The Hunt for DB Cooper – Looking for Tina Muckow, the primary witness

Part I:  Initial investigations – 

August 2008 – October 2010

Tina Mucklow, the flight attendant that served as DB Cooper’s emissary in his exchange of communications with the pilots and the FBI, and was later kept aboard as he prepared to make his skydiving getaway, is considered to be the primary witness in the case. 

However, beginning in 1991, she has disappeared from public view.

Her fade-out has become almost as big a mystery as the fate of Cooper himself, and uncovering what has happened to Ms. Mucklow is arguably a critical component to unraveling the entire case, the only unsolved skyjacking in the history of the United States.

This post describes my efforts to find Tina and learn the state of her current well-being, ascertain what happened during the skyjacking, and to determine why she has dropped away from view for nearly two decades.

Despite her disappearance, some facts are known that reveal her experiences aboard Flight 305, along with important aspects of her prior and post-skyjacking life.

Tina’s last-known whereabouts was the Carmelite Monastery in Eugene, Oregon, where she had been a cloistered nun for the previous twelve years, entering the convent about 1979.

It is widely reported that Tina moved to Portland, Oregon when she left the convent in 1991, but I have no definitive information on that occurrence, nor do I have any address or contacts there to question further about Tina.

I’m not the only one who is looking for Tina.  In 2008, Dr. Susan Eisenhower-Turner, a physician from the Philadelphia area, posted a blog entry on a Minnesota newspaper’s website following a DB Cooper-related story and asked the cyber world for information on Tina, claiming that they were old friends and former classmates at the Lankenau School for Girls, a private secondary school located in Germantown, PA.

During this time period, Cooper investigator Galen Cook also launched an intensive to find Tina.  Because of my extensive writings on Tina on the www.DropZone.com forum, particularly concerning her psychological well-being, Galen contacted me to discuss what circumstances could have caused Tina to become reclusive.

From those conversations Galen and I developed an investigative partnership, pooling information and giving each other much-appreciated support via numerous phone calls and emails.

Galen, an attorney from Anchorage, Alaska, has been on the hunt for DB Cooper since the 1980s and is widely known for being the leading advocate for Cooper suspect, William Wolfgang Gossett.  Galen appears regularly on radio to discuss the case and he is also writing a book on his findings.  Most importantly though, Galen has a keen interest in what has happened to Tina.

We both feel that the mystery of Tina is as compelling a story as Cooper’s, and that the two may be connected.  Together, we have sought to peel back the mysteries surrounding these two individuals, particularly through understanding their emotional states and motivations.

As part of this process Galen has shared with me several vital pieces of information about Tina.

To begin, Galen told me that he has interviewed the Madame Superior at Tina’s former convent, Mother Elizabeth Mary, and says the chief nun told him that Tina “never really fit in” while she was there despite living in the ecclesiastical community from 1979 until 1991.

In addition, Galen told me that he has also interviewed Russ Calame, the former Special Agent in Charge of the Salt Lake City, Utah FBI office, and co-author of the Cooper book, “DB Cooper – The Real McCoy”.  Calame is the guy who collared Richard McCoy, another Cooper-esque skyjacker and the man that Calame believes did the Cooper jump as well.

Galen says that Calame told him that when he interviewed Tina in the mid 1980s while searching for Cooper-McCoy connections, he came to realize that Tina would never be a credible witness in any Cooper trial because her memory of the skyjacking had become too fuzzy.  Galen told me that Calame had intimated that Tina had been brainwashed during her time at the convent.

“It’s as if her memory has been wiped clean, like an eraser wiping chalk off a blackboard,” is how I heard Galen describe Calame’s pronouncements.

These comments are further enhanced by Calame’s account in his book that the FBI agents who conducted the evidence retrieval after the skyjacking were profoundly confused about those events.  Calame and his co-author Bernie Rhodes interviewed them in the 1980s and they say the FBI agents were acting as if under the influence of post-hypnotic suggestions.

Galen also said that another Cooper investigator, author and former FBI agent Richard Tosaw, had described Tina’s mental state while in the convent in terms similar to Calame.

“She answered most of Tosaw’s questions with the same response, ‘I can’t remember,’” Galen told me.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to confirm these claims with the Madame Superior and Russ Calame despite numerous attempts to do so.  In addition, my efforts to speak with Richard Tosaw before his death in 2009 were also unsuccessful.

Another interesting angle provided by Galen is the fact that Tina’s older sister is married to an FBI agent and that Tina lived with them prior to her arrival at the convent.  Tina’s sister and brother-in-law also visited her in the convent on multiple occasions and reportedly brought her to the monastery in 1979.  In addition, they reportedly picked her up when she left in 1991.

Backed with these pieces of information, I have also gathered insights into Tina’s mental and cognitive states from interviews with other principal and documentary sources.

Most importantly, Bill Rataczak, co-pilot of Flight 305, told me in 2009 that Tina was cool, calm and collected during her ordeal with Cooper.  He specifically stated that he “wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Tina.  She kept Cooper calm.”

To show his appreciation for Tina’s skillful handling of Cooper during the skyjacking, Rataczak – on behalf of the entire flight crew – gifted Tina with a large bottle of Chanel No.5, adding, “That woman sure knew how to wear perfume.”

So, how did Tina develop the skill to handle Cooper?  Doing so was not an easy task.  Tina sat next to him for nearly two hours while circling Sea-Tac airport waiting for the parachutes and ransom money to arrive at the airport, and during that time she lit at least eight Raleigh cigarettes for him as he kept his right hand on the bomb trigger.  She also engaged Cooper in conversation upon instruction from the pilots – and presumably the FBI – in a pointed effort to obtain information on his identity and motivation.

In addition, she carried several notes between Cooper and the cockpit, and joined with fellow flight attendant Florence Schaffner in calming the passengers.

