DB Cooper report: Interview with Ayn Dietrich, Seattle FBI spokesperson

by Bruce A. Smith

Ayn Sandalo Dietrich, the FBI’s public information officer in their Seattle office tasked with handling DB Cooper inquiries, has been a focal point of controversy in the past few weeks.

Ms. Dietrich prominence was the result of being cited in a feature article on DB Cooper written by British journalist Alex Hannaford and published by the London Sunday Telegraph, July 31.  In the story Dietrich is quoted as claiming the FBI had their “most promising” lead in the history of the forty-year old investigation of the only unsolved skyjacking case in the history of the United States.

This declaration launched a world-wide media frenzy, which was fueled further by press revelations that an Oklahoma woman named Marla Cooper was claiming the subject of the Bureau’s investigation was her uncle LD Cooper, an Oregon man she says was DB Cooper.

Together, these announcements put LD Cooper and Dietrich on the front-page of newspapers across the globe.

Generating even more interest, author Geoffrey Gray had a treatise on DB Cooper heading to a national release just days after Hannaford’s story broke, which ignited concerns that the flap over LD Cooper may have been part of an orchestrated effort to boost Gray’s book sales.

Raising even more eyebrows, Ms Dietrich went on a vacation shortly after the Hannaford piece went planetary, leaving the FBI’s Fred Gutt to field innumerable media requests for information on the “most promising” LD Cooper.

Now, however, Ms Dietrich is back from her two-week vacation and the Mountain News was able to speak with her Thursday, August 18.

To begin, Ms. Dietrich picked up on the first ring and was gracious and professional.  She apologized for not returning my phone call, saying she was still “digging out” from the pile of messages from journalists.

Ms. Dietrich addressed the flap head-on, and said that she and the FBI “didn’t intend” for the LD Cooper story to ascend to its exalted status.

She did confirm that she had spoken with Mr. Hannaford, saying that their interview lasted nearly two hours.  She also acknowledged that she had used the words “most promising lead to date” in referring to the LD Cooper-as-DB Cooper.

“It was a blip in a long conversation,” she added.

Dietrich also spoke at length on the Bureau’s view of both the DB Cooper investigation and LD Cooper as a suspect.  She again reiterated that the skyjacking is an open case, but it is not an “active investigation,” meaning that it is not a priority.

“We just respond to leads as they come in,” she declared, adding that agents do not conduct any independent investigatory pursuits.

“We aren’t pushing the story out there,” Dietrich said, referring to her “most promising” angle.  “For instance, we didn’t issue a press release on it (the LD Cooper lead).”

As for spending a hefty amount of time with Mr. Hannaford, Dietrich said that she “took Alex’s interview request because it seemed like a good way to get the story out to a new audience.”

However, she said that in her conversation with Mr. Hannaford she never characterized the LD Cooper lead as being “on the brink of a breakthrough,” in the DB Cooper case.

In addition, she said that the flap over LD Cooper “really surprised us,” and she minimized the intended impact of her comments to Hannaford.

“I didn’t consider it really newsworthy.  Maybe it was just a slow news cycle.”

Ms. Dietrich also described why she is able to discuss the DB Cooper case in detail, despite the Bureau’s policy on open investigations.

“It is FBI policy to not disclose any information in an on-going case,” Dietrich stated, “But the DB Cooper case is special because of overwhelming public interest.  It is the 40th Anniversary, after all, so we’re relatively comfortable discussing it.”

Further, Dietrich said that the Bureau will share some information with reporters on other types of crimes, such as missing children, declaring that such releases may assist investigators and help rescue the victim.

Discussing the specifics of the LD Cooper tip, Dietrich said one of the critical elements of the lead that triggered FBI interest was that Marla Cooper’s allegations “did not have too many inconsistencies” despite the fact that the Bureau had not analyzed – or even obtained – materials to examine for fingerprints or DNA.

Regarding those specifics, Dietrich said that the FBI hadn’t found any fingerprints on the material sampled, and that the DNA profile showed “no significant match.”

In addition, Ms. Dietrich confirmed that the FBI’s DNA sample from DB Cooper’s tie contains genetic material from “three adult men.”

Dietrich also said that the FBI has only partial samples for both fingerprints and DNA.

When asked about possible DNA analysis of hair strands found on Cooper’s head rest, Dietrich side-stepped.

“We have only partial DNA samples from the entirety of the evidence.”

As for the timing of Geoffrey Gray’s book, Skyjack –The Hunt for DB Cooper, Ms Dietrich totally refuted the notion that there was any collusion between the FBI and Mr. Gray, and dismissed the incredible similarity in names between the suspect LD Cooper and the hijacker, DB Cooper.

