The DB Cooper case heats up: Looking for Tina – preparing for contact


Tina Mucklow is the primary witness to the DB Cooper skyjacking, but for the past thirty years she has been hidden from public view. 

 As described previously in the Mountain News, Tina earned her distinction as top witness by her lengthy interaction with Cooper.  Not only was she held hostage aboard Flight 305 as Cooper made his getaway, he directed her to fetch his parachutes and money from the FBI when they were on the ground at Sea-Tac airport.

 In addition, she had spent hours sitting next to Cooper as they circled the airport, and in fact, had lit eight Raleigh cigarettes for him while he kept his hand on the bomb trigger.

 She also tried to extract important information from the skyjacker by engaging him in conversation.

 The pilot flying the plane, Bill Rataczak told me, “I wouldn’t be here talking to you if it wasn’t for Tina.  She kept Cooper cool, calm and collected.”

 In addition, FBI agent, Cooper investigator and author Richard Tosaw described Tina as the “brains” of the flight crew.

 However, Tina vanished entirely from public view in 1991, and before that she had been in a cloistered Carmelite convent for twelve years.

 However, that is all about to change.

 On August 9, 2011, the world is about to receive its first comprehensive overview of the DB Cooper investigation with the national release of Skyjack – the Hunt for DB Cooper, a compendium written by New York Magazine journalist Geoffrey Gray. 

 In Skyjack, Gray reveals Tina’s residency in central Oregon, and this is the first public announcement of her whereabouts since Tosaw declared that he had interviewed Tina in the convent in 1984.

 In addition, a few weeks ago author Robert Blevins publicized Gray’s disclosure on the DB Cooper blog site known as the DropZone, so now the Internet knows, too.

 However, Gray is not the first journalist to have discovered Tina, but he and Blevins are the first ones to spill the beans.  In early 2010, investigator Galen Cook told me that he had found Tina, having backtracked through the divorce records of California to find Tina’s ex.  Galen says he had a lengthy interview with him, and through that interaction and his other networks he learned Tina Mucklow’s contact information.

 As for my efforts to contact Tina, I have written extensively in my “Looking for Tina” series how I have spent the past two years attempting to contact her via her family, friends and co-workers. 

 In that process I have come to learn that Tina is most likely a psychologically fragile person, and as a result I have proceeded carefully.  In fact, there is widespread concern about “outing” Tina.

 Nevertheless, Tina is the prime witness to a major felony and is also a public figure in her own right.  But how to make contact with her in a manner that is ethical, effective, and kind is open to discussion.  As a result, I have attempted to learn as much as I can about Tina before I contact her.

 Tina seems to have been affected in some fashion by the skyjacking and its aftermath, with her cousin “AW” telling me “Tina was probably traumatized by the skyjacking.” 

 In addition, Galen has told me that Tina’s chum from high school, Dr. Susan Eisenhower-Turner, had informed him that she thought Tina was suffering from serious psychological trauma related to the incident.

 Plus, I consider Tina’s silence and disappearance a loud call for security. 

 I don’t know how Tina was affected, and I have described my speculation in-depth elsewhere, but briefly, she may be experiencing the lingering effects of a nervous breakdown reportedly suffered in 1979 in Gresham, Oregon.  This may have precipitated her arrival at the monastery and have may have been caused by factors beyond the skyjacking.

Or, since Tina is reportedly described as having serious cognitive difficulties during her interview with author and FBI agent Richard Tosaw in the early 1980s, she may have been assaulted by rogue forces in a mind-control attack to assure her unavailability to any prosecutory action against Cooper.

Or is she having some kind of PTSD experience stemming for the skyjacking?  The FBI’s Cooper case agent in its Portland, Oregon office, Special Agent Ralph Himmelsbach, consistently labels Cooper as a “rotten, sleazy crook,” despite the flight attendents’ general description of the skyjacker as a gentleman bandit.  Was Tina assaulted by Cooper and only Himmelsbach knows of the incident?  Unfortunately, I have not been able to clarify that element with Mr. Himmelsbach despite my many efforts to do so, including dropping in on him on a Sunday afternoon at his mini-mansion in Woodburn, Oregon.

Thus, I do not know what would happen if I called Tina on the phone or knock on her front door.  Would she freak?  Would she have a flash-back and go catatonic?  Or would she simply turn away and close her door on me in an icy fashion?  I simply didn’t know.

 Hence, I have wanted to act carefully and not cause her any harm.  Nor do I wish to lose an important source of information on the case.  I strongly believe that if the mystery of Tina’s disappearance is understood we’ll have a better understanding of who DB Cooper is and what happened on November 24, 1971 and afterwards.

 But clearly she requires an extraordinary level of privacy, as she has not sought any contact with media nor has she written any description of her experiences for public consumption.

 With this back drop, Galen and I sought a partnership with Tina’s family and friends, hoping to have someone she trusts make an introduction for us.

