by Bruce A. Smith
On the day before Thanksgiving in 1971, the famed skyjacker DB Cooper parachuted from a Northwest Orient jetliner with $200,000 in twenties tethered to his waist. Not only has he never been seen since, his identity is still unknown.
In addition, not a single shred of his parachute or any trace of his remains has ever been found. Not even the loot has surfaced except for a $5,800 bundle discovered nine years later along the banks of the Columbia River that the FBI acknowledges was deposited there years after the hijacking.
The FBI says it has investigated over 1,100 credible suspects and has enough dossiers to fill entire storage rooms.
In addition, 922 individuals have reportedly confessed to being DB Cooper including at least one fellow on his death-bed. Others have been identified by distraught family members who claim their husband, brother or father had told them they were DB Cooper, and they back up their claim with compelling anecdotal or circumstantial evidence.
Adding to the intrigue, the Cooper case has many inexplicable mysteries and bizarre twists, such as the disappearance of the primary witness or the recent findings via electron microscopes that traces of silver were embedded in the ransom money along with tiny pin-prick holes.
Dozens of private investigators have been drawn to the case, some getting hooked in their youth back in the 1970s and are still probing as their hair turns grey.
Nevertheless, the Cooper trail grew stone-cold by the end of the millennium, and with the majority of FBI agents too young to remember the skyjacking and facing more pressing dangers such as terrorists, the Cooper case became confined to the memories of their parents and grandparents.
Yet, the search for DB Cooper re-ignited in the early stages of the 2000s with the advent of new technology, particularly the Internet explosion and the forensic use of DNA.
Perhaps it was this exuberance that caused the FBI’s Seattle spokesperson Ayn Dietrich to gush in the spring of 2011 that suspect LD Cooper was the “most promising lead to date,” triggering a world-wide flap before the Bureau even checked the guy’s fingerprints. Or maybe the FBI had other reasons to make such an announcement. Regardless, the resurgent investigation is providing a heightened scrutiny of the Bureau’s actions, and even though the case has yet to be solved the resurgence has produced many surprising revelations, such as missing evidence and the mysterious brief appearence of an agent and a witness who then vanish.
The resurgence of the DB Cooper case
One of the primary factors that have fueled the resurgence of the Cooper case, particularly for the FBI, has been the widespread availability of DNA testing by 2003 and with it the ability to re-examine top Cooper suspects, essentially re-opening the case.
At this time, a partial Cooper DNA profile was developed from two main evidentiary sources – one, the eight cigarette butts Cooper smoked during his time aboard the aircraft, and secondly, a cloth clip-on tie he apparently left on the plane.
Responding to this crack in the case, a young Special Agent from Minnesota named Larry Carr, who was trained as a bank fraud investigator, wanted to take a shot at solving the Cooper case and was rewarded with a transfer to the Seattle office. There, he reinvigorated the Cooper investigation.
One of Carr’s most important contributions was to help activate an Internet-based network of citizen sleuths, who coalesced around a blogging site called DropZone.com, nominally a site for skydiving enthusiasts.
Beginning in 2007, the DropZone site became an enormous repository of information on the Cooper case, and grew into a critical gathering point for many journalists, arm-chair private eyes, and Cooper aficionados. Although the mix of personalities and demeanor is uneven, the DZ site is unquestionably a site where huge amounts of Cooper information is discussed, producing important nuts and bolts evidence such as the current telephone numbers of long-lost suspects and witnesses, or retrieving testimony from long-dead – and even forgotten – experts and FBI agents.
Out of this Internet activity Carr then formed a Citizens Sleuth Team, and they’ve re-examined the evidence and visited the topography of the case. They’ve also applied new technology, such as electron spectroscopy to assay mineral and biological deposits on the recovered money as a means to determine the locales the cash has traveled through.
The activities of the CST perhaps reached their zenith in the 2009 National Geographic documentary on DB Cooper, titled: “The Skyjacker Who Got Away.”
Another contributing factor in the re-awakening of the Cooper case was the death of several important Cooper suspects. One, Duane Weber, supposedly confessed outright to his wife in the mid-1990s from his death-bed, and others like Ken Christenson and William Gossett, freed their families with their passing, allowing them to speak now without reproach.
One surprising source for the replenished vitality in the case was the de-classification of information pertaining to many covert operations of the Vietnam War. This gave many soldiers the freedom to talk about their wartime experiences, particularly members of the 5th Special Forces and their ultra-secretive MACV SOG group.
MACV-SOG is generally understood to mean “Material Assistance Command,Vietnam– Special Operations Group,” although in the world of spooks and warriors it is hard to know for certain what any written word actually means.
Many of these soldiers have written books detailing their activities in ultra-secret operations in North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and they clearly illustrate that SOG troopers had the physical training, mental preparation and planning capabilities to perform the Cooper skyjacking.
In fact, two leading MACV-SOG authors, SgtM Billy Waugh and Major John Plaster, specifically identify a renegade SOG trooper named Ted Braden as DB Cooper. Further, they claim that it was widely believed in Vietnam that the Cooper caper had all the earmarks of a SOG operation.
So, what has the resurgence discovered?
Well, plenty, such as ruling out prime suspects with negative DNA profiling, including the abovementioned death-bed confession by Duane Weber to his wife Jo, but even with the renewed interest in the case the FBI still doesn’t have any additional hard evidence beyond the $5,800 bucks found at Tena’s Bar, nor do they have any conclusive idea of DB Cooper’s identity.
In fact, in the main, the resurgence has produced only more confounding clues, seemingly making the Cooper case more perplexing.
For instance, on the money find, the silver traces found are believed to be left-over residues from the FBI’s fingerprint dusting of the bills with a silver nitrate compound and is also thought to have turned many of the bills black, which had been another mystery. As for the tiny holes in the bills, however, no one has any solid theory, but a widely discussed hypothesis is that they are the remains of borings by tiny aquatic creatures.
Nevertheless, the resurgence has garnered two main achievements: One, there is more substance in the FBI’s findings, with more nuances. Secondly, the public, backed by the power of the Internet, is now intimately involved. In fact, the stage may be set for the first hybrid investigation between governmental law enforcement and open-sourced, Internet–based private investigators and journalists.
With the Cooper case so resistant to resolution, the resurgence may become a template for a new kind of criminal investigation, namely, a partnership between law enforcement, outside volunteers, and working journalists.
So, to understand this emerging dynamic, and to fully appreciate the hurdles the resurgence is facing, we need to need to go back to the beginning of the DB Cooper investigation.
The facts of the DB Cooper skyjacking
Not only is the DB Cooper case the only unsolved airplane hijacking in the history of the United States, very few facts are known.
What is public knowledge, however, is that on November 24, 1971, the day before Thanksgiving, a man named Dan Cooper bought a one-way ticket in Portland, Oregon for a flight to Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle.
As his plane, Northwest Orient’s Flight 305, rolled down the runway he handed a note to a stewardess named Florence Schaffner saying he was hijacking the craft. He demanded $200,000 delivered in a knapsack, re-fueling upon arrival, and four parachutes. In exchange, he promised to release the 36 passengers.
Cooper also declared that if these demands were unmet he would blow-up the plane, and to prove his point he opened a cloth briefcase to show Schaffner what looked like sticks of dynamite, wiring and batteries.
After circling Puget Sound for two hours, Cooper received the message that his money and parachutes awaited him on the ground at Sea-Tac. Cooper allowed the pilot to land, and upon receiving the money and chutes he released the passengers and two of the flight attendants, including Schaffner, and retained only the three cockpit crew, Captain William Scott, co-pilot Bill Rataczak, and flight engineer Harold Anderson, and a flight attendant, Tina Mucklow.
As a result of this assignment, Mucklow spent hours with Cooper, some of it alone in the two-plus harrowing hours during the exchange and refueling, and she is not only considered the primary witness in the skyjacking but also a hero for helping keep Cooper calm.
Once refueled, Cooper instructed the flight crew to take-off and head to Mexico City, but within extraordinary parameters: fly no higher than 10,000 feet, keep the landing gear down and locked, and set the wing flaps at 15 degrees – all conditions suitable for a parachute jump.
When the plane reached 10,000 feet and leveled off, Cooper asked Mucklow to help him lower the aft stairs on the 727, one of the few commercial aircraft that has such as feature. Once the stairs deployed, Cooper ordered Mucklow to re-join the crew in the cockpit.
As she left, Mucklow caught a glimpse of Cooper tying a parachute cord around the money bag and possibly to his waist, a parachuting trick used by savvy combat paratroopers jumping at night – get your heavy stuff in a bag and off your knees, and tether it long enough so it’ll signal when you’re about to hit the ground.
That was the last anyone has ever seen of DB Cooper.
Although the FBI now proclaims to the public that DB Cooper was a fool and probably died in the jump – it did take place on a rainy November night – no trace of DB Cooper has ever been found. According to one FBI official, “We never even found so much as a belt buckle.”
The 10,000 twenty-dollar bills vanished, too; not a single one has ever showed up in circulation even though the FBI had recorded each serial number. However, in 1980, a neat stack of bills totaling $5,800 was discovered by an eight-year old boy under a bit of sand on a Columbia River beach. Since the rubber bands were still intact and most of the bills were in reasonable condition, the FBI says that the money was buried on the river bank several years after the skyjacking.
And that’s it. Granted, it’s not much, but let’s examine what the FBI did with this meager amount of evidence.