Further, she spent at least forty-five minutes alone with Cooper in the passenger cabin during the re-fueling at Sea-Tac.  Lastly, when Cooper sent her back to the cockpit, she was asked to take written notes of the radio transmissions between Flight 305 and the FBI and air traffic controllers in Seattle.

It can be easily imagined that these experiences were harrowing.

So, how did Tina stay so calm and productive?  How did she maintain that perfect blend of assertiveness and deference?  Was she adept at handling a bomb-tottin’ skyjacker because she had prior experiences placating abusers?  Or was Tina Muckow just one tough cookie?

If so, why did Tina fall apart a few years later in the convent?  What happened?

Seeking answers, I sought Dr. Eisenhower-Turner.  Besides wanting to know where Tina is currently living and details of the skyjacking, I was especially concerned for her well-being.   A clue from her personal life that I sought an answer for was why Tina was hyper-religious.  Tina reportedly carried a bible on many of her flights and is thought to have had one aboard Flight 305.   She is seen clutching what appears to be a bible in pictures taken after her debriefing with FBI agents immediately following the plane’s landing in Reno, Nevada.

In addition, Galen says Tina has been described by fellow flight attendants as being excessively preachy before and after the skyjacking, particularly during lay-overs.

Piecing these parts together I began to see a picture of a woman who might have experienced child abuse, possibly sexual.  In my fourteen years as an activity therapist in psychiatry I had learned that many women who had been raped as a child often found solace in religion, frequently becoming hyper-religious, such as carrying a bible to work.  Further, many of these abused women also sought to enhance their physical beauty, recognizing the inherent power therein.  Along these lines, pictures of Tina from the post-skyjacking period show her to be a very attractive twenty-something.

So, how did this bible-carrying woman also come to be an individual who “knew how to wear perfume” and one seeking the glamour and prestige of being a flight attendant?  Was sexual abuse the pathway by which Tina learned to handle violent men?

Reports from classmate searches on the Internet indicate that Tina graduated from the Lankenau School for Girls in 1968, which would make her about 21 when she was skyjacked in 1971.  Hence, she must have left her home in Philadelphia soon after graduating from the Lankenau School for Girls, and headed to Minneapolis to work as a stewardess for Northwest Orient Airlines.

Recapping what I knew of Tina from the early stages of my investigation: she was a good-looking young woman who left her home in Philly after graduation from a religiously-oriented high school and sought adventure in the skies.  Along the way she brings her bible, handles a skyjacking with aplomb, and then loses her mind in a convent and disappears from view.

How did all that happen, and what role does the DB Cooper skyjacking play in Tina Mucklow’s life, if any?  And further, is there anything from her childhood or family life that could shed some light on these questions?

DB Cooper investigator Galen Cook, right, shares a beer with this author in Olympia, WA after a day of sleuthing in "Cooper Country."

Looking For Tina, December 15-16, 2010

A visit to Eastern Pennsylvania

In the fall of 2010, I had a couple of personal experiences that placed me on the east coast for an extended period.  First, the newspaper that I had been writing for, The Eatonville Dispatch, (Washington,) was sold by its mom and pop operators to a corporate group.  The new owners demonstrated a profound inability to pay me in a timely manner and worse, they did not display any substantive capacity to respect my intellectual property rights.  My efforts to rectify these issues led my new employers to terminate my contract in September, 2010.

On October 20, within minutes of chiseling-out my last pay check from corporate ownership, my 86-year old mother fell in New York and broke four ribs.  Without a job I seemed the ideal candidate to tend to Mom, so, on Halloween I flew to JFK, got her into a rehab center for seven weeks, and then guided her return back home.

During that time, I was able to take a few days and travel to eastern Pennsylvania to scout for information on Tina.

Uppermost on my list was meeting Dr. Eisenhower-Turner.

I had contacted ET, as Galen and I affectionately call her, the prior year and had shared my concerns for Tina, especially the possibility that she might have been sexually assaulted early in life.  I posed that those traumas may have been exacerbated by the DB Cooper incident and I sent Dr. ET a hefty packet of information on the DB Cooper case.  I also mentioned the possibility that Tina – and the whole DB Cooper caper – may have been part of a Manchurian Candidate–like scenario.  I suggested that the skyjacking could have been part of MKULTRA mind-control operations that were being conducted by the CIA and US military during the Cooper time-frame.  In my view, many circumstantial aspects of the Cooper case, especially the sexual behaviors of the primary suspects – in particular those who have confessed to being DB Cooper – suggest the involvement of mind, mood, and memory control processes.

I proposed to Dr. ET that we join forces and initiate an intervention with Tina, one that would be both therapeutic and journalistically significant.

Although Dr. ET and I never spoke directly, she did telephone me once, leaving a voice message acknowledging receipt of my packet of information and stressing that she did not want to partner in any outreach towards Tina.  In fact, she asked quite plaintively that I abandon my efforts to contact Tina.

“I ask that you respect her privacy,” Dr. ET implored.

I was disappointed by Dr. ET’s response and also a little surprised.  After all, she too, had been seeking information on Tina.  If she was a childhood friend why did she have to ask the cyber world for information on her old classmate?  Why didn’t she just call Tina’s family?

Hence, I had assumed that Tina and her family were just as hidden for Dr. ET as they were for me.  But, why did Dr. ET go mum?  Was she admitted into the inner sanctum of Tina’s world and then motivated somehow to join their efforts to keep the external world at bay?

Hence, I wanted to speak directly with Dr. ET.

I was able to learn from medical directories that Dr. ET was practicing at a major medical center in suburban of Philadelphia.  I was also intrigued to learn that Dr ET was a psychiatrist.

Another piece of co-incidence, or a connection to MKULTRA? I pondered.

