and become buried, but the rest is totally missing?
It is possible that some of the money floated away and degraded completely, but based on the money that was found, this doesn’t seem likely, either. Is almost $200,000 still out there somewhere?
Who was D. B. Cooper? Click ‘Next’ for even more information.
D. B. Cooper…was He an American?
There is also speculation that D. B. Cooper was not even American. First, he asked for “negotiable American currency.” This is a phrase that most American’s would never say. However, the people on the plane said that he did not have any type of accent. Is it possible that he could be a foreigner and not have an accent?
It could be if he was from French Canada. There are some French Canadians that do not have any accent that would be recognized as foreign by an American. These include Franco-Albertans, Franco-Manitobans, and Franco Ontarians. These people often do not have an accent when speaking, though they are also fluent in French. This also could explain the Dan Cooper comic, which was only available in French.
The D.B. Cooper theories are ongoing even today in 2017, including this current one. Click ‘Next’.
Bill Rollins’ Theory About D.B. Cooper’s Identity
Bill Rollins is an engineer who became fascinated with the D.B. Cooper case after watching a show about the case on the History Channel. Collins started looking into the case, and specifically focused on the chemical traces on the tie. Because he is an engineer, Rollins came to believe that D.B. Cooper could have been an engineer, too, and he believes a man named Joe Lakich is behind the Cooper façade.
Joe Lakich was an engineer and Army major, who had lost his daughter after what he believed was due to an FBI error. Rollins writes about this theory in his book, “The Elusive D.B. Cooper: How He Escapes,” which was recently released. Currently, Rollins is doing book signings and talking about why he believes Joe Lakich is actually D.B. Cooper.
Click ‘Next’ to learn more about Bill Rollins’ theory and the latest possible D.B. Cooper suspect.
Joe Lakich Experienced Great Tragedy
To understand why Bill Rollins believes Joe Lakich could be D.B. Cooper, you must understand Lakich’s story. Just weeks before the D.B. Cooper skyjacking, Lakich’s daughter, Susan Lakich, was killed by her estranged husband in another skyjacking. The husband, George Giffe, asked for the plane to stop for a refuel, but the FBI thought it was better to open fire on the plane instead…even though Lakich begged them not to because he knew Giffe had a gun.
As soon as the FBI began opening fire, George Giffe did the unthinkable; he shot and killed Susan and the plane’s pilot. Joe Lakich was devastated, and extremely critical of the FBI following the incident. When interviewed about the event, Lakich said that the FBI “made a gross error.” Rollins believes that Lakich sought revenge for his daughter’s death, and thus, became D.B. Cooper.