The FBI’s DB Cooper investigation
The historical arc of the FBI’s investigation cuts a broad swath across the decades.
Initially, the FBI considered DB Cooper a master criminal, as did Walter Cronkite in his broadcasts following the skyjacking.
Also, the Cooper case agent in the Portland FBI office, Ralph Himmelsbach, readily acknowledges that Cooper was a sharp guy and that the crime was well-planned and executed.
In addition, Cooper’s use of a bomb was original, and was considered a particularly astute criminal ploy as it neutralized any FBI efforts to take Cooper out, either by a sniper or a multi-pronged rush by agents.
In fact, the FBI wondered if Cooper was connected to a skyjacking attempt two weeks earlier in Montana, when a young man attempted a skyjacking identical to Cooper’s, but differing only in using a hand gun as his weapon. The skyjacker was overcome by airline personnel without injuries by rushing him from different directions and in close quarters.
In today’s parlance, the bomb was a “game changer,” and Himmelsbach acknowledges that DB Cooper had the upper-hand in the early stages of the skyjacking.
Further, the escape by parachute was originally considered daring but not impossible, a perspective supported by the fact that four DB Cooper-esque skyjackers successfully parachuted with their loot in the year flowing the Cooper jump.
In fact, many in the FBI considered that one of these four, Richard McCoy, the skyjacker who took $500,000 with him into the skies over Provo, Utah in the spring of 1972, was actually Cooper doing a second – and more lucrative – skyjacking.
However, during the 1970s the FBI’s thinking shifted, particularly as the Bureau was unable to crack the case year after year, or even retrieve a single piece of hard evidence. They had zip – no body, no chute and no money. In addition, they had little compelling soft evidence, such as a family member, employer or landlord coming forward saying they had a missing husband, employee or tenant who had suddenly vanished over the Thanksgiving Day weekend in 1971 and who looked like DB Cooper.
In essence, it seemed that DB Cooper had come from nowhere and had returned there.
By the late 1970s, the FBI strongly felt that Cooper had died in the jump and had taken all his evidence with him, either by landing in a lake and drowning, or he “cratered” into a remote hillside after spinning out of control due to hypothermia, extreme wind turbulence or some malfunction, such as a balky rip cord.
The money find in 1980 only reinforced the notion that Cooper did not live to spend his money, as the prevailing view was that the money became separated from Cooper, either in the air or upon impact, and floated its way down the Columbia for nine years before appearing at Tina’s Bar, four miles south of Vancouver, WA.
Variations of these themes and speculations on what body of water or remote mountain peak DB Cooper impacted remain subject to diverse opinion, and they still dominate FBI thinking to this day, despite the resurgence.
Key to understanding these speculations are the four parachutes the FBI delivered to DB Cooper, and which ones he used.
DB Cooper asked for and received two “back” chutes and two “front chutes. The back chutes were understood to be regular, primary parachutes and the front were smaller, reserve chutes.
Obtaining the parachutes was reportedly very problematic for the FBI, and initially they had asked the Air Force at McChord Air Base in Tacoma for assistance. However, Cooper nixed the idea of using any military gear.
So, the FBI turned to the manager of Sea-Tac airport for help in procuring recreational parachutes and he suggested Earl Cossey, the jump master at the Issaquah (WA) Sky Sports skydiving school, located about 30 miles east of Sea-Tac airport.
However, the truth of who provided the back chutes is now highly controversial, and this casts great doubt about certain aspects of the FBI’s investigation.
There has long been a “common understanding” among FBI agents and aficionados that the back chutes were provided by a master parachute rigger, Earl Cossey.
However, FBI documents have surfaced in August, 2010 upon the publication of Geoffrey Gray’s superb account of the case in Skyjack- The Hunt for DB Cooper, that the actual owner of the back parachutes was a Washington state business man and acrobatic pilot, Norman Hayden.
This has led to enormous conflict, accusations and troubling questions. If the FBI documents are correct, how did the FBI lose track of Norman Hayden?
Further, Mr. Cossey has ensconced himself in the FBI’s investigatory efforts – legitimately or not is undecided at this point – and has been used as an expert witness and consultant in the case regarding parachutes. But, if he is deceveing the FBI and the public, why has the Bureau used him as a consultant?
In fact, Cossey has a pronounced opinion of Cooper, claiming that Cooper chose an inferior parachute and thus was not a skilled skydiver, an attitude that has been adopted apparently by the FBI. Hence, in the course of the now-40 year investigation, the FBI’s perspective of DB Cooper has morphed from “master criminal” to something akin to a bumbling fool – a desperate or naive man who got himself killed jumping out of a 727 into a rainy night with a lousy parachute.
Cossey has refused to discuss the ownership disparity and, in addition has launched a smear campaign against Mr. Hayden, who in turn has announced that he wants nothing more to do with Cooper sleuths or this imbroglio.
However, Mr. Hayden had been exceptionally helpful in September, 2010 once his ownership was made public again. Norman invited this journalist and an observer to view the second, “not used by Cooper” parachute, which the FBI returned to him in 1982. In addition, Hayden freely discussed the many aspects of the parachute issue.
Norman said that the two chutes he provided were identical, or nearly so. Norman is not a skydiver, and only had the chutes to use in case of an emergency while performing his precision acrobatic manoeuvers. One chute he wore as the pilot and the second chute was for his passenger.
The chute that Norman showed us was in a “Pioneer” container, and the rigging card, signed by Earl Cossey ironically, indicated that the actual parachute inside was a 26-foot round canopy. The rig was not any fancy skydiving gear but was more suitable to be used as a pilot’s emergency bail-out rig.
Hayden has never used the parachute he showed us, proudly announcing, “Why should I ever leave a perfectly good airplane in flight?”
According to Hayden, the parachute that Cooper jumped with was identical to the one he showed us, and many skydivers claim that such gear would have been wholly appropriate for the type of jump Cooper made from his aircraft, namely a high-speed jet exit.
However, Cossey’s perspective is quite different, and here is the “common understanding” as it has been accepted for the past four decades. Remember, Earl Cossey may be telling the truth, and in fact the FBI may have collected two sets of two back backs – a pair from Cossey as he claims, and the two from Hayden as FBI records reveal – and only Gawd knows where the two extra parachutes are now.
At the time of the skyjacking, Cossey was at home when contacted by an official of Northwest Orient Airlines, and Cossey orchestrated the delivery of both the front “reserve” parachutes and back “main” chutes.
Cossey says that he personally provided the back chutes and placed them in a taxi cab that first went inexplicably to Boeing Field , and then they headed by private care to Sea-Tac Airport. One of the back chutes was an old but reliable, navy pilot’s emergency parachute called an NB-8. This chute was not found on the plane, so it is believed that DB Cooper used this one to make his getaway despite the fact that Cossey characterizes this rig as a ”broken-down VW.”
The second back chute, the one “not-used,” was a newer “sport” parachute generally thought to be a Paracommander, which was a steerable and popular parachute at that time. However, Cossey told me in a 2009 phone conversation that it was a “Paradise” parachute, and in a 2011 follow-up interview he stressed that it was neither a Paracommander nor any kind of modern-day rectangular parachute that is steerable. Nevertheless, “Coss,” as he prefers being called, also said this second chute was a “Cadillac” compared to the chute used by Cooper.
Over time, though, discrepancies entered the picture. The second, “not-used” chute has also been called a “Pioneer,” as reported by Larry Carr on the Dropzone web site, and in our 2011 conversation, Coss also described it as a Pioneer.
As for the two front, reserve chutes, they arrived at Sea-Tac Airport separately from the back chutes, coming directly from Cossey’s skydiving facilities at the Issaquah Sky Sports, and inexplicably, one of these chutes was a non-operable training chute that had the canopy folds sown together for ease in re-packing.
Further, no “D” rings were provided, rendering the front chutes nearly impossible to attach to the harness of the back chute. In normal circumstances the reserve chute would attach to the back chute harness via the main harness’s D rings.
As a result according to Cossey, Cooper received the following: a totally unusable reserve chute, a “broken down VW” NB8, a “Cadillac” Paradise/Pioneer, and a good, un-identifiable reserve chute but without any “D” rings for attachment to the back harness.
Conceivably, Cooper could have tied a front chute to the rear harness with rope, but whether he did is unknown.
In fact, what Cooper actually did with his chutes is not fully known.
Tina Mucklow, the flight attendant on board with Cooper when he jumped, says that he was wearing Cossey’s NB 8 while she was still with him and not the super-duper Pioneer. But what chute he actually used when he exited the plane is unknown. All we know is that the NB 8 and the unusable reserve were gone when the feds entered the plane in Reno, Nevada when it landed for refueling.
Further, Cooper opened the good reserve chute before he jumped and cut the shroud lines to use as rope. Mucklow was on her way to the cockpit when she saw Cooper cinch his money bag with the cords, and also possibly securing it around his waist – and that’s the last eye-witness account we have of Cooper’s actions.
So, it is unknown what happened to the unusable reserve – whether DB Cooper tried to use it, chucked it out the rear of the plane, or disposed of it in some other manner. Further, it has never been recovered. In addition, his briefcase with the bomb has not been found.
Exactly what happened to Cossey’s not-used Pioneer is not fully known, either, although Larry Carr posted on the DropZone that it was left intact on seat 18-B, but that is the only report I have uncovered which definitively states that fact.
However, in 2011, Cossey said that he was compensated for it by NWO, stating, “That should tell you something!” about his ownership claim. But whether he has it in his possession is unknown.