On a cold, pre-Christmas December day in 2010, I knocked on Dr. ET’s office door.  She quickly answered but only opened the door a little bit.  It appeared that she was having a session with a client, and only allowed a partial view into her office.

“Hi,” I said.  “Dr. Susan Eisenhower-Turner?”

She nodded in affirmative.

“Hi there, I’m Bruce Smith,”

Dr. ET’s face looked blank.

“I’m a newspaper reporter from Tacoma, Washington.  I contacted you about a year ago.”

Her face brightened with recognition.

“I was wondering if we could speak some time about Tina Mucklow.”

“No,” she replied instantly, in a clear, firm voice.

“Why not?”  I countered.  She paused, and Dr. ET began to close the door.

“Perhaps we could talk about the Lankenau School for Girls,” I offered.

“Just no,” she said, stepping back and closing her door.

I left quickly, not wanting to trigger my removal by hospital security.

However, I did retreat to the hospital’s snack bar where I calmed myself with an ice-cold Coca-Cola.  I was surprised how excited I was.  My hands were shaking and my body was absolutely tingling.  After two years of talking with DB Cooper principals on the phone, I had actually met one in-person.  It was enthralling.

Here are some of my notes on my encounter with Dr. Eisenhower-Turner that I wrote in the snack bar:

“ET is a stern-looking woman – about 5’8”, early 60s, very thin.  She has short hair and was dressed in casual but exceptionally tasteful and colorful professional clothes – scarf, flowing skirt – that type of thing.  She looks like an old hippy that has gotten uptight, or she is a stern, older yuppie who has a taste for color, texture and composition in her clothing.”

I called Galen from the snack bar and after hearing my report his first words to me were: “Why does everyone protect Tina?”  We spoke for about an hour and my effort to make direct contact with a member of the Mucklow Clan shifted something between Galen and I – we became bonded more fully in this project.  Galen then suggested that I contact AW Mucklow, a woman that he had spoken with several times over the years and had found receptive to his requests for information.

I had known about AW Mucklow from prior conversations with Galen, and he had given me her email address when I first appealed to Dr. ET.  I had sent a similar packet of information to AW, but I had never heard back from her.

Now, though, in the hospital snack bar Galen gave me her home phone number.  I was on the Hunt in a heightened manner.

AW lived northeast of Philadelphia and I was currently far to the south.  Further complicating my itinerary, I wanted to check-out the Lankenau School for Girls, Germantown, and any member of the Mucklow family I could find – especially one name-sake, a dentist – before I left this part of Philly.

As it turned out, by the time I reached the office of the dentist he was gone for the day and not to return for a few.  So, I headed to my evening’s lodging in Cherry Hill, NJ at the home of a member of my extended family.

The next day, December 16, I resumed looking for the Lankenau School for Girls.  Initially, I had thought it was a Catholic high school but neither the Catholic archdiocese nor the Philly school district had ever heard of it.

Nevertheless, there was a public high school named Lankenau High School that was located in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, so I headed there.

The principal of Lankenau High School, Jacqueline Bentley, was as courteous and helpful as her assistant principal Shawn Poole had been on the phone the week before when I had called looking for information on Tina.

They had never heard of Tina Mucklow or Susan Eisenhower, as ET was known in her high school years, nor did they have any information on when or how their high school was connected to the Catholic Church.  I wanted to know if there was a relationship between Tina and a Catholic institution because Cathy O’Brien, the noted MKULTRA whistleblower, charges that members of the Catholic Church were involved in her sexual abuse and the eventual fracturing of her personality as part of an effort to Manchurian-candidate her into a CIA operative.

But Ms. Bentley told me that her Lankenau High School had come into existence in 1983, first as an annex to the Germantown High School further downtown, and then as a free-standing high school that had a special charter to educate highly motivated kids.

She also said that prior to the Philadelphia school system taking over Lankenau it had been a private school, possibly for children with special needs.

As for the building itself, it is two-stories in height with a box-like brick and masonry construction.  Over its 150-foot length, Lankenau High School housed perhaps sixteen classrooms spread over its east and west wings, and both sections were joined by a central administrative core.

Currently, the building appears a bit dilapidated and has a late-1960s-early-1970s feel.  “Run-down-modern” is how I described it in my field notes.

This is the current Lankenau High School, operated by the Philadephia public school system.

Ms. Bentley also told me that “there’s was nothing out here when the school was built,” and a drive around the area confirmed that this northwestern-most section of Philadelphia had been a collection of wealthy estates, old farms and sporting clubs in the not-too-distant past.

The current Lankenau High School certainly seemed like it was built in an ideal place for MKULTRA kids getting their personalities fried, but it didn’t seem like it was old enough to be the place Tina and Sue graduated from in 1968, as Google searches had indicated.

When I explained my interest in Lankenau High School and my persepctive of Tina and ET to Principal Bentley, Ms. Bentley recommended that I pay a visit to the neighboring Renfrew Center, which she said was a clinic for women with eating disorders.

As I drove away from Lankenau High School I passed a small, white Honda with a Pennsylvania license plate that read: MK JOE’S.

An omen?

Nevertheless, I found the Renfrew Center to be a concoction of elegant dorms and classroom-like buildings surrounding a two-story Mediterranean-style villa that was built in the 1850s.

Oddly, the parking lots at Renfrew were filled with twice the number of vehicles that were parked at Bentley’s Lankenau HS, and most were late-model, mini SUVs.  As I headed towards the administration center I passed a number of large bay-windows that revealed several groups of pretty-but-skinny women sitting around in circles, presumably in group therapy sessions.  I surmised that Renfrew did not have many male reporters strolling around its grounds and making the residents uncomfortable.

The official I spoke with at the Renfrew administrative office was civil but not warm, informing me that the Renfrew Center was a private treatment facility and has been in existence since the 1980s.  I got the hint and got out of there.  It may have an interesting link to this story – or not – but I needed more specific information on Tina Mucklow.

