Investigators dedicated to solving the notorious 1971 hijacking of a Boeing 727 believe they have finally discovered the true identity of the air bandit known as D.B. Cooper.
On Nov. 24, 1971, a man who went by the name of Dan Cooper claimed he had a bomb and took over a plane flying from Portland to Seattle.
He demanded $200,000 and after allowing all passengers and a few flight attendants to leave the plane, ordered the remaining crew members to fly toward Mexico City. But before the flight landed, the man jumped out with a parachute.
Authorities have searched for the man behind the infamous heist for decades, but in 2016 the FBI gave up the hunt, saying no tips have ever “yielded the necessary proof” to determine D.B. Cooper’s identity.
An investigative team led by documentary filmmaker Tom Colbert and his wife Dawna, say a letter written the same year as the hijacking may bring the case to a true close.
The writer of a 1971 letter sent to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times and the Washington Post after the incident bragged about eluding the authorities and capture, beginning: “I knew from the start that I wouldn’t be caught.”
“I didn’t rob Northwest Orient because I thought it would be romantic, heroic or any of the other euphemisms that seem to attach themselves to situations of high risk,” the letter went on. “I’m no modern day Robin Hood. Unfortunately [I] do have only 14 months to live.
“My life has been one of hate, turmoil, hunger and more hate, this seemed to be the fastest and most profitable way to gain a few fast grains of peace of mine (sic),” the writer said.
The letter included details of the case not made available to the public, including the fact that the FBI was unable to lift any useable fingerprints from the plane.
The writer also said he wore a toupee and putty make-up during the heist.
“I’ve come and gone on several airline flights already and am not holed up in some obsure (sic) backwoods town,” the letter continued. “Neither am I a psycho-pathic (sic) killer. As a matter of fact I’ve never even received a speeding ticket. Thank you for your attention. D.B. Cooper”
The Colberts and their team believe Robert W. Rackstraw Sr., a Vietnam War veteran who was investigated by the FBI in the late 1970s, was the author of the letter and D.B. Cooper himself.
A member of the 40-person investigative unit linked a string of letters and numbers at the bottom of the correspondence to three “masked” Army units Rackstraw was part of during his time in the armed forces.
Colbert said the FBI refuses to pursue Rackstraw again because the agency doesn’t want to admit it was bested by amateur investigators, telling Oregon Live “This is obviously about embarrassment and shame.”
Others following the case, however, dispute Colbert’s theory, saying Rackstraw was 28 at the time of the skyjacking and D.B. Cooper was described as a middle-aged man. A flight attendant who sat next to the Cooper during the flight did not pick out Rackstraw from a lineup of mugshots, Oregon Live reported.
Rackstraw has denied that he is D.B. Cooper.
He has reportedly threatened to sue Colbert for accusing him of being the man behind the 1971 hijacking, but has not done so.