Evidence and Assumptions
Therefore, all that Cooper left on the plane was the torn-up reserve chute, the Pioneer, eight cigarette butts in the ashtray, and inexplicably, his clip-on tie. It is also understood that he left hair strands on his head-rest and presumably fingerprints on hand rails and similar surfaces along with his cocktail glass, which was a plastic cup.
So, here’s the math on what presumably went out the rear door with Cooper: one main parachute; one dummy reserve; one cloth briefcase with sticks of dynamite, wires and a battery; a small, brown paper bag with unknown contents; and a Seafirst Bank bag stuffed with $200,000.
None of it, nor any trace of Cooper, has been found except for the $5,800.
From this tally, though, the FBI began making assumptions and then releasing speculations on what happened to Cooper.
First, they assume quite reasonably that Cooper jumped with the NB-8.
Then, they made some comparisons between the chutes and over time drew the following conclusions.
First, they deduced that the NB 8 was an inferior choice and concluded that Cooper was not an experienced parachutist because if he was, he would have chosen the Pioneer even though the NB 8 is considered by many to be a reliable military rig and suitable for a jet exit.
In addition, Cossey apparently told the FBI that his NB 8 rig, which contained a 28’ diameter round canopy, was stuffed into a smaller NB 6 bag, making the pull of the rip cord more difficult, which is a scenario that Larry Carr is reported to have described on the DropZone. However, in 2011, Cossey denied using any smaller container for this parachute.
Cossey had also told me in 2009 that he had made a modification to the ripcord – for unknown reasons – but Cossey said that these “mods” made it more difficult to deploy the chute. Hence, Cossey believes that Cooper died from a “no-pull” jump, and “augured” into the ground.
Further, it is believed that Cooper jumped wearing loafers, a thin business suit and light raincoat. No hat, gloves or additional clothing were ever observed, and this lack of protection from the cold and rain was deemed foolhardy by many in the investigation.
Further, Cooper’s decision to cut up his only good reserve chute and not the dummy one was viewed over time as the action of an inexperienced jumper who could not recognize a bogus parachute.
The conditions of the jump – nighttime, rain, November temperatures that were below freezing at his departure point of 10,000 feet – estimated to be 22 degrees Fahrenheit – and an uncertain landing zone were again determined to show Cooper as inexperienced or desperate.
The money find in Feb. 1980, further enforced the notion that Cooper crashed in the woods upstream and that the money bag floated its way to Tina’s Beach.
So, in about ten years’ time, perceptions of DB Cooper went from being a master criminal to an inept or desperate fool.
Larry Carr held this latter view until 2008, based upon his videos posted on the FBI’s DB Cooper web site.
Despite the introduction of electron microscopes and the examination of pollen spores, diatoms and mineral analysis on the money – whose findings are just now being released to the public – plus the tossing of money bundles into the Columbia River to determine float and drift dynamics – nothing has changed. The resurgence has seemingly fallen flat, or at least stumbled. The old beliefs of the Cooper case remain in place.
Or cratered more deeply into the dung of desperation, for the public’s reaction to the FBI’s current thinking has been outright derision, particularly on the DZ website. To whit:
In the 2009 National Geographic documentary, titled: “The Skyjacker Who Got Away,” Agent Carr and the head of the Citizen Sleuths, Tom Kaye, proposed a new and fantastic theory that Kaye latter disavowed in an email to me.
Here’s their hypothesis:
Cooper landed with his NB 8 and money bag in the Lewis River just downstream from Ariel, Washington. In deep, frigid, rushing water Cooper got tangled in his parachute and drowned. His body, chute and money drifted downstream and eventually reached the Columbia River, at the confluence with the Lewis River about 6 miles downstream from Tina’s Beach. Once in the Columbia, part or all of this bundle, but certainly the money bag, became snared on a propeller shaft of an in-bound freighter heading upriver to Portland, and by the time it passed Tina’s Beach the bundle of $5,800 was released and everything else washed out to sea.
Worse than the implausibility of this theory, not a stitch of supporting evidence was presented.
Since then, the resurgence, at least the FBI’s part, has shut down and there have been no further updates on the Bureau’s Cooper web page or public announcements from Carr. In addition, there have no postings by him on the DZ web site despite repeated calls for him to return.
Nevertheless, we have worthy contributions from Larry Carr prior to the propeller canard.
Carr’s legacy in the hunt for DB Cooper
In trying to evaluate DB Cooper’s parachuting prowess, Larry Car has generally accepted the notion that Cooper did have some basic familiarity with parachutes and had enough skills to at least think he could make the jump successfully.
He also came to the belief, expressed on the FBI web page and on the DZ postings, that he believed Cooper was most probably an Air Force veteran, perhaps a “kicker” on air drops, such as were performed by USAF and the CIA’s Air America crews over Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam during the war.
As a kicker, he would be pushing cargo loads out the rear doors of a C-47 while wearing an emergency parachute, most likely an NB 8 or something similar. Hence, when he was about to jump off Flight 305 it’s reasonable to assume he picked a parachute that was familiar.
In addition, Carr discovered something unique to the Cooper case – the Dan Cooper comic books.
At this point it’s important to remember that DB Cooper signed for his plane ticket in Portland as “Dan Cooper,” not DB, which was an appellation given to him by a mistaken journalist in the early hours of the case.
Nevertheless, these comic books describe the exploits of a Royal Canadian Air Force hero named Dan Cooper, who skydives into action to make the world safe for democracy. They are written in French and utterly unknown in the Untied States. They weren’t well-known in most places either, but they were apparently available in the French-speaking parts of Belgium, particularly Brussels, where NATO is headquartered.
Thus, Carr speculated that his USAF cargo kicker spoke French, quite possibly by being stationed in the environs of Brussels, and at least got his non de guerre from the comics and might have also received the inspiration for the skyjacking.
Adding to this, Vietnam and Cambodia were once French colonies and a French patois was widely spoken in SE Asia when the United States military arrived in force in the 1960s, providing yet one more connection to French-speaking, comic book loving, adventure seeking, American cargo kickers.
So, did DB Cooper have any knowledge of the comic action hero? Was his signatore a talisman? An inside joke? A tell?
Did DB Cooper serve in Belgium, discover the Dan Cooper character, kick cargo over French Indochina and learn the basics of pulling an NB 8 rig?
Why not? Or, rather, pourquoi, pas?
Regardless, where does this information take us?
Well, for starters, it reinforces the notion that Cooper was connected to Vietnam, special ops, and Air America.
In turn, this leads to smokejumpers, those gung-ho guys who jump out of airplanes and fight forest fires. During the Vietnam War, the smokejumpers were utilized as a source of skilled and field-tested candidates, and many joined the ranks of covert operations in SE Asia, particularly Air America.
This in turn leads to other connections with the CIA and their use of 727s to drop supplies and agents into combat, and the training and psychological make-up of the men involved in these missions.
However, before we can explore these issues meaningfully, we best turn to the private sector and examine what the resurgence has found in that arena. I suggest we start where I joined the hunt.
Joining the hunt
Yes, I’m part of the resurgence, caught up in the swell like a giddy newbie.
That’s not to say I had never heard of DB Cooper and his skyjacking, for I had, but I was 22 years-old at the time Cooper jumped. I had just returned to college at Hofstra University after a couple of years ski-bumming in Colorado and hitch-hiking in Canada, so I had other things on my mind other than paying attention to a hijacker snatching a plane, even if DB was the first guy asking for something other than a free pass to Cuba.
Moreover, my entry into the hunt was quite simple: I stumbled into it writing an unrelated story for a newspaper.
At the time, my full-time gig was reporting for a small weekly in southern Pierce County, Washington called The Dispatch, and while I was covering a local air show in the summer of 2008, I met a pilot and his wife who had just written a book about DB Cooper.
In that hot August sun they were quite eager to talk about their story: a biography of a fellow pilot who had confessed to being DB Cooper. We spent an afternoon discussing it, sitting in the shade provided by the starboard wing of their beautifully restored 1934 Fairchild airplane.
The authors are named Ron and Pat Forman, and they tell in their book: The Legend of DB Cooper – Death by Natural Causes, the wildest Cooper tale ever imagined.
I have learned it is also the most compelling of all the Cooper confessional stories, for it delivers the most detailed description of how DB Cooper did his caper, including his motive.
In addition, it is complete with plausible explanations of how DB Cooper’s identity still remains a total mystery, and why only 5,800 bucks of the ransom money was ever found – nine years after the skyjacking, buried in a river bank.
Ron and Pat Forman say DB Cooper was a woman, and claim their friend and fellow pilot, Barb Dayton, confessed to being DB Cooper in 1978.
Barb made a second confession, too, claiming she was the first person in the state of Washington to have a sex-change operation, and had been Bobby Dayton until 1969, two years prior to the skyjacking. Hence, she did the heist by reverting to her former male persona.
In 1978, Barb Dayton believed erroneously that the statute of limitations on the skyjacking had expired and she told the Formans many details about the skyjacking, particularly how she had survived by jumping over the lowlands of northern Oregon and not the mountainous terrain of southeastern Washington state.
She also revealed a deteriorated mental status, describing how she struggled with an inability to adequately express her gender or sexuality, either before or after the operation. In fact, the Formans paint a picture of Barb Dayton where it seems she tried to reclaim her masculinity through the bold extortion of a commercial jetliner.