Seeking it, I started driving downtown on the nearby Germantown Ave with the goal of visiting the Germantown Historical Society.  Within minutes a light snow began to fall, and by the time I reached inner Philly the roads were snarled with traffic.

But GHS curators Sam and Alex greeted me warmly as I entered and introduced myself.

“Bruce, we were just going to call you!” they called out.

The prior week, I had called the Germantown Historical Society looking for information on the Lankenau Catholic High School.  I was hoping, successfully as it turned out, that these historians would have knowledge of Germantown far beyond their efforts to commemorate the important battle that was fought in that part of Philadelphia in the early days of America’s Revolutionary War.

The folks at the Historical Society provided me with documents that the school was officially called the Lankenau School for Girls and was dedicated in 1956 at 3201 West School House Lane, which is now located on the Philadelphia University campus.  However, they couldn’t confirm the school was run by the Catholic Church or when it went out of existence.

I also learned that before its arrival at the West School House Lane site the Lankenau School for Girls had a pre-existing campus elsewhere in the Germantown area, dating back to at least 1903.

Since West School House Lane was just a hop, skip and a jump from the Historical Society, I was soon back in the snow.  But, as I made my way to the door an older figure with twinkling eyes emerged from a dusty cubicle amongst the shadows and announced that he could not find any Mucklows listed in the 1963 Philadelphia phone book as residing in Germantown, only a Mucklow print shop, now out of business.

Hmmm, I thought, Germantown is a working-class neighborhood.  Maybe the Mucklows didn’t have a phone?

Then, another historian approached and handed me a newspaper clipping of the dedication.  I was shocked to see that the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia – not the Catholic Church – was the officiating organization at the dedication and perhaps was also administering the school.

However, a Sister Lydia Fisher was listed as orchestrating the dedication ceremony.  This Lankenau thing was getting murkier by the minute.  Was the Lankenau School for Girls a private school run by the Lutherans and not the Catholic Church?  If so, when did the Lutherans begin developing a corps of teaching nuns?

Slipping and sliding through the snow I wandered the grounds of Philadelphia University asking students and staff where I could get information on the former Lankenau school.  Eventually, I was directed to Archer Hall, the Registrar’s building, which proved to be another elegant, two-story mansion.

“Can you tell me where the old Lankenau School for Girls existed?” I asked Victoria Lally, the receptionist.

“Well, you’re standing in what was the dorm building for both the nuns and the girls, as far as I know.  The building across the parking lot, Downs Hall, was the classroom building,” she said.

Again I felt chills, this time knowing I was standing on ground that Tina Mucklow had also walked.  Also, the question of nuns further excited me – this was getting weirder.

“The nuns resided here?”  I asked.  “They lived in the same building as their students?”

“Yes, that is my understanding,” said Victoria.

“And the Lankenau School for Girls was a boarding school?”

“Yes.”

Wow, I thought.  I had assumed Tina and Sue had been day students, commuting from nearby Germantown.  After all, Tina’s family didn’t have a phone or at least a listing in the phone book, so how could they afford a boarding school?

Victoria couldn’t tell me when Philadelphia University took over the buildings from the Lutherans – or Catholics – or when the Lankenau School for Girls closed its doors, but she said it was prior to 1980, when she started her career in the Registrar’s office.

This structure is Downs Hall, the classroom building of the Lankenau Schools for Girls.

Seeking more information, Victoria directed me towards the “White House,” another estate on campus and one that housed the Public Relations department.  However, due to the snow all the PR folks had departed by the time I reached their offices.

As I left Archer Hall Victoria added one more piece of advice, saying that I could probably obtain confirmation of Tina’s graduation from Lankenau at the Pennsylvania Department of Education in Harrisburg.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Good luck,” she said.  “I hope you find out what happened to Tina.  It’s a great story.”

As the dark descended, the snow tapered off.  However, the traffic mess only grew worse.  The radio said that I-95 was jammed from Philadelphia to the Delaware state line and when I passed I-76 on the west side of Philly I could see that it too, was at a standstill in both directions.  Even the cars on the entrance ramps weren’t moving.

Yikes, I might as well take Route 1 to get out of Philly!

AW Mucklow was my next stop, but she was a long ways off.

I’ll get there when I get there, I philosophized is an effort to assuage my impatience.

Creeping and crawling along this city boulevard, I finally made it to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and headed towards my old stomping grounds of Lehigh University and Bethlehem, PA, and eventually AW.

Earlier, when I had called the number Galen had given me for AW, I learned that it had been disconnected.  Nevertheless, I had reverse-addressed it so I knew where to go and found her house without difficulty.

It’s a cute, little house on a fair-sized property in an attractive working-class neighborhood.  AW’s abode is what folks in New York call a “shotgun” dwelling, as the house is narrow and long, and the main entrance is on the side of the house and not facing the street.  AW had a few Christmas lights strung around a few windows and along a shrub or two, so I could clearly see the eight-foot high hedges shielding the house and the chain-link fence and gate.

Since my arrival was long after sunset I decided to park across the street at a neighbor residence that was well-lit with plenty of Christmas decorations.

Seconds after I parked, the neighbor, a young, Polish-accented woman, opened her door.  I asked her where AW Mucklow lived although I knew.  Besides my concerns about freaking-out the neighborhood because of my after-dark arrival, I wanted to make my investigative intentions known to the neighbors.  In addition, even though AW had a few Christmas lights glowing her property was still mostly dark, and I was concerned about the gate. My rule as a journalist is to never open a private entrance unless authorized, especially at night.

As I talked with the neighbor AW’s dogs were apparently released from inside the house or came running from the back of the property.  At the gate they barked like crazed creatures guarding the Wicked Witch of the West.  Despite the commotion, the neighbor asked me to move my car since I was in her husband’s parking space and he was due home momentarily.

