DB Cooper Suspect Sheridan Peterson Dies as Case Remains Unsolved More Than 50 Years After Plane Hijacking

The FBI released 11/27, this artist's drawing of "D. B. Cooper," the suspected skyjacker, who parachuted from a Northwest Airlines 727 jet after collecting $200,000 ransom in Seattle.
Photo by Time Life Pictures/Fbi/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

The man suspected for decades of being "D.B. Cooper," who was wanted in connection to a plane hijacking over 50 years ago, has died. The case remains an unsolved mystery.

Sheridan Peterson, the man suspected in the decades-old D.B. Cooper case, where a mystery man hijacked a plane and parachuted out after demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars 50 years ago, has died. 

On Nov. 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as "Dan" or "D.B. Cooper," boarded a flight from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. As the plane soared midair, Cooper passed a note to a flight attendant with a message that read: "you are being highjacked," the Spokesman-Review reported.

As part of the heist, he asked for $200,000, four parachutes and a fuel truck to standby for him in Seattle. The ransom was approved by the airline's president, and after two hours in flight, the plane landed safely. Cooper then instructed the pilot to fly towards Mexico City at an altitude of 10,000 feet, and in the middle of the night over a mountain-range in Washington, Cooper parachuted off the flight, with the ransom money strapped to his body, according to reports.

Authorities said they didn't believe that Cooper survived the jump. About $5,000 of the money was recovered on the Columbia river in 1980, along with a black-tie Cooper was wearing at the time of the hijacking.

But an investigator on the case for the History Channel once said he was "98% sure" that Sheridan Peterson was the skyjacking suspect investigators had been looking for. Although, when the FBI interviewed Peterson, he said that he was in Nepal during the time of the hijacking, Oregon Live reported.

He spent much of his time in Asia and served in the Marine Corps during World War II. After his time in the war, Peterson graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in English, philosophy and journalism.

He was even known to be an expert skydiver and to have experimented “with homemade bat wings," according to Oregon Live, which was a big factor for those who believed him to be involved in the unsolved 1974 hijacking. Not to mention, the striking resemblance to the sketching drawn by investigators, which painted a picture of a man "wearing a dark suit and tie and horn-rimmed sunglasses," according to Rolling Stone.

In a 2007 interview, published in an issue of the magazine Smokejumper, Peterson once said “Actually, the FBI had good reason to suspect me. Friends and associates agreed that I was without a doubt D.B. Cooper. There were too many circumstances involved for it to be a coincidence," according to the Review.

He elaborated, “At the time of the heist, I was 44 years old. That was the approximate age Cooper was assumed to have been, and I closely resembled sketches of the hijacker. But what was even more incriminating was the photo of me simulating a skydiving maneuver for Boeing’s news sheet. I was wearing a suit and tie -- the same sort of garb Cooper had worn, right down to the Oxford loafers. It was noted that skydivers don’t ordinarily dress so formally.”

Eventually, investigators said they had exhausted all outlets. An FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement in 2016 that, "unfortunately, none of the well-meaning tips or applications of new investigative technology have yielded the necessary proof,” Ayn Dietrich-Williams said, adding that the manhunt is "one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in" FBI’s history, Inside Edition Digital previously reported.

Peterson was born in May 1926 and died Jan. 8 at his California home, according to his obituary. Peterson is survived by his son, Sheridan Peterson, and daughter, Ginger Lucena Peterson, according to Legacy.com.