However, after several confessional sessions that included a number of other pilots, Barb discovered that the FBI had quietly engineered an unprecedented “John Doe” warrant in the Cooper case and thwarted the expiration of the statute of limitations, so she recanted her story and told her buddies it was all a dream.
Nevertheless, when Barb Dayton died in 2002 of natural causes, Ron and Pat Forman decided it was time to re-examine the tale their friend had told them thirty years before.
After years of research, the Formans have compiled a noteworthy collection of evidentiary documents and family testimony, and make a compelling case that their old sky-mate was DB Cooper.
However, a closer look at the life of Barb Dayton and the FBI’s response to the Forman publication, point to an even deeper mystery than just a hijacked airplane, and suggests that the FBI’s investigation, even the resurgence, has been compromised.
But, let’s begin at the beginning.
The Barb Dayton story
Ron and Pat first met Barb in 1977 at Thun Field, a small, private airstrip in Puyallup, WA.
Dayton, a quiet and respected research librarian at the University of Washington during the week, became on the weekends a passionate flyer of a Cessna 140, a tiny, fun plane to operate – kind of like a Chevy Nova of airplanes.
Ron, an Air Force mechanic stationed at the near-by McChord Air Base, had come to Thun Field looking to purchase an affordable plane, and Barb told him about another Cessna 140 that was available. Even though it was in very used condition, the engine and structural elements were still sound and the Formans bought it. As they restored their new airplane, Barb Dayton, a top-notch mechanic, pitched in.
Although she was socially reserved to the point of being a near-recluse, their shared love of flying allowed Barb Dayton to build a guarded, but warm, relationship. Nearly every weekend for the next couple of years, the Formans and Barb flew their 140s to a myriad of Pacific Northwest airfields and cemented what was to become a life-long friendship. Often, other Cessna 140 pilots from Thun would join them in a kind of informal flying club.
As Ron tells it, during these weekend fly-abouts Barb began dropping little tidbits about the Cooper skyjacking case. Typically, a cynical newspaper report or radio commentary would trigger Barb to offer a robust defense of DB Cooper, saying, “Well, he could have jumped over the flatlands of Oregon and not the wooded mountains of Washington. That way he could have easily survived.”
During one instance of these friendly debates Ron remarked to his friend, “Yeah, I know Barb – you’re DB Cooper!” and laughed.
This joke landed flat with Dayton, who gave Ron a “look that could kill” according to Pat, and the huddled pilots hastily finished their coffee and returned to their planes. Crossing the tarmac, Barb sidled up to Ron and announced in a low, no-nonsense tone of voice, “Ron, I don’t want you to ever, ever, say that again. Not even as a joke.”
How Barb said she did it
The Formans say that shortly after the above “flat joke” incident, Barb did admit to a group of Thun Field pilots that she was “Dan Cooper,” the name the hijacker actually used when he bought his ticket.
It is very telling that she called herself Dan and not DB, because the DB part of this legendary moniker was created by a mistaken newspaper reporter in the early hours of the hijacking. In those days, a passenger manifest only had first-initial, last-name recorded, so when the FBI was scratching names off their list as passengers de-planed at Sea-Tac they were left looking for a D. Cooper in seat 18-E.
The Feds quickly alerted Portland police for information on any D. Coopers. In turn, Portland PD told the FBI they had a petty criminal by the name of DB Cooper. An eaves-dropping Associated Press journalist over-heard the conversation and reported to the world that DB Cooper was the skyjacker. Obviously, the name stuck.
Dayton said she very easily survived the jump because she parachuted – not over the rugged terrain of Washington’s Cascade Mountains where the FBI says DB jumped – but nine minutes later above the flat, muddy hazelnut groves of Woodburn, Oregon.
The discrepancy derives from how to assess the floppy behavior of the aft stairs in flight. The FBI says the biggest bounce occurred over Ariel, Washington, presumably triggered by DB Cooper jumping off the bottom step and causing the stairs to spring sharply upwards like a diving board.
However, the Formans say Barb told them she descended to the bottom step over Ariel to ascertain where the glow of Portland’s lights was in the cloud cover. That glaze of light became her primary beacon, and then she climbed back up the stairs to await Woodburn and the stairs bounced as she retreated.
After passing over Portland, Dayton said she looked next for the strobing lights of Aurora State Airport, waited until she got slightly south, and then from the safety of the top step she dove into a rain-soaked sky. After a free-fall of 9,000 feet, counting the seconds to ascertain her altitude, she pulled the rip cord at 1,000 feet and guided herself to a soft landing by the now-visible lights on Interstate 5. Barb said she landed just off the highway in the farming environs of Woodburn, a place where she had once worked intermittently as a farm laborer.
Once she stashed her stuff, she walked to a motel where she had registered the day before, got clean-up, donned her wig and dress, and took a bus back to Portland airport. There she picked up her car and drove home to her tiny apartment in West Seattle.
This story is so huge the Formans say they never completely believed their friend. Nevertheless, they took notes surreptitiously once the flying was over for the day and they had retreated to the privacy of their home.
These papers contain nuggets of information from Barb, including a full telling of how she stashed the money in an irrigation cistern in a hazelnut grove where she had once worked years before.
The Formans say Barb may have moved the money in 1980 after having a dream in which the ink on the money began to “float away.” Barb mysteriously skipped the next weekend’s flying and the Formans believe she may have retrieved the money from Woodburn because she announced later that she had “taken a trip south” during her absence.
“Knowing Barb the way we did,” the Formans believe that their friend re-deposited $5,800 of the ransom in a mud bank along the Columbia to “keep the story going.”
Dayton also inferred that the FBI never found the remainder of the money because she never spent any. In fact, the skyjacking was not done for the money at all, apparently, but for therapeutic purposes, such as restoring self-esteem, as the operation was fraught with difficulties.
The Formans says that Barb Dayton’s sex-change operation did not go well in the early stages. Initially, it was physically painful and she had to sit on special cushions for the first couple of months. Then, the agitation she had felt all her life, that she was more a woman than man and thus needed a woman’s body to properly experience herself, was only partially lifted. Clinical records from the period just before the skyjacking indicated that Barb Dayton was suicidal, unemployed and broke.
Yet, her psychiatrist, whom she was seeing regularly for several years after the operation, reported a few months after the hijacking that Barb Dayton had an inexplicable mood shift and was noticeably happier and more content with her situation. In fact, a month after the skyjacking Barb landed a job at the University of Washington as a research librarian, a position she held for many years.
This notion of skyjacking a plane to lift a suicidal depression, as wacky as it sounds, actuality fits the larger personality profile of Bobby/Barb Dayton.
The information the Formans have been able to collect from Barb’s family re-enforces their own observations that Barb Dayton was an individual who constantly needed to challenge herself, as if in an epic search for self-worth. She indulged in high-speed car races down country roads, challenged authority relentlessly, and flew fearlessly – even to the point of recklessness. Jumping out of a plane at night while wearing loafers was the kind of dare-devil stunt Barb thrived upon.
In fact, the Formans say that when Barb Dayton’s brother Billy heard about the skyjacking on TV the night of the crime, he remarked, “That’s the kind of thing Bobby would do.”
Then, after this period of self-disclosure to her friends, Barb Dayton learned the Department of Justice, literally at the last hour, obtained a “John Doe” indictment for the DB Cooper skyjacking. This meant Barb would remain on a legal hook forever and she quickly refuted her claims of being Dan Cooper.
Nevertheless, Dayton had plenty of other wild stories to tell, such as being a guerilla fighter against the Japanese in the jungles of the Philippines during WWII, working as an explosive expert for logging companies, and surviving eight days without food in the Yukon while being chased by a grizzly bear.
Do you really believe this stuff? Barb’s friends would ask each other. Is Barb really DB Cooper? Jungle fighting with Moro tribesmen? Grizzlies?
So, on one hand they never fully believed her but on the other they were also paralyzed with fear – what if Barb was telling the truth – would the FBI consider them accomplices in the skyjacking if they didn’t turn her in? As a result, the Formans and the several other pilots who received Barb’s confession remained silent.
So, when Barb Dayton died of cardiac and pulmonary disease in 2002, Ron and Pat decided to investigate their old friend’s tales.
Through extensive research that included military records and numerous conversations with Barb’s family, the Formans have been able to prove all of Barb Dayton’s stories are true except for one, and for that they need the FBI to release the DNA profile of DB Cooper. For reasons that are unclear, the FBI has not publicly revealed the DNA analysis of Cooper that they have been able to gather with the advent of new technology.
Further confounding the Formans, Larry Carr, the FBI official currently in charge of the Cooper case, has never met with them nor returned a single phone call or email.
The FBI investigation comes under suspicion
Although the Formans have never met with Carr, they did meet with a FBI agent in August, 2006 to discuss their findings. The agent was named Jeremy Blauser and he met with the Formans after they hired an attorney, Ed Hudson, to help make contact with the Bureau and to also iron-out copyright and other legal details in their forthcoming book.
Intriguingly, Blauser told the Formans and Hudson that he was based in the Los Angeles FBI office – giving them a business card to prove it – and declared he was “on loan” to the Seattle office to help with a resurgent Cooper investigation.
On the day of the scheduled meeting Ron became ill, so Pat, alone with her attorney, met with Blauser in a downtown Tacoma office building. Pat says that Blauser was initially a skeptic, but he became very excited by her revelations and evolved into a true believer by the end of their two-hour conversation. He was particularly intrigued by a goodbye letter Barb had written to her two children just prior to the skyjacking, apparently as a suicide note in case she didn’t survive.