I repositioned my vehicle on AW’s side of the street, but in front of another neighbor’s house. By the time I walked to AW’s gate the dogs had been recalled inside.  At the gate I hesitated, then took a breath and opened it. 

It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission, I rationalized and approached the front door. 

I knocked a couple times but got no response.  Since it didn’t feel like the main door I walked around to the side of her house, which did prove to be the primary entrance.

A voice inside called out, “Who is it?”  The dogs began yapping again. 

“My name is Bruce Smith,” I answered.  “I’m a newspaper reporter.  I was wondering if I could talk to you.”

Thus began an awkward conversation conducted by shouting through the house walls and over the noise of the dogs.

“About the skyjacking?” the voice inside called out.

“Yes.  I’d like to talk to you about Tina….is she okay?”

“She’s fine…but she’s not here.

“Do you have a number I could call her?

“No.”

“Is AW Mucklow here?  I’d like to talk with AW, too.”

“No, she’s not here, either.”

Do you have a number I could call AW?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Okay, I’ll be leaving then.  Thanks for your time.”

As I walked away all the outside lights were turned off, but I was still able to read an engraved wooden sign hanging next to the door:

“Nobody gets to see the wizard.  Not no how.  Not no way.”

I smiled. I must be at the right place…..

I left AW’s property and headed to another neighbor, this one next to the neighbor whose husband was coming home soon.  I thought I would make my presence known further and let AW know that I wasn’t going to go away without an effort.  I wasn’t completely sure I had spoken to AW, as the voice sounded like a young woman’s, but I had thought I had and she sounded like she was going to be a tough interview.

So, I knocked on a second neighbor’s front door, another house with lots of Christmas lights.  However, I received no answer.  I walked back into the street and then someone opened the door at AW’s and let the dogs out again.

Within seconds a womanly figure appeared at the Mucklow’s gate, along with the dogs.  The woman was attractive, around 50 and slightly-over-weight. I surmised it was AW, but she never introduced herself.

“Do you have a business card?” the figure called out.

“Yes, I do,” and I handed it to her with my cell number scribbled hastily on the back.

Arching my arm high into the sky to avoid the yapping dogs, I passed the card over the gate and the figure took it.

“Do you have a number I can call you on?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’ll give you my cell number.  Do you have a piece of paper?”

Again using the sky-hook maneuver, I handed her a pen and a scrap of notepaper from my over-flowing Mucklow file.  She wrote her number down and handed it back to me.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll call you soon.”

She was pleasant and seemed unconcerned standing in the wintry cold talking to a pesky reporter.

I was hoping that she would invite me inside, but after a momentary pause during which I did not receive it, I said goodbye and drove off.  I stopped at a nearby convenience store to restock with note paper and then headed to a neighborhood pizzeria.  There, I called AW on my cell.  She picked up on the second ring and we spoke for about 20-30 minutes.  She was friendly but unrevealing.  She also conducted herself in a smooth manner, deftly deflecting my probing questions.

Maybe she’s talked with a lot of reporters….or she’s been coached?

But she did display one cognitive slip when describing Tina’s departure from the home environs:

“When Tina went off to become…you know…a…. what-cha-ma-call-it… ah, not a waitress…”

“A stewardess?” I offered

“Yeah, a stewardess….

I was surprised by that mental block but I didn’t press the issue.  I wanted to build rapport so I didn’t push for details or information.  In general, we had a pleasant conversation and AW took many opportunities to assure me that Tina was okay and wanted to be left alone.

“It happened a long time ago, and she just wants to leave it in the past,” AW announced early in the conversation.

I only pushed heavily on one item, a comment AW made that Tina lives well and even goes on vacations.

“Where?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know.  Lots of places.”

“Like where?”

“I don’t remember exactly.”

“Well, what kinds of vacation does she go on?  Does she go swimming, like in the Caribbean?  Or maybe skiing?  Like in Colorado?”

“I can’t say for sure.”

“Well, where did she go on her last vacation?”

“Ah, somewhere down in California, I think.”

“Southern California….northern California?”

“Ah, down in the lower part.”

“LA?”

“Not exactly.  It was off the coast.  It was, ah…an island.  Yeah, Catalina Island.”

Hmmmm. Is that the truth?  Did Tina Mucklow actually go on a vacation to Catalina Island, or did AW just hem and haw until she could come up with a plausible vacation spot.  I don’t know.

Later, AW asked me why I wanted to talk with Tina and the nature of my interest in the case.

I explained that I thought the event was an important story because it’s the only unsolved skyjacking case in the United States and one filled with mysteries.  I also said it was important to talk with Tina since she is the primary witness to the crime and thus a critical source to reporters.  Further, I explained some of my concern for Tina’s well-being, and the possibility of MKULTRA involvement.  I told her that I had spoken with Bill Rataczak and that he had described Tina as vital to saving their lives, adding that he described Tina as a figure who kept her cool under pressure.  I added that Tina is reported to have had serious cognitive difficulties.  In addition, I told AW about Dr. ET and described my relationship with Galen Cook.  I described how I had received her telephone number and how I had reversed-addressed it to find where she lived.

AW interrupted at one point and asked me where I was from.  I assumed she wondered how my New York accent got attached to an Eatonville, Washington business card, so I explained how my mom had fallen and broken four ribs and that I had come Back East to help care for her.  Later, AW told me that Tina had returned similarly to help her father.

“That shows you the kind of person Tina is,” AW told me.  “Not too many people do that for their elderly parents these days.”

Also, I told AW that I had met Dr. ET the prior day but that the doctor had declined to discuss Tina despite her outreach on the Internet a couple years before.