 My hope was to launch a kind of combined therapeutic-journalistic intervention, where the primary goal would be to help Tina release some of her anxieties, for I truly believe:  the truth shall make us free.

 On the journalistic side, I fully accept that under these conditions anything I learn from Tina, or about her, is the story.  Yes, I would love to know exactly what transpired on November 24 and to show her pictures of the current suspects, but that is secondary.  First, I want to get to know Tina – what is she like, what is the nature of her current life, and who is he as a person – and I’m content to write just about those aspects.

 However, the joint intervention with family or friends has not happened.  My first outreach to Tina’s high school friend, the aforementioned psychiatrist Susan Eisenhower-Turner, ended in failure, and was sealed with a stern rebuff at her medical office in December 2010.

 Cousin AW has proven to be ineffective in any kind of outreach to Tina, despite AW’s assurances and good-natured conversations with Galen and me.

 Couple that with outright hostility from the nuns at the Carmel of Maria Regina, slew of classmates at Tina’s high school – the Lankenau School for Girls in Philadelphia – and former stews at Northwest Orient Airlines.  All avenues of contact have been blocked.

 Further, as I have described recently it the Mountain News my latest overtures to Tina’s sister Jane and her husband Lee have been rejected.

 It is truly amazing how many people fiercely protect Tina.  Even other DB Cooper investigators and journalists encourage me to back-off.  One investigator, Jerry Thomas, has repeatedly assured me that Tina is okay and has nothing more to add to the case.  When I asked Jerry how he knows that, he demurs; and I’ve told him that his silence confines him to the mystery of Tina.

 “Well, it’ll have to be the mystery, then,” he wrote back to me in an email.

 Nevertheless, Galen has one more ace up his sleeve; he is in contact with Flight 305 flight attendant Alice Hancock, who may be willing to intervene on our behalf.  But this option has been in the works for some time and is a long shot.  Galen has also told me that Alice has reached out to Tina recently – and she didn’t mention anything about Cooper in her letter – but she was rebuffed.

 Further compounding the situation, I believe I need to act before Gray’s book comes out on August 9 for then the whole world may be trooping to Tina’s doorstep, especially since we are approaching the 40th Anniversary of the skyjacking. 

 But is Tina really in Oregon?  The answer is yes.

 As all the above was unfolding, Galen launched an independent effort to contact Tina.  In early 2010 he told me that he had contacted her in Oregon, hoping to have her examine photos of suspects for possible identification.

 In addition, Galen told me he has spoken with Tina Mucklow in person; however, he will not divulge the exact details of that conversation, but it did not involve the DB Cooper pictures.

 In this process Galen acquired some photographs of Tina, which he has shared with me. 

 Then, in the early spring of this year I, too, went to see Tina for myself.  By accident, I saw her.  Here’s how it happened:

 Assuming that she was at work I drove past her house.  However, Tina was either taking a break at home or was heading to work at an off-hour and was standing outside her car as I cruised past.

 The woman I saw looked like she was Tina.  She appeared older than her 1971-era pictures, obviously, as she’s 60-ish and has added a few pounds.  Plus, her shoulder-length hair is gray; nevertheless, she is still attractive.

 However, she looks worn-out by life – not haggard – but the spark I had seen in her eyes in post-skyjacking videos has dimmed, and I felt sad for her.

 I didn’t stop, but kept going and parked in an obscure spot in church parking lot at the end of her dead-end street.  I waited for fifteen minutes and then drove back.  Tina was gone.

 I certainly didn’t want to spook Tina, but I wanted to see what there was to be seen and I wanted to know that Tina was actually in Oregon.  In my judgment she is.

 Also, I didn’t want to undercut Galen, so I didn’t make contact with her.

 But now, I believe the time has come for me to make direct contact with Tina Mucklow.

 Breaking News:

 Alex Hannaford, a British journalist who is based in Texas, has published a breaking news story today, Sunday, July 31, in the Sunday Telegraph of London.  In the article Hannaford says that the FBI claims it is investigating a brand new suspect.  Further, the Bureau says that the suspect was presented to them by a member of law enforcement who also delivered a personal item from the individual for fingerprint comparison.

 In addition, the Seattle PI has picked up the story and in today’s edition (Sunday, July 31) they say that FBI public information officer Sandalo Dietrich is calling the clues involving their new suspect as “our most promising” lead.

In Mr. Hannaford’s story, he describes interviewing many local investigators, including yours truly, and mentions the Mountain News as an Internet site for information on DB Cooper.

 For more information:

 Hannaford’s Telegraph piece:

 And the Seattle PI, July 31, 2011:

 ©  2011  The Mountain News – WA


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1 Response to The DB Cooper case heats up: Looking for Tina – preparing for contact

  1. Pat L says:

    Interesting stuff Bruce. How much of Tina’s early interviews with LE have you able to look at?

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