When they parted, Blauser asked for items of Barb’s that would provide DNA samples, such as hair brushes and sealed envelopes, which the Formans provided shortly thereafter.
However, the Formans have never heard back from Blauser, or anyone else from the FBI.
When I asked Agent Carr about the Dayton DNA samples he said he has never received any, and seemed surprised when I asked about Agent Blauser, sounding as if he wasn’t quite sure who he was.
Nevertheless, Carr did confirm that the Bureau had a partial DNA sample from the clip-on tie that Cooper had left inexplicably on the aircraft.
“The DNA samples could be Cooper’s, or somebody else’s. We don’t know,” Carr said.
But when I asked Agent Carr if he was planning to contact the Formans and conduct a DNA screening on Barb Dayton, he said the Formans would have to perform the Dayton DNA analysis and then bring it to him.
Putting aside Agent Carr’s less-than-robust pursuit of a suspect for the moment, is the FBI conducting parallel investigations in the Cooper case – Carr’s in Seattle, and one run by Blauser in LA?
Or did Carr and Blauser botch the hand-off, resulting in a bit of embarrassment on Carr’s part; or is the FBI stonewalling a Dayton inquiry?
Sadly, efforts to clarify what is going on have come to an impasse for Special Agent Jeremy Blauser has vanished. His cell phone number has been disconnected, the Los Angeles FBI says that he no longer works there, and they claim they are unable to say where he’s gone.
As for Agent Carr, since our first conversation he has refused any contact with me, and the Public Information Officer for the Seattle FBI Office said in 2010 that she is unable to provide any answers to my questions.
So peering in from the outside, what can be gleaned from the information the FBI acknowledges it has? For example, what about the fingerprints gathered from the plane?
DB reportedly downed at least one bourbon and water, which he paid for with his own cash, interestingly. Aren’t there any fingerprints on the cocktail cup or the cash? The government has Bobby Dayton’s prints from his lengthy service in the Army and Merchant Marine. Is there a match?
The FBI has over 60 sets of fingerprints from the crime scene but says it doesn’t know conclusively if any are Cooper’s. However, it also has failed to say if any match Dayton’s. Why not?
Further, one of the last things Agent Carr said to me, and with a chillingly dismissive tone of voice, was that “nothing the Formans have presented fits anything in the case files,” and he specifically mentioned Barb Dayton’s stated height on her military record of 5’8” as grounds for dismissing her as a suspect. In Carr’s defense, Barb’s official height definitely clashes with the eye witnesses who say Cooper was around 6’0”.
However, pictures the Formans have of Barb at Thun Field indicate she was a bit taller than 5’8”, and was maybe closer to 5’10”.
Nevertheless, the full Forman portfolio is compelling and worthy of examination. To whit: Barb Dayton was a sharp pilot and parachutist, plus she knew how to rig dynamite charges. Those are the basic skills for doing the Cooper caper. Plus, she was fearless, or reckless enough, to jump into the November night sky wearing loafers and a thin raincoat just as Cooper did.
This leads to a closer examination at the FBI’s quick dismissal of Dayton.
Agent Carr told me the FBI “intensely investigated” the skydiving and private pilot communities of the Pacific Northwest in the days after the skyjacking, considering at the time that pilots and parachutists were prime suspects.
So, how did the feds miss a 45 year-old pilot flying minutes away from Sea-Tac airport and who did stunts in a rinky-dink Cessna, even if she was possibly 2-4 inches too short?
Further, the Formans say Dayton knew from years of flying over Washington and Oregon that instructing the Northwest Orient pilots to fly to Mexico City at 10,000 feet would automatically put them in the air transportation corridor known as Victor 23, and as such would place her directly on top of I-5 at Woodburn, Oregon just a few minutes after passing Aurora State Airport at 200 mph..
Plus, Dayton was a Raleigh chain-smoker, and Cooper left eight Raleigh cigarette butts on the plane. In addition, Barb’s drink of choice was bourbon, again like Cooper.
Further, Dayton routinely wore loafers even while flying, and Ron Forman says he never saw her wear any other kind of shoes.
Also, Dayton held a well-known grudge against the FAA for regulations that prevented her from becoming a commercial pilot.
Hating authority in general, she flew without a valid pilot’s license and refused to get medical clearances, which led to her having a heart attack in the air and once forcing her passenger, Pat Forman, to take control of the aircraft.
Plus, she was known famously for her disregard of money, on at least one occasion draining the fuel from her Cessna 140 to put in her car so she could drive home to her apartment in West Seattle.
In late 1971, her psychiatrist reported that she claimed she had nothing to live for – certainly a suitable state of mind for jumping out of a 727 the night before Thanksgiving.
Plus, the Formans say that on the night Barb confessed, the group of pilots asked to take a Polaroid of her done-up as DB. Ron says the resemblance of the picture compared to the published FBI composite sketch was so uncanny that one individual freaked-out, tore up the picture and fled the house.
In addition, a newspaper article from the University of Washington The Daily, dated November 21, 1979, describes a Cooper scenario virtually identical to the story Ron and Pat now tell. Written by two undergraduate reporters named Clark Humphrey and Brian Guenther, The Daily says they got the story from two secretive sleuths who used psychic powers to uncover the truth.
Weird, yes, but was Barb planting stories at The Daily while she worked at a library across campus?
Further, The Daily reported that the FBI had been contacted regarding the story and that the feds considered the information “credible.” Is that true? Did the FBI know of the Woodburn landing and the sex-change angle in 1979?
Regardless of whether or not Barb Dayton failed to register on the FBI’s radar screen in the early 1970s as a cracker-jack pilot, or got on it in 1979 with the UW publication, but then inexplicably dropped off it again, why doesn’t the FBI want to investigate Barb Dayton, now?
One last, lonely red flag regarding the timing of Barb’s confession and recant: why did the Department of Justice wait until the very last possible day to obtain their John Doe indictment when the Portland office of the FBI had been warning the DOJ attorneys long before? Was someone in Washington, DC trying to run out the clock on the DB Cooper case?
More doubts about the FBI: the Ariel ground search
In the days and months after the skyjacking the FBI mounted an enormous investigation that included a massive ground search in the vicinity of Ariel, Washington, about 30 miles north of Vancouver, WA.
This area was selected based on the radar maps and time-signatures of Flight 305 when the aft stairs uncharacteristically bounced wildly, causing the plane to “curtsey,” a motion where the nose dipped down and the tail rose upwards, requiring the pilots to trim the craft.
This curtsey was believed to have been triggered by DB Cooper jumping off the bottom step, and the stairs “spring-boarded” back up. Hence, law enforcement swarmed to Ariel.
A phalanx of feds, cops and sheriffs joined a battalion of soldiers from Ft. Lewis, Washington, to scour 28 square miles of rugged mountainous terrain along the Lewis River drainage of the Cascades Mountains. After eighteen days of a painstaking yard-by-yard search they had found zilch and quit.
Ignoring the Barb Dayton angle for a moment, did that bump actually occur over Ariel or was it somewhere else north of Portland?
Since the 1980s, there is a growing body of evidence, revealed most notably by authors Russ Calame and Bernie Rhodes in their book DB Cooper – The Real McCoy,” that the FBI failed to get the exact position of Flight 305 from the skipper, Captain William Scott, or the man actually flying the plane, co-pilot Bill Rataczak.
Calame and Rhodes say that at a retirement party in 1980 for the agent who had headed the Cooper investigation in FBI’s Portland office, Special Agent Ralph Himmelsbach, Capt Scott stated that Flight 305 was flying ten miles west of Ariel – over Woodland, Washington – when the stairs bucked.
In addition, Himmelsbach, in his 1986 book: Norjak The Investigation of DB Cooper, intimates that the FBI’s Seattle office, which was in charge of the case, did not accurately determine the direction of the wind, either. Himmelsbach writes that Captain Tom Bohan, the skipper of the Continental Airlines jetliner flying four minutes behind Flight 305 in Victor 23, told him in 1978 that intense 80 knot winds had buffeted his flight from a compass heading of 166º – slightly east of head-on.
That was nearly 80° different than the westerly 245º angle the FBI in Seattle had used in its calculations. Plus, at 80 knots it was more than double in strength than the FBI’s original configuration. Hence, if DB Cooper had jumped where the FBI said he had, his drift in the wind would also have put him west of Ariel.
Based on these two pieces of information, and maintaining the FBI’s reckoning of a jump at the Ariel latitude and not Woodburn, Oregon, DB Cooper should have landed slightly north or northwest of Woodland, WA, and touched down in the flat lands of the Columbia River basin, not the mountain peaks of the Cascades.
The FBI has yet to explain how these errors were made.
Why do so many confess to being DB Cooper?
Besides the mounting number of red flags flying over the federal investigation, there are additional pieces of information coming into public knowledge via non-governmental sources that point to a hidden agenda in the Cooper case.
The first new piece of stunning information is that the Cooper caper may have been a group effort. In addition, there are several viable suspects who have confessed to being DB Cooper.
As impossible as that may sound, a number of very plausible candidates besides Barb Dayton and the previously –mentioned Duane Weber and Richard McCoy are coming forward via death-bed confessions, family revelations and dogged research. It suggests that somehow they were involved, or were convinced they were.
Besides Barb, Duane and McCoy, the current list of leading candidates includes Ken Christenson and William Gossett, and the aforementioned SOG warrior Ted Braden. To understand how and why there might be more than one DB Cooper, a carefully examine of these folks is required.