“That makes me curious,” I told AW.  “Why wouldn’t Susan Eisenhower talk with me when she clearly wanted to learn about Tina, and did so in such a public manner?”

I ended the conversation after hearing yet one more string of commentaries from AW claiming that Tina is okay and just wants to be left alone.  After about 20 minutes, I decided any further questioning would be counterproductive so I bailed.  Nevertheless, I told AW that I would like to talk with her again when I had more questions.  She didn’t protest.

Here are my field notes from talking with AW Mucklow:

AW began by saying that she has spoken with a lot of reporters and investigators.

“I’m dealing with half-a-dozen people trying to get – ya know – in touch with Tina.”

When I asked AW how she was related to Tina, she paused, so I offered a prompt.

“Are you like a cousin or something?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

AW added that she is a lot younger than Tina.  When I asked AW about Tina and her family, she said, “She (Tina) just went off to become…you know…(the waitress/stewardess comment).”

When I asked AW if or how Tina had been affected by the skyjacking she simply said, “She had a bad night, I guess.”

Then she added quickly, “She’s very quiet; she’s a very good person.”

Further, “She keeps to herself.  I think that’s just what she wants to do.  It all happened in the past and I guess she just wants to forget about it.”

I asked if Tina might have any concerns about a reprisal if Cooper is still alive:

“She not afraid of Cooper; that’s what I think, personally.”

AW confirmed Tina’s religiosity.

“She’s very religious.  She’s one of those good people – like you taking care of your mother.  Her dad was up in age and he needed help.  She’s the one who came in and took care of him.  I respect that.  A lot of people wouldn’t do that; they don’t care.  She’s a good person.”

AW confirmed that Tina went to the Lankenau School for Girls and said that she thought it was a Catholic institution.  She also confirmed that Tina was a Catholic, although she hesitated for a split second when I asked what religion Tina was.

AW also confirmed that Tina has one sibling, an older sister named Jane.  I asked AW if she could give me contact information on Jane.

“There have been so many people trying to get to talk with Tina and her (Jane).  I can talk to Jane and run it by her that you’d like to talk with her.”

I asked what life is like in general for Tina.

“She’s living a normal life.  She does everything a normal person does – she dates, she works, she drives.”  AW then added, “Is Tina happy?  I would say yes.”

I then asked AW about her relationship with Tina.

“I haven’t seen her in a while, not for about ten years.  But, I talk with her fairly frequently.  She seems fine to me.”

As for dealing with reporters:

“I just feel that she doesn’t want to talk about it.  I’ve sent her what I got from you.  I think she just feels that it happened in the past and she just doesn’t want to relive it.”

AW confirmed some specifics about Tina’s life, stating that Tina had been married once but was not currently married, and that she has never had any children.

I asked about the specifics of where Tina has lived, such as the reports that she moved to the Portland, Oregon area after leaving the convent in Eugene.

“I don’t think Tina’s in Oregon anymore.

AW seemed exasperated at this point, declaring, “I always send everything out to her.  I don’t know what else I can do…to help you guys.  I’m in the middle.  What more can I say?”

I asked about Tina’s participation in the investigation of DB Cooper:

“I don’t think she has a lot of contact with the FBI.”

Then she added, a little smugly, “Nobody got hurt that night, right?”

“But didn’t Tina get emotionally hurt that night?” I retorted.

“It probably did traumatize her,” AW replied.

Then AW went back to defending Tina:

“Tina’s got a good life.  She’s planting a garden, she goes on vacation – she’s living better than I am,” adding with a laugh: “I haven’t been on a vacation in a long time!”

AW and I then had our exchange about where Tina goes on vacation.

At the end, I asked,” Can I call back, if I have more questions?”

“Sure, I’ll be happy to talk with you, but I don’t know what more I can say.”

Summation:

AW Mucklow was very circumspect in our conversation this evening (Dec. 16, 2010).

She answered very carefully.  She was very successful in giving some details but not too many, and nothing crucial.  She seemed very skilled in talking to reporters as if she has been rehearsed or just has had a lot of practice.

I plan on speaking with her again during the latter part of my trip here in New York.

Addendum:  Lankenau School for Girls

On January 11, 2011, I spoke with John Peterson, the curator for the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, about the Lankenau School for Girls.

Mr. Peterson told me that the Lutherans had operated the Lankenau School for Girls, and that the “nuns” who taught there were, in fact, Lutheran deaconesses.  Pictures from that era show Lutheran deaconesses dressed very similarly to Catholic nuns, although not as severely as some Catholic orders.  These deaconesses engaged in similar types of activities as Catholic nuns, such as social work, teaching and nursing.

In addition, Mr. Peterson gave me an overview of the history of the school:

The Lankenau School for Girls was established in 1890 and grew to become an independent school for grades K-12.  It was founded by the Lutheran Theological Seminary on the grounds of the “Deaconesses House” in Germantown with substantial support from the well-known Lutheran philanthropist, John Lankenau.  Mr. Lankenau had been very active in community affairs throughout the late 19th and early 20th Century and had also founded the Lankenau Hospital, a major medical center that still serves the Philadelphia area.

In 1942, the Lankenau School for Girls moved to 3201 West School House Lane, a location now part of Philadelphia University.  At that time the LSG was a boarding school.  However, in 1969, the LSG became co-educational and ceased its boarding operations.

I was unable to clarify what part of the school was dedicated in 1956.

In 1974, The Lankenau School moved to 201 Spring Lane, apparently building the structure that is now the current public Lankenau High School.  In 1978, the Lutherans closed the school and the public school system took control soon after, re-opening as a public charter school sometime around 1980.

Addendum, AW Interview

AW has been unresponsive to my requests for a second interview.  I have also sent her a snail mail correspondence and have not received a reply.

In addition, I have called Florence Schaffner, Tina’s fellow flight attendant aboard 305.  Ms. Schaffner has also been unresponsive to my requests for an interview.