“I’m not even familiar with Geoffrey Gray’s book,” she said, adding, “We’re looking at other individuals besides LD Cooper (in the DB Cooper case).”

Probing further, I asked Ms. Dietrich what the FBI’s relationship was with Tina Mucklow, specifically inquiring when the last time the FBI talked with their primary witness in the skyjacking.  However, Ms Dietrich didn’t know whom I was discussing.

“Is she one of the flight attendants?”

After a brief description of Ms. Mucklow being held hostage by DB Cooper, Dietrich gave a boiler-plate response.

“All the flight attendants have been very cooperative with our investigation,” she said, adding, “They have been interviewed multiple times.

Continuing, Ms. Dietrich offered: “The flight attendants have been a great asset to the investigation.”

However, Dietrich could not say when the last time any FBI agent had spoken with Tina.

When informed that Ms. Mucklow has been hidden from public view for the past twenty years and prior had been in a cloistered convent, Ms. Dietrich announced, “That’s not surprising,” and speculated that Tina relished avoiding the swarms of media these kinds of events unleash.

Nevertheless, Dietrich seemed unknowledgeable about specific contributions Ms. Mucklow has made to the investigation, especially in recent years, which seems to be an issue since the FBI changes its Cooper case agents with some frequency; to whit:  the current Cooper agent, Curtis Ng, only received the assignment about eighteen months ago.  Prior, Special Agent Larry Carr had been the Cooper case agent for four years, and overall there have been close to twenty Cooper case agents since the time of the skyjacking.

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To read more stories about DB Cooper and the resurgent investigation:  https://themountainnewswa.net/db-cooper-stories/

To search other web sites for additional information on DB Cooper:  https://themountainnewswa.net/db-cooper-links/

©  2011  The Mountain News-WA

_________________________________________________

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Thomas K Faubion   –   Attorney at Law

35 Years Experience

Volunteer firefighting officer with Graham Fire and Rescue

Estate Planning, Wills, Civil Matters

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32 Responses to DB Cooper report: Interview with Ayn Dietrich, Seattle FBI spokesperson

  1. Pat Forman says:

    Thanks Bruce, I appreciate the clarification on how the LD story came out the way it did. I was glad to hear the FBI wasn’t really pushing this story with so little to back up the claims. They won’t even follow through with checking on Barb Dayton as a viable suspect with all the evidence that points to the fact that she really could have done this. They say the only reason for not checking her out is eye color and height, when everyone knows that eye witness reports are so unreliable. Barb and other suspects are much more viable than LD based on their talents and motives. I think this case might have been solved if the FBI could think out of the box they painted for themselves.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      So, why do you think the FBI has responded as they have?

      Why did they rule out Barb on height and eye color, if those aspects are so problematic?

      Why did they call LD Cooper the “most promising” suspect in the history of the DB Cooper case and then down-play it with me?

      What say you?

      • Pat Forman says:

        There have been numerous articles and studies published on the reliability of eye-witness accounts, many of which have been published by the FBI themselves. In this particular case, the description has changed numerous times over the years. Cooper put his sun glasses on as soon as he sat down. The only person who saw the color of his eyes was Florence and that was when she greeted him as just another passenger entering the plane. It was before he handed off the note. The initial reports said that Cooper’s eyes were “possibly brown”. In the dim lighting of an airplane, it is difficult to tell eye color at all. “Possibly brown” would therefore have been a good answering considering that dark hair and a darker complexion usually goes with brown eyes. Now the FBI is stating that the eyes are definitely brown. Also, Florence was the only one who put that height at 6 feet. The only time she saw him standing was before the hijacking commenced. Tina, who spent the most time with him and did see him standing as the hijacking was in process said that he was not that tall. Tina was actually trying to remember the features and description at the time she saw him, so her description should probably carry the most weight. Also, there have been others that the FBI has considered a viable suspect who had blue eyes (for example McCoy). I am not sure why the FBI would call LD the “most promising” suspect in the history of the case and then not do their own press release. To me this sounds more like an attempt by the FBI public relations to “appear” to be still trying to solve the case. My theory is that they will not investigate Barb or some of the other people who have come forward is that they would then have to admit to bumbling the investigation. For example, in Barb’s case, they would have to admit that they have spent all of this time searching at the wrong jump site and that their test of the “pressure bump” used to pinpoint the jump site was flawed. We have talked to a pilot of a 727 and other experts on the 727 who have a very different explanation of exactly when the pressure bump would have been felt. The FBI spent all of their time and money searching around Ariel and found absolutely nothing. I think the test was more of a way to quiet all the criticism the FBI was getting for searching in an area that would have been so risky when there were places the jump could have been safely made only minutes from where the search was conducted. Walter Cronkite, at the time stated that the search would most likely take place “over the flatlands in Oregon.”