Ken Christenson, now deceased, was a former Northwest Orient mechanic, flight attendant, and in November 1971, a flight purser. He had also been a paratrooper in WWII, was by most accounts a loner, and had lived in the Tacoma suburb of Bonney Lake.
In the 1990s, his younger brother, Lyle Christenson, became suspicious that Ken might be DB Cooper after an intimate but inconclusive death-bed conversation. Launching a circuitous personal crusade to learn the truth of his brother, Lyle first contacted a New York City private investigator named Skipp Porteous, which then led to author Geoffrey Gray, who followed with a profile on Christenson that was published in New York Magazine in 2007.
Gray wrote in his article that Flight 305 stewardess Florence Schaffner said the photographs he showed her of Christenson “were the closest in resemblance to Cooper than any of the suspects she’s ever seen.”
In addition, Gray reports that Ken bought his house in Bonney Lake, WA in cash in early 1972, despite earning only $215 per week working for Northwest Orient Airlines.
Next, Spokane lawyer Galen Cook advocates for William Gossett, a former Marine, career Army officer, and highly skilled paratrooper. Gossett is also deceased, but during a Coast-to-Coast radio interview Cook introduced two of Gossett’s sons, one of whom declared his father had confessed to being DB Cooper. The son also said that his father had shown him keys to a safe deposit box in a Vancouver, BC bank where he said the $200,000 was stashed. However, the son does not know where those keys are presently.
Galen is a long-time Cooper investigator and is currently pulling a book together on Cooper, diligently looking for conclusive evidence on Gossett.
Next, Richard McCoy is on the list for three reasons:
One, as described earlier, he actually hijacked an airliner using the exact same methods as Cooper, escaping with $500,000 by parachuting into the skies over Provo, Utah in the spring of 1972.
Two, the FBI agent who shot and killed McCoy in a subsequent gun battle, Nicholas O’Hara, allegedly said, “When I shot Richard Mc Coy, I shot DB Cooper at the same time.”
Three, the man backing up the above agent’s claim is Russell Calame, the former chief of the FBI’s Salt Lake City office and the official who had arrested McCoy prior to the shoot-out.
Further, a key governmental official involved in the prosecution of McCoy, Bernie Rhodes, spent considerable time interviewing this suspect, and later teamed with Calame to pen the book, DB Cooper – The Real McCoy.
In their book, Calame and Rhodes reveal a considerable volume of evidence that points to McCoy’s involvement in the Cooper heist, including a gas receipt that proves McCoy was inexplicably and mysteriously at Las Vegas’ McCarran airport the night after Cooper jumped. Calame thinks that McCoy was winging his way home from his Flight 305 caper the day before.
Next is Duane Weber, a man with a mixed background that includes a two-year hitch in the Navy during WWII that ended with a dishonorable discharge, a four-month stay in the Army that was cut short when they determined him “undesirable,” and at least seventeen years in prison at six different prisons for forgery and burglary.
His widow, Jo, says that he confessed to being Dan Cooper as he was lingering near death in 1995.
She also relates a string of supporting circumstantial experiences like an eerie trip from their home in Ft. Collins, Colorado to the shores of the Columbia River a few months before the $5,800 was found. Since then, Jo Weber has been on a quest to find the truth about her husband, and has received the support of the aforementioned FBI investigator, Ralph Himmelsbach. Journalist Douglas Pasternak wrote in US News that Himmelsbach says Weber “is one of the best suspects he’s come across.”
Yet, the FBI told Jo Weber in 2007 that their DNA testing ruled-out Weber as a suspect, but the DNA samples are themselves suspect, according to Calame.
Himmelsbach, now in retirement, is associated with another quirk in this story. He now lives in Woodburn, Oregon, just a few miles from where Barb Dayton says she buried the money. This fact is especially intriguing since The Daily specifically stated in 1979 that Woodburn was the landing site and depository for the money.
Deeper CIA connections – MKULTRA
As for the craziness of how and why there could be multiple Coopers, one possibility is a top-secret CIA operation that was on-going during the same time period, specifically, the mind control program called MKULTRA (pronounced M-K- Ultra).
Could the multiple DB Coopers be part of some kind of Manchurian Candidate scenario? Could these guys have been brain-washed into thinking they were DB Cooper?
Or is the case even weirder than that, such as the possibility that the case was part of a wild program to train special operation agents and everybody had to hijack a plane to graduate?
The subject of two Hollywood movies, the “Manchurian Candidate” theme revolves around sophisticated psychological, surgical and pharmaceutical efforts to create a mind-controlled presidential candidate. However, the term is also widely used to describe the development of intelligence operatives whose conscious recall can be switched-off by their minders after any nefarious deed, such as a political assassination.
The CIA’s use of Manchurian Candidate-like techniques in its MKULTRA program was confirmed by US Congressional investigations during the 1970s. In fact, MKULTRA was a huge, clandestine CIA operation that supposedly began in 1953 to learn the secrets of brain-washing techniques in the interrogation of captured American soldiers by the communist forces during the Korean War.
However, the initial research programs morphed in many directions and eventually included experiments with LSD, sleep and sensory deprivation, electro-convulsive shock, and hypnosis. They were all designed to determine if a combination of technology and behavioral techniques could be developed to control an individual’s mind, mood, memory and emotions.
As for the size of MKULTRA, in some works such as John Marks’, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control, it is reported that the program encompassed 6% of the agency’s budget.
So, the MKULTRA shenanigans were very real.
Further, author Naomi Klein in Shock Doctrine shows that the current usage of water-boarding and psychological torture during interrogations at Abu Ghrab and Gitmo started with MKULTRA and these types of psychological experimentations have never really stopped, apparently, although the military was ordered to do so.
Tragically, the level of sophistication has also grown.
Journalist and documentary film maker Jon Ronson details in his shocking book The Men Who Stared at Goats that the military’s attempt at mind-control has entered a new whole new phase.
Since 1979, the military has sought to weaponize mind-over-matter techniques, such as biofeedback processes. Ronson describes a secretive unit at Fort Bragg that endeavored to kill their victims by mentally imaging the target dead. Specifically, they stared at goats and focused on stopping the animal’s heart until the animal expired. Sadly, Ronson reports they have been successful.
With all of this going on in our military is it that far-fetched to consider that the DB Cooper case is involved somehow?
Yes, the idea that Dayton, Gossett, McCoy, et al. were brainwashed into skyjacking a plane is, on the quick take, highly improbable. Nevertheless, let’s probe a bit deeper into the candidates’ psychological make-up and see if we can gain any hint of a connection between DB Cooper and mind-control.
Starting with Richard McCoy, Cooper researcher and former FBI agent, Richard Tosaw, writes in his book, DB Cooper- Dead or Alive? that Richard McCoy had a “mental breakdown with no warning whatsoever” in the fall of 1971, just months before the Cooper jump and eight months before his own skyjacking.
Tosaw says that McCoy was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and determined to be suffering from “a delayed stress syndrome, confusion and disorientation,” presumably from his two tours in Vietnam as a hot-shot helicopter pilot. Yet, he was back at his normal routine within days.
Tosaw also writes that McCoy’s buddy, Robert Van Ieperen, is at a loss to explain why McCoy did the skyjacking and says: “It couldn’t have been for the money, because that was never important to him. I think he saw it as an adventure, like it was a personal challenge. He enjoyed the excitement of testing his skill, and the more dangerous the situation the better he liked it.”
More confounding, Tosaw writes that at the time of his skyjacking McCoy was shouldering a heavy load of law enforcement classes at Brigham Young University and had already taken a qualifying test for the Utah State Patrol, scoring first, state-wide.
Are these inconsistencies a sign of mind control, or is it just a tragic case of another gung-ho warrior wrestling with demons brought home from Vietnam?
Another behavioral clue that pops up with the Cooper Crew is that several of the suspects had serious issues with sexuality and relationships: Dayton experienced both genders, Christenson was known to invite runaway boys to live with him, while Gossett had five wives and Weber had six or seven – his widow doesn’t know for sure – plus a common-law marriage to make a possible total of eight.
Further, many held multiple jobs – Dayton had over 150 – or had disjointed careers. Most pulled macho military stints, knew planes and were paratroopers.
Also, several were criminally minded: Weber had an extensive record, McCoy escaped twice from federal custody after his skyjacking conviction and died on the run, and the Formans tell us that Barb fantasized about performing the perfect crime.
Further, a look into Barb Dayton’s clinical record gives us a clue as to what may be going on.
Specifically, Dayton had more than a sex-change operation – she also picked up a new personality. As a man Dayton was a brawling tough-guy; but as a woman she was a quiet, witty librarian.
Better yet, she could switch between the two personalities as if she was trained. Ron Forman says he saw her adopt her macho, masculine persona at will. Did the CIA train her to do so?
Seeking a link, I asked Barb Dayton’s daughter, Rena Ruddell, if she had any inkling of her father being a subject of a secret mind-control program.
“No,” she said, but added that her father and her Uncle Billie, Bobby’s brother, often went off to Mexico for long, vagabond trips.
“Maybe something happened to them in Mexico,” she added. “My cousins sure think so, plus, Billie became schizophrenic later in life and was obsessed with UFOs. Maybe that’s a connection.”