Addendum, Interview with “Leslie,”

A former NWO flight attendant named Leslie contacted Galen recently, claiming that she was a colleague of Tina’s, and in fact had been a classmate in flight attendant training.

After returning from Philadelphia, I called Leslie to get more background on Tina, but I failed to reach her directly and left a voice message.  Surprisingly, she called me back – a very gracious act, in my opinion.

“I knew Tina Mucklow as a wonderful, sweet person, and that’s all I want to say,” Leslie told me.

I was stunned.  Leslie had called me only to deliver a brief statement?  I find that weird; it feels almost like a set-up.

I wouldn’t let go, and I asked Leslie if we could just have a general conversation about Tina and how they knew each other.  Leslie relented a little, and confirmed that she knew Tina in flight school.  When I grasped for more she pushed back, saying that maybe Tina is reclusive because guys like me constantly hound her.  Leslie also seemed unaffected by my reasoning that Tina, as the prime witness to a major crime, has some degree of responsibility to seeing justice served.

“I’m just going to respect her privacy and I ask that you do, too.  I knew Tina to be a dear sweet person, and I won’t say anything more.”

And she didn’t.

Leslie makes the third person I have spoken to in recent days that has beseeched me to respect Tina’s privacy and has also offered a positive, upbeat note on Tina’s well-being.  After I spoke with Leslie, I began to wonder if she was reading from a script, one that Dr. ET and AW had also read from, as many of the  words  were identical, i.e.: “Please respect Tina’s privacy,” and were delivered with similar inflection and with a similar firmness.

These three ladies were all tough interviews.

 

Looking for Tina

Part II – The convent in Eugene

Tina’s last known address was the Carmel of Maria Regina Monastery in Green Hill, Oregon, a hillside neighborhood on the western edge of Eugene.  Tina is reported to have been a member of that religious community beginning in 1979 or 1980, and on January 31, 2011, I traveled to Green Hill to learn whatever I could of her life there.

Although close to the road and identified by a small sign, the convent is so neatly tucked into the woods that I drove past it once before finding it on my second pass.  Entering the parking lot, the first thing I noticed was a soaring wall of stained-glass window.

Ah, the chapel…I must be in the right place.

The chapel at the Carmel of Maria Regina Monastery in Eugene, Oregon

However, I was uncertain what my next course of action should be.  Two years prior, I had called the monastery and talked with the Madame Superior, Mother Elizabeth Saint Onge.  Although she confirmed that Tina had been a resident there, the Mother Superior firmly resisted my efforts to discuss Tina.

“I really don’t want to get involved,” she had said.

Nevertheless, I had pressed and told her of my concerns about Tina’s well-being and her importance in this felony case.  Relenting a bit, Mother Saint Onge did tell me that Tina had lived at the convent in the 1980s and early 1990s, but that was it.  When I sought details of Tina’s health, particularly her mental and emotional condition, Mother Elizabeth immediately cut me off and said she was not going to say a single word concerning anyone’s medical status.

In short, Mother Saint Onge is one tough cookie, and I was nervous about encountering her in person.

As a result, I wandered about the grounds of the monastery and sought my courage.  First, I visited the chapel, which was open – surprising in this age of locked churches and stolen poor boxes.  I took a few deep breaths and a few pictures.

Walking outside, I found a gift shop next door.

“Press buzzer,” said a sign on the door to the closed shop.  I chose not to summon any attention at that moment and continued my stroll.  Beyond the gift shop I passed a few bathrooms and “parlors,” the latter I assumed were visiting rooms for family and friends in which to spend time with their cloistered loved ones.  I was hoping to find an administrative office and have a receptionist help me break the ice with Mother Elizabeth, but I didn’t find one.

Instead, I discovered a back entrance, “South Gate,” which was a simple, latched doorway.  I pulled the handle and walked in.  As I rounded the corner I saw the whole monastic structure, which is a tasteful, wooden building reminiscent of a sorority or frat house, but without the beer smells and adolescent trash.

However, I didn’t see or hear anyone.

Continuing, I came to a door with a medium-sized brass bell hanging on a nearby lanyard.  I rang it.  No one responded, so I called out:  “Hello,” but there was no answer.

I contemplated walking along the manicured trails through the adjacent woods, but I decided not to intrude any further on the sisters’ privacy.  I left and headed back to the chapel area where I saw another level below.  It looked “official” and I found a second buzzer system.  This time I rang.

Within a few seconds a female voice squawked through the intercom, “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” I answered.  “My name is Bruce Smith, and I’m a newspaper reporter working up a story on the monastery.  I was wondering if there is someone I can talk to about the history of the convent.”

“Meet me at the gift shop,” the voice replied.  “I’ll be right there.”

I walked up the steps to the main level and waited at the gift shop.  Within a minute a diminutive woman about 70 years-old appeared and opened the door.

“I’m Sister Teresa,” she said warmly, extending her hand in greeting.

Shaking it, I stepped inside and gave Sister Teresa my business card.  The nun was dressed in traditional Catholic garb – a blue and white habit and a light blue dress with white trim.  Despite the habit’s rim, her face was unobstructed.

We began a chatty banter about the chilly fog enveloping the hills around the monastery, a bracing change from the balmy 50-degree weather of the previous few days.

After a few laughs, Sister Teresa got down to business.

“So who do you write for and what’s the nature of your visit?”

I commenced my narrative of writing for the online news magazine, The Mountain News, and my former coverage of the DB Cooper case for the Eatonville Dispatch. I mentioned my interest in Tina and her capacity to help unravel the only unsolved skyjacking case in the history of the United States.

“We don’t want to get involved with that,” she told me.

“Why not,” I replied.

“We’ve been stung too many times by the newspapers,” Sister Teresa said.