  2. Walter Deighton says:

    I enjoy your articles relating to the Cooper case. Can you contact me at my email address, I have a question to ask offline that is not related to this article but is related to Cooper?
    Walt

  3. Jamie Cooper says:

    only people pushing books and other for profit ventures, vetting their pet suspect claim “eye-witnesses” are unreliable. that’s completely ridiculous!
    eye-witnesses are how crimes are solved, the best evidence there is short of video and a confession.
    how do you think the term, “being caught red handed” came about?
    obviously it means being caught by an eyewitness with blood on your hands.

  4. Milt Snowden says:

    Jerry Thomas reports in the DZ that he has regular talks with FBI agent Curtis Ng and Thomas even cites the day and time of day of the discussion. I doubt it!!! Jerry Thomas is a known liar from all accounts. Jo Weber knows this for a fact. If Jo says it, it is probably true. If Jerry T. says it, it is probably false. And if Robert Blevins says it, it doesn’t even matter. Anyway, that’s all for now. Nice going on the interview, Bruce.

    • Vicki Wilson says:

      Curtis Eng contacted me and e-mails were exchanged between us. He said he was following up on a call he received from Jerry Thomas. This information was about my father who has been missing since September 1971. My father also fits the physical description and has never been heard from since he disappeared. He is still a wanted fugitive from the Midwest.

  5. Big Mike says:

    Wow, Bruce. You da man again. The FBI must be warming up ta ya. Tell Blevins that he is one pompus ass-“hole.” I heard that Cook came to Auburn just to take secret photos of Blevins scratchin his ass, pickin his nose, and pullin the little fuzz on his bald head. Do ya think you could post those photos on the MN too?

  6. brucesmith49 says:

    Thanks, Pat, for your analysis. I’m going to keep pushing a bit more. (smile)

    1. Can you tell us more about the discrepancies about the LZ and the jump? What other dynamics could have caused the pressure bump?

    2. Can you tell us what pilots and experts of the 727 have you consulted? Can you make their names public? Or at least give us a little more information about your sources? Thanks. I think the readers here would enjoy knowing this kind of information.

    BTW: FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach thought in the initial stages that DB Cooper would most probablyy jump over the flatlands of the Williamette Valley, south of Portland, Oregon.

    BTW II For those readers who are unfamiliar with Pat, she is co-author of “Legend of DB Cooper – Death by Natural Causes.” It is a comprehensive account of Barb Dayton, a Cessna 140 pilot from Thun Field in Puyallup, WA who confessed to being DB Cooper in the mid-1970s.

    • Pat Forman says:

      I have finally heard back from my main technical contact and he is reluctant to give his name and contact information at this time due to time constraints. He may reconsider later. Before becoming an airline pilot, he flew jumpers in the Air Force as a C 141 pilot and was an engineer on a 727, He is currently flying overseas flights and flies small planes as a hobby. While researching the book, he put us in touch with jumpers who currently jump yearly from a 727. He also contacted individuals who were very familiar with the design of the 727 and reported his findings back to us.

  7. Pat Forman says:

    I will have to check with my sources before I can give their contact information. I’ve already sent out messages to try to get that, and will post as I can.
    Basically what we learned is that a 180 to 200 pound object “leaving” the plane would not be noticeable in any manner on a plane the size of a 727, even considering the position (arm) of the end of the stairs in relation to the center of gravity on the plane. (The center of gravity is the point where the weight of the plane is considered to be concentrated. Arms are measured in reference to that point. http://www.faa.gov/library/manuals/aircraft/media/faa-h-8083-1a.pdf is a good source of information on weight and balance. The charts for weight and balance considerations are created by the aircraft manufacturer and are only recalculated if modifications to the aircraft are made that would change the center of gravity.)
    1. Even though the 727 was not pressurized at the time there would have been residual pressure inside the aircraft. There is a pressure door at the top of the stairs. The opening of that door would be the most probable cause of the “pressure bump”.
    2. The “curtsy” would have been caused by the lowering of the stairs into the airstream and the airstream pushing the leaving the airstream. (The way the stairs are built, the wind flowing under the aircraft could have initally kept the lowered airstairs from extending into that airstream. There are many things that could have caused the stairs to enter the airstream. The most likely cause would have been the turbulence of the aircraft on the night of the jump. However, it could have been caused by Cooper climbing down the stairs to determine that passing of a check point to allow for timing an actual predetermined jump point.
    3. The FBI’s test is flawed because the conditions that night were not duplicated. The weather was stormy the night of the jump and with the configuration of the 727 (flaps and gear down) the turbulence caused by the wind would have been magnifed. Also, they stood at the top of the stairs and pushed the 200 pound sled down, making it nearly impossible to determine the exact position of the sled when the curtsy was felt. Also, based on our experts, the curtsy would have been felt when the stairs attempted to enter the airstream and was pushed back by the airstream itself. It could not have been caused by the 200 pound sled leaving the staircase.
    It is almost as if most of the “scientific evidence” being brought into this case are merely attempts to prove the FBI’s theories, not attempts to determine what actually happened that night. I think Himmelsbach was closer to being correct all along. The fact that the Ariel area was searched so extensively that a small piece of the rear stair instruction plaque that blew off when the door was opened was found but no other evidence was found in the area, is better proof that the jump did not occur there than the flawed FBI test that the jump did occur there.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Hey Pat,