As for Ted Braden, he vanished from Vietnam in 1967 after twenty-three consecutive months of covert jungle warfare in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
One year later, a well-written and purported autobiographical account of Ted’s disappearance surfaced in Ramparts magazine and soon after in Stars and Stripes. In these magazines Ted acknowledges that he left Vietnam, where he was making $800 bucks a month leading his super-troopers, for the moolah and glory of being a mercenary in the CIA-backed civil war raging in the Congo.
However, when Ted showed up in Africa the CIA was reportedly not thrilled to see him, and they hauled him off to the stockade at Fort Dix, NJ. However, a deal was brokered allowing Ted to go free in exchange for keeping his mouth shut about the sensitive subject of American troops fighting in North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Ted was by all accounts an über warrior. Generally disliked by his peers and superiors for his quirky and reckless behavior, he nevertheless always brought his men home.
Ted is also reported by the men who served with him to have extensive associations with the CIA, often drinking with agents at their hangout in the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon. He even told his squad, “If you see me in Saigon wearing civilian clothes, you don’t know me.”
Further, after he disappeared one of his fellow troopers spotted him in Thailand, and wondered if Ted had gone over to the other side.
Regardless, while in SOG Ted and his colleagues successfully performed nighttime parachute insertions into hostile territory, sometimes from heights as extreme as 14,000 feet where they needed supplemental oxygen and dealt with sub-freezing temperatures.
Compared to jumping into jungle canopies thick with Viet Cong and NVA regulars, made more frightful knowing the enemy is waiting due to breaches in American and South Vietnamese intelligence, free-falling out of a 727 on a rainy Portland November night doesn’t seem so tough, especially if two-hundred grand is tied to your waist.
Plus, Braden is widely described as mentally unstable.
“Yeah, I saw him go schizo several times,” said fellow trooper, JD Bath, who also respects Braden’s soldiering skills and spent a year on Braden’s SOG team.
It is also inferred in several SOG accounts that they took drugs, probably methamphetamine, while conducting their operations in order to remain hyper-vigilant and also cut down on the need for food rations.
Were their fighting skills, particularity their diminished sense of fear, also enhanced by other means, such as MKULTRA technology? Frankly, how does a guy stay in covert jungle combat over a twenty-three month period and not lose his edge or a single soldier?
So, if mind-control activity plays any role in the DB Cooper case, could there have been one official DB Cooper skyjacking then, such as Flight 305, combined with other simulated virtual-reality skyjackings as part of some kind of black-ops training exercise?
Shedding light on this possibility is Ralph Himmelsbach, who writes in his memoirs, NORJAK: the Investigation of DB Cooper, that Flight 305 pilots Scott and Rataczak did not know they could fly their 727 with the aft stairs deployed. Himmelsbach says that a communiqué from the CIA during the skyjacking declared that flying a 727 at 10,000 feet at approximately 180 knots with the staircase flopping in the jetstream was doable because they were flying with those exact metrics to drop CIA agents and materiel into enemy territory in South East Asia.
Further, SOG accounts say they used 727s in operations over North Vietnam exclusively, instead of their regular prop craft and helicopters because the ‘27s had a better chance of escaping the North Vietnamese MIG 21s when they had to bail on a mission and didi their way home.
Looking more closely, Himmelsbach also reveals that in the eight months after Cooper’s jump, twenty other skyjackers used DB’s modus operandum. Most were apprehended during their hijacking, but four were successful, such as McCoy, albeit only for a short while.
Is any of this related? Are the DB Coopers CIA alumni from Vietnam or graduates of a CIA mind-control laboratory, or both?
Or are the Cooper suspects just an unrelated bunch of dare-devils?
Nevertheless, MKULTRA was a real mind-control operation and Cathy O’Brien, author of Trance Formation of America, says that she was a subject of the MKULTRA experiments, and her story sheds light on the Cooper case.
In testimony before the US House of Representatives she has given detailed accounts of how sexual abuse shocked her mind into compartmentalized sections and transformed her into a person who had multiple personalities, all for CIA purposes.
The goal, O’Brien says, was to be the ultimate intelligence courier: deliver a message in one personality, get switched off into another personality, then walk out totally unaware of the mission and unable to spill the beans if caught.
O’Brien’s claim reflects similarly to Barb Dayton’s dual personalities. Certainly Dayton’s ability to switch personas gave her the grandest of disguises. What better skill for an intelligence operative to possess than to be able to flip from man to woman and back, with just a wig and a few garments needed to complete the ruse?
The biggest red flag that points to mind-control is what happened in Reno when Cooper’s plane landed for refueling on its way to Mexico.
Meeting Flight 305 was a combined team of FBI agents from the Las Vegas and Reno offices. According to Bernie Rhodes, the aforementioned federal official and co-author of DB Cooper – The Real McCoy, after the plane landed the feds quickly ascertained that Cooper was gone, but something very strange happened in the next few hours.
First, there is uncertainty on who did the actual dusting for fingerprints – the FBI or Reno City Police. Regardless, Rhodes and Calame indicate it was botched.
Secondly, the FBI inexplicably failed to retrieve any on-flight magazines that Cooper was suspected of handling during the hours Flight 305 circled Sea-Tac.
And lastly, the FBI reportedly released the plane back to Northwest Orient the next morning at 9 am, losing forever any chance to gather additional evidence.
Twenty-four hours later, the FBI crime lab in Washington, DC reported the fingerprints were too badly smudged to be of any value, and without the magazines or any other material to dust the FBI was left without a vital body of evidence.
Whispers flew throughout FBI field offices wondering how the Reno group could foul-up the evidence retrieval.
In researching their book, Rhodes interviewed many of the Reno crew in 1985 and uncovered the most startlingly information: the recall of some of the agents regarding their assignments was wildly at odds with one another.
According to Rhodes, four agents conducted the evidence aboard the plane: Jack Ricks, John Norris, Alf Stousland and Special Agent in Charge Harold “Red”Campbell.
Rhodes writes that Ricks remembers Stousland dusting for fingerprints while Ricks himself collected cigarette butts and paper cups.
However, John Norris recalled the Reno City PD performing the fingerprint dusting.
Further, during his interviews with members of the larger FBI team on ground duty, several agents had difficulty recalling exactly what they did that night. As Rhodes describes it, the agents weren’t purposefully forgetful, but rather their minds seemed fuzzy.
Rhodes was aghast, and interviewed the agents on two additional occasions in 1989 to see if their memory would improve. It didn’t.
Most disturbing though, not one agent on board the plane remembers retrieving, or even seeing, the most dramatic pieces of evidence DB Cooper left on the airplane – his clip-on tie and a pearl tie pin. This, despite flight attendant Tina Mucklow telling her FBI debriefers she remembered seeing DB take it off and place it on the seat beside him. Rhodes characterizes his discussion with the FBI team on this specific issue “as if they were victims of some strange posthypnotic suggestion.”
In addition, Cooper’s tie and clasp were not included in the initial written FBI evidence report from Reno, but were sent to Seattle four days later and are now the featured part of the evidentiary collection. But how come the feds in Reno missed it on Day 1? And where was the tie for those four days?
Further, why would Cooper leave so blatant a piece of evidence? That behavior is completely at odds with the level of planning and execution that Cooper demonstrated.
So, were the cognitive abilities of the federal Reno team reduced by hypnosis or technological means? Did their brains get blitzed by MKULTRA-style electrical frequency machines? Or was the tie and pin a plant, and Tina Mucklow was the one who got zapped and told a hypnotically-implanted story? Did somebody sabotage the FBI’s investigation in Reno?
Plus, whatever happened with skin and hair samples from the head-rest cover, bits of clothing thread left in the fibers of Cooper’s seat, or dirt on the floor deposited from his shoes? Were these pieces of evidence ever collected?
Lastly, the foul-ups with this evidence continue to this very day. In 2009, the FBI confirmed that the eight cigarette butts have disappeared from their custody.
Flight attendant Tina Mucklow has become another Cooper mystery for the woman has disappeared – or at least she and her family do not want her to be located by any journalists who want to ask her about the tie, analyze pictures of suspects, or help in developing a psychological profile of Cooper.
Nevertheless, in 1971, Tina gave a valuable portrait of Cooper, saying, “He was always polite to me,” but, “He did seem impatient at times, though.”
However, it appears that Tina withdrew from life after the Cooper incident, first retreating to a Carmelite monastery for about twelve years, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, and then drifting completely out of public view until quite recently.
In addition to living as a nun, Tina had also been highly religious during her flying days. Galen Cook reports that a couple Northwest Orient flight attendants who worked with Tina describe her as an outspoken woman of faith, and one who proselytized. Further, she is seen in pictures at the Reno debriefing clutching what appears to be a bible, adding credence to the above impressions.
Nevertheless, Tina Muckow is the primary witness to the DB Cooper skyjacking, earning this distinction by her lengthy interaction with Cooper. Further, 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.
In addition, she had spent hours sitting next to Cooper as they circled the airport, and in fact, had lit several of the eight Raleigh cigarettes he smoked while keeping one 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.
For all of this Tina Mucklow is considered the hero of Flight 305.
However, although hidden for the past thirty years, Tina’s life is about to change. On August 9, 2011, the world received 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 whereabouts in central Oregon, and this is the first public announcement of her residency since Tosaw declared that he had interviewed Tina in the convent in 1984.
However, Gray is not the first journalist to have discovered Tina. 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 own efforts to contact Tina, I have written extensively in my “Looking for Tina” series on the Mountain News how I have spent the past two years attempting to contact her via her family, friends and co-workers.