“When?  Which papers?  I’ve never heard or read anything uncomplimentary about the convent.  What did they say?”

“I don’t want to discuss any of that,” Sister Teresa countered.

Undaunted by her rebuff, I launched my spiel on Tina, saying that I believe she may be in trouble.  Trying to convince Sister Teresa of the severity of the situation.  I told her that a friend of Tina’s, Dr Eisenhower-Turner, had told another investigator that Tina had suffered a permanent trauma somehow in her skyjacking experience.  I added that at least two FBI agents have reported that Tina’s memory has been seriously impacted in some manner, with one suggesting that Tina may have been brainwashed in the monastery.

“Then maybe I’m brainwashed, too,” Sister Teresa challenged.

“How so,” I asked.

“We pray a lot, here.  That’s what we do.”

With that, Sister Teresa thrust back my business card and began to move away.  Passing beside me I could see her face clearly in the light from the window and I saw a grimace, as if she had a smoldering rage inside.

“Why are you so angry at me?”  I asked.

“I’m not angry,” Sister Teresa replied.

“Well, you look angry,” I countered.

“Well, you’re just seeing the face that God has given me.”

“But why are you angry at me?” I continued.

“I’m not angry,” she stated again, but with more emphasis.

“But you look angry,” I said, with my own elevated enunciation.

“That’s just the face God has giving me,” Sister Teresa insisted.

“Look, Sister Teresa,” I replied, “There is very little I know about the Bible, but one line I do know and one that I truly believe in is, ‘The truth shall make us free.’  I would add that the truth can make us whole, and in doing so will make us healthy, too.  There are a lot of people in pain because of the DB Cooper case, in my judgment.  A lot of people are afraid to talk; they’re anxious and appear intimidated.  I’m not looking to ‘get’ anyone or make their lives more difficult.  I’m just seeking the truth.  I just want to know what’s going on.”

I paused, and then continued.

“I came here looking for justice,” I said.  “In fact, I came here seeking a partner in my effort to find justice.”

“I’m looking for justice, too,” Sister Teresa said, “and I’m going to return to it.”

“That sounds evasive, Sister,” I declared.

“I’m going to return to my prayers,” Sister Teresa declared.

I nodded, but continued, “I was hoping the monastery would partner with me in my search for justice.”

“We’re not looking for partners.”

I paused, and tried a new tack.

“Is Mother Saint Onge available?” I asked.

“Mother Saint Onge is on a personal retreat for ten days,” she replied.

Sister Teresa began walking away and I knew we were done.

“Thanks for your time, and for listening to what I had to say,” I told her.

She smiled wanly and we shook hands, then I opened the gift shop door and departed.

Addendum:

Tina enters convent is April, 1980.

After my return home from my visit to the monastery, DB Cooper investigator Galen Cook told me that he has had several conversations with Mother Elizabeth Saint Onge and other nuns at the convent.  He has ascertained that Tina entered the convent in the spring of 1980.

Tina lived in Gresham, Oregon in 1979

Galen also told me that he had just received conclusive documentary proof that Tina lived in Gresham, Oregon in 1979 and that she was enrolled in Mount Hood Community College in the fall of 1979.  Both Galen and I find this bizarre.  Gresham is located just a few miles from Portland airport, the scene of her skyjacking.  Why would Tina return to the crime site?

Impact of Money Find at Tina’s Bar, February, 1980

The $5,800 find at Tina’s Bar occurred on February 10, 1980.  Tina’s Bar is only 15 miles downstream from Gresham and the fact of Tina’s residence being so close to the location of the money find, coupled with the name of the site, is the height of coincidence.

Did Duane Weber interact with Tina in 1979?

Jo Weber, the widow of Cooper confessee Duane Weber, offers a theory about what happened in Gresham, one that she acknowledges is highly speculative.  She poses that during one or both of his 5-6 hour-long absences during their Incredible Journey to Washington and Oregon in early October 1979 that Duane visited Tina at her apartment.  Jo wonders if Duane terrorized Tina and stole a book from her, a recipe booklet from the Trinity Methodist church in Binghamton, NY that features a little girl named Tina.  What made the book so important is not known, but Duane cherished it, and it is also unknown if Tina ever had a copy of it.

©

2011

Bruce A. Smith

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4 Responses to The Hunt for DB Cooper – Looking for Tina Muckow, the primary witness

  1. galen cook says:

    Bruce:

    Nicely written articles, and objectively done. One point of clarification: I cannot locate any records to indicate that Tina attended Mt. Hood Community College. This was initial speculation on my behalf and I believe that I was wrong. However, it appears that Tina was employed in 79-80 at a care center for the elderly which is near MHCC. This facility was originally established by the Lutherans, which Tina belonged. In 1980, just after the $5880 finding of D.B. Cooper’s money at “Tena Bar” on the Columbia River, Tina appeared to enter the Catholic-run convent in Eugene, OR. Yes, the timeline is peculiar, as are the various paradoxes in the unsolved D.B. Cooper mystery. That’s what keeps us D.B. Cooper hunters thirsty for the next “find.”

  2. brucesmith49 says:

    Thanks for the update, Galen, and welcome to the Mountain News!

  3. Philip Jacquez says:

    Extremely fascinating writing. I have never been much interested in this case before, but I am now. Something the author may or may not find interesting is, that while working as a yellow cab driver in the early 1980’s, I picked up a fare one night from a bar on Capital Hill in Seattle who was very drunk and spilling money everywhere. One thing he kept mumbling over and over was “Why can’t they just leave DB Cooper alone and forget about it?” This wouldn’t have had any significance except he did look just like the sketch we have all seen of the hijacker. The only other thing I recall is that he was a slight man. Not tall and not at all overweight. Slight.

  4. Pingback: D.B. Cooper. The first bank robbery at the air | Robber Magazine

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