      Excellent analysis and description of the stairs, bumps and curtsies! Can I post it on the DZ? I think a lot of people would like to see this information. Please keep us posted as your sources come forward.

      Let’s broaden and deepen this discussion. I sense we are digging into important stuff here.

      Thanks, big time.

      Bruce

      • Pat Forman says:

        Yes, feel free to post it on the DZ.

      • Pat Forman says:

        Hi Bruce, I was a bit surprised that the drop zone was so quick to put down this analysis. I heard back from my main technical contact this morning that this was “basically correct” and he would get back to me later with more details. He pointed out that I should not have used the word “stormy”. However, the 30 mile per hour winds changing directions hitting against a 727 with gears and flaps down would have made for a very turbulent ride. Also, the center of gravity set by the manufacturer is used in future weight and balance calculations for the aircraft and is an important factor in the affects that could be felt on the stair case. The weight and balance of each flight is computed by the the distance of weight added forward or aft of the center of gravity. I should have been more clear in my posting, but it’s difficult to keep the length of my posts reasonable.

  8. John H. F. says:

    There’s more. DB Cooper could have made several “jumps” on the spring-like airstairs to simulate a launch. That would confuse the crew. Don’t put it past Cooper to do this. Cooper was a decption artist. The flight crew had their hands full. Winds were strong, and icing was occuring at 10K. Only the flight engineer’s instruments registered the air pressure changes, which were reported. There was no “curtsy” in the physical sense. Anything like that could be miscontrued as simple turbulence, which happens all the time in those conditions with the configuration used on the jet. Only the instrumentation of the aircraft can be relied upon.
    Former 727 Captain.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thanks, Captain,

      Your post is most succinct and informative. Thanks so much.

      As for several jumps upon the stairs, I know of only one big one, which suggests “the jump.”

      That said, I think that is the value of Barb Dayton’s account and the re-telling by Ron and Pat Forman. At the very least, they offer a comprehensive perspective on how the exit could have been done, along with plausible possibilities to explain the data to the degree that the FBI accounts are reliable. At best, the information that I have access to, specifically, accounts written by Himmelsbach, Calame and Tosaw, plus DZ posts by Larry Carr and a couple brief interviews with principals, I have to say that the nature of flight conditions vary greatly. Wind speed, direction, location, amount of cloud cover and turbulence are all in dispute.

      Please stay in touch. Your commentary is valued here.

      Bruce

    • johnnyboy says:

      Wow, best post yet, by an informed and experienced person……………a 727 pilot. This would explain why no one found Cooper near Lake Merwin. He was watching tv, and laughing his ass off in a warm hotel………………in Portland.

  9. Margaret Hines says:

    Excellent, as usual, Bruce. I bet those other guys wonder why the FBI talks to you but not to them. You also have some very good posters here at your forum. I think I’ll be switching sites and coming over to yours. Thanks.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Hey Maggie Mae,

      Thanks for your kind words, Margaret, but remember a twenty-minute conversation with a public information officer at a governmental agency does not make for a long-term relationship. (Smile) But I am pleased that Ayn Dietrich spoke with me at length. The information about the genetic material from three adult males on tie is brand new stuff, and even Galen is very impressed.

      Nevertheless, I don’t know how or why there seems to be so much coincidence with Hannaford and Gray and the timing of the “most promising” lead, and the uncanny similarity in names between LD Cooper and DB Cooper – it’s all too cozy. I already have people coming up to me and saying, “Oh, the FBI just figured it out. DB Cooper is dead and he lived in Sisters, Oregon.

      Is this both a dis-information campaign to bury DB Cooper and a ploy to boost book sales for Geoffrey?

      Hence, The Hunt goes on…

      Bruce

      BTW: I wouldn’t be too hasty to give up on the DZ. Its ability to foster an exchange of information – albeit toxic at times – is unparalleled.

      BTW II I spoke with Geoff last night after his book signing in San Francisco. DZ guys were there and put G’s feet to the fire to go investigate Sheridan Peterson in nearby Santa Rosa, CA. After a rousing discussion and a few beers they called me and I gave GG all the contact info for Petey. Somebody’s got to talk with the guy and Geoff’s got the moolah to do it. Me, I’ve got a combined 14 bucks in my two checking accounts. However, if somebody wants to send me a plane tix to SF, I’m on my way.

      • Jerry says:

        Bruce, I heard that Robert Blevins might come up with a few bucks just to get you the hell out of WA state. Two DB Cooper journalists in the same general vicinity are too many for Blevins.

  10. Jerald W Thomas Sr. says:

    Milt Snowden. I have no idea who you are but if you believe any thing Jo Weber?( if that is her last name) says your brain damaged, as for my coversations with the FBI agents a simple phone call can verify it or simply check my phonbe records.One more thing when I make a post on any site I always give it a special signature that is hard to identify. Bruce good article Jerry Thomas,.

    • mark says:

      Jerry Thomas: I’d tend to believe you over Jo Weber. That lady needs help. At least you are actively looking for DB Cooper. Jo just sits in Florida and bitches. One question, Jerry. How did you get to be such good friends with retired FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach? I think everyone now wants to know your connection to Mr. Himmelsbach. Are you related by blood, or just good friends? Thanks, Jerry.
      a DZ regular.

  11. Pat Forman says:

    Hi Bruce,
    Ron and I kept notes through the years that provided us with a chronology when we wrote our book. According to these notes, there was a story on the NBC news in 2000 that the FBI now had DNA evidence from the cigarettes. I have searched news archives and cannot find reference to that original report but I did find reports from 2000 that DNA was used to prove a skull that was found did not belong to Cooper. I also found articles stating that the tie was tested for DNA in 2001. We are now hearing that the cigarettes were missing when the physical evidence was sent to Quantico for “retesting” in 2007. If the cigarrettes and the tie were tested prior to then, the results should have been in the NDIS. Would this be something worth specifically asking of the FBI about if you get to talk to them again? It wouldn’t help to prove or disprove Barb as a suspect since the FBI won’t test her anyway, but it might help to retest the others against the profile in the NDIS from the cigarettes if there is one.

  12. Angie says:

    I just finished reading Geoffrey Gray’s book. I started it last night and finished it tonight. I couodnt put it down! This story is so intriguing. I have so many questions and the book left me with so many more! LOL! I was born in 1973. I’ve heard of DB Cooper through the years…but this is bar far the most I’ve looked into it or read up on it. My question out here is…a lot of posts seem to talk about Barbars Dayton….but…..what happenned with follow up with the cookbook and Duane Weber??? I want to know more about that. I’ve never looked at the DZ site..but I’m going to check that out. I also now want to read Pat Foremans book. Like I said…soooo many questions….and so many interesting discussions…this is better than any fiction story could ever be! ;o)

    • Pat Forman says:

      Thanks Angie. Our book is available from or web page, legendofdbcooper.com or from Amazon,com but you might want to also just check out the web page first. I’m in the process of adding more information to it so you might find it interesting (and it’s free.)
      Ron and Pat Forman (Foreman without the e. It’s a mistake in Geoff’s book.)

      You’re right. This is an interesting story and so many of the suspects have interesting facts behind them.

      Ron and Pat Forman

  13. kelley DZ says:

    bruce, you keep refering to g. gray’s book as a treatise. it’s not a treatise. go look up the word treatise. gray’s book is just a story about cooper hunters. they solved nothing. get real, bruce.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Ahem, Kelley DZ,

      Yes, you are correct. However, in my defense may I add that a secondary definitiion, albeit archaic, is “account” or “tale.”

      Whew, did I dodge a literary bullet?

      But, at least I capitalize proper names and the beginning of sentences! Attention: Sister Michaeline!!!

  14. Johnny Rebel says:

    ha…….good one, BRUCE!!!!

  15. A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that
    you should publish more about this issue, it may not be a taboo matter but generally people do not discuss these topics.
    To the next! Kind regards!!

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thanks, Wilbert, and welcome to the Mountain News. What’s your interest in DB Cooper? I see that you are encouraging me to write “more about this issue.” I have an e-Book at Amazon titled: DB Cooper and the FBI, which takes a close look at the federal investigation. In addition, I have a hard-copy edition coming out in a few months. I hope you read it – I’d love to hear your feedback.

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