Finally, in July of 2011, I traveled to Tina’s home and had a brief encounter with her at her front door. From that exchange, I learned that Tina is fiercely protective of her privacy, and also seems incredibly angry. As a result I am proceeding carefully with my outreach to Tina and her family. In fact, there is widespread concern about Gray’s “outing” of Tina.
Nevertheless, Tina is the prime witness to a major felony and is also a semi-public figure in her own right. She gave at least one TV interview after the skyjacking in which she appeared open and articulate, and spoke with a deep concern for the well-being of her passengers during the incident. This film clip is now posted on You Tube. However, the persona of the woman in that video is now replaced by that of an individual who is guarded and seemingly filled with rage.
As a result, the question now is, how to engage Tina in a manner that is ethical, effective, and kind-hearted.
Sadly, Tina may have been traumatized in some fashion by the skyjacking or its aftermath, with her cousin “AW” telling me as much. 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 skyjacking.
Plus, I consider Tina’s silence and disappearance a loud call for security.
I don’t know how Tina was affected, but briefly, she may be experiencing a personal struggle, or, since she is reportedly described as having serious cognitive difficulties during her interview with Richard Tosaw in the early 1980s, she may have been assaulted by rogue forces in a mind-memory control attack to assure her unavailability to any prosecutory action against Cooper.
Or is she having some kind of PTSD experience stemming from the skyjacking?
Or none of the above?
Hence, I have wanted to act carefully and not cause her any further harm. However, 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 Tina insists on an extraordinary level of privacy, and she has not sought any contact with media nor has she written any description of her experiences for public consumption.
Bits and pieces of money
Barb Dayton’s story is pretty tight except for one thing: her purported bundle of $5,800 in twenties was not the only thing found at the Columbia River beach. The site, known as Tina’s Bar at the time of recovery, was extensively combed by the FBI after 8 year-old Brian Ingram found the stash in February, 1980. Surprisingly, the feds discovered bits and pieces of twenty-dollar bills in multiple locations, some as deep as three feet.
That suggests either some pretty fancy hydrologic repositioning by Mother Nature, or by the US Army Corps of Engineers who dredged that part of the river in 1974 and threw the muck onto the beach, or multiple burials by Barb, or multiple burials by other people.
However, the FBI seems to rule out the dredge theory, drawing upon the findings from Portland State University hydrologist Leonard Palmer who claims the money was found above the dredge spoil layers.
Supporting this perspective is Al Fazio, one of the brothers whose family owns the shoreline on this section of the Columbia.
Al states emphatically that shards of money were found along the tide lines only, and not buried deeply in the sand. He cites his position as the backhoe driver the feds hired to do the digging as proof that he knows what they found and what they didn’t.
“I should know, I was there, right on top of the digging,” he says.
Al Fazio is convinced the money washed in via Columbia River tidal actions, and that the bundles were covered with only a bit of sand, all done by natural wave action.
Hence, no burials and no dredge.
Further, he says the shards were actually part of the original bundle, but that tidal action and drift wood tore-up a few of the surface bills and floated them to the tide-line.
However, Al also told me that the feds had preceded him to the beach because he was at a cattle auction, and when he returned he was denied entry to his property by the feds who had surrounded his property.
Further, Himmelsbach writes in his book that the FBI found pieces of money as deep as three feet. That perspective is backed-up by Dorwin Schreuder, who was the FBI’s public information officer during the evidence retrieval at Tina’s Bar, and took over Portland’s role in the case from Himmelsbach when Ralph retired in March, 1980.
Dorwin says they found “thousands of shards” evenly placed throughout the top 3-4 feet of sand for a radius of 20 yards from the spot where little Brian Ingram found the three bundles, and that they found them through lots of shovel work before Al Fazio and his brother arrived with the backhoes.
However, Mike McPheters, who was a FBI agent before he became a Mormon bishop and author, was part of the retrieval team and straddles the fence on the depth issue. Mike remembers finding plenty of “weathered” money shards along the high-tide line, but says he also found pieces embedded in the sand as deep as a shovel’s blade, which he estimated to be about 1-2 feet deep. When pressed on this issue, though, he backed off and said he couldn’t be sure, stating, “It was a long time ago.”
In addition, McPheters indicated that many of the bills were discolored, and when I asked him if they were blackened, he said he would have “go back and check pictures of them.”
Nevertheless, McPheters memories, as partial as they are, tend to support the dispersal-through-the-sand perspective. However, his ambiguity on the discoloration bring into question what happened to the bills, and casts doubt if the silver nitrate testing for fingerprints was the sole cause of the blackening.
As for how the money got to Tina’s Bar, Dorwin firmly believes that the money satchel was scooped off the bottom of the Colombia River by the Army Corp of Engineers’ dredge, shredded in the sluice passage, and the bundles and shards then spit onto Tena’s Bar.
However, Dorwin also says that the FBI found part of the briefcase at Tina’s Bar, which no else has ever mentioned, and even Dorwin admitted to me in 2010 that his memory might be off, so perhaps all of his memory about the money retrieval is suspect.
In addition, Schreuder told me that the dredge was still in the Columbia, just off shore of Tina’s Bar when they were retrieving the money, and that is blatantly untrue. In February, 1980, the ACE dredge “Bedell” was in Oakland. Further, if Dorwin is correct about the dredge throwing the money up on shore but only mistaken about the year, how did the money stay undiscovered for those intervening six years?
Also, the money bundles were found with the rubber bands intact. How could they not decompose in those nine years?
Looking further, though, we find other possibilities exist for the deposition of the money.
Tina’s Bar, as in sandbar, is now known as Tina’s Beach – which has no connection whatsoever to Tina Mucklow – and in the 1960s and 1970s was open to the public for a 25 cents fee and often used by fishermen.
So, with public access, could burying bits of twenties at Tina’s Beach have been part of a MKULTRA ritual to embed “Cooper-ness” into the subconscious memory of the team members? Is that what Duane Weber was doing on his mysterious road trip to Portland when his wife reports he was roaming about the marshes and muck on the Washington shoreline of the Columbia River?
Nevertheless, if DB Cooper didn’t bury the money at Tina’s Beach, how did it get there?
One possibility is that Cooper crash-landed into the Columbia just off-shore of Tina’s Beach and the money on the beach is just that part of the remains anyone has found.
Cooper author, attorney, FBI agent and researcher Richard Tosaw was a big fan of the Columbia River crash-landing theory, and he spent many summers dredging the river near Tina’s Bar until his death in 2009.
Interestingly, Tosaw was also instrumental in helping the Ingram family recover a part of the ransom money in a legal settlement with the FBI a few years after the Bureau took possession of all the bills, claiming they needed them for evidence. The final resolution awarded the Ingrams a sizeable portion, with about half going to them and a similar sum to the insurance company that carried the liability for Northwest Orient Airlines. The FBI was awarded a few bills, as well, for its evidentiary collection.
Despite Tosaw’s hypothesis of a river landing, the leading probability is the money floated there from an upstream location, and for this the flight path of 305 is crucial.
The facts about Ariel as a landing zone are curiously at odds with each other and only add to the confusion on how the money got to Tina’s Beach.
Nevertheless, the FBI says the flight path was right down the air corridor known as Victor 23, taking it over Ariel and then slightly to the west of Portland, which they say their radar maps confirm.
However, a jump at Ariel would place the money in the Lewis River watershed, which empties into the Columbia six miles downstream of Tina’s Beach, so presumably the money did not go into the Lewis basin unless something extraordinary happened afterwards, such as Carr’s theory that Cooper’s money traveled six miles upstream spinning haphazardly on a propeller shaft.
But, if the money landed fifteen miles to the east of Ariel and a little south it would have gone into the Washougal River basin, which eventually joins the Columbia fifteen miles upstream of Tina’s Beach.
Most researchers hold to the Washougal landing zone and give the shaft to the propeller theory.
But how could DB Cooper get so far east of Ariel? Could the FBI’s radar maps be wrong? Or rigged?
Remember, there is conflicting testimony from the pilots on the flight path. Captain Scott reportedly said they were flying over Woodland, west of V-23 and Ariel.
But, co-pilot Bill Rataczak, the man who was actually flying Flight 305 when Cooper jumped since Scott was handling radio transmissions, told me in 2009 that he couldn’t remember exactly where they were that night even though he had previously given statements to other researchers claiming that he could see the lights of suburban Portland and Vancouver when the aft stairs bumped, which would place him in V-23.
Further, Ralph Himmelsbach claims that Flight 305 was east of Ariel and states clearly that Rataczak told him so. In addition, Himmelsback says that Cooper drifted even farther in that direction, placing him in the Washougal River basin. Jerry Thomas, a long-time Cooper researcher and a member of the Citizen Sleuth Team, emphatically declares that Cooper and his money went down into the Washougal and that the money took nine years or so to float down to the Columbia, then tumble its way along the river bottom until remnants finally arrived at Tina’s Beach just before discovery.
Supporting the Washougal theory is another wild piece of Cooper evidence.
Marianne Lincoln, a Spanaway, WA resident that I interviewed in 2009 for my newspaper when she was running for the board of the Bethel (WA) School District, told me that she knew Flight 305 flew east of Ariel because as a 14 year-old girl living at her family homestead on the Shady Acres airport in Spanaway, WA, she was listening to the 305 cockpit-Seattle center transmissions on her father’s VHF radio. She said she remembers Flight 305 being over Gresham, Oregon, which is considerably east of V-23 and Portland, and aligns with Jerry Thomas’ contention that 305 flew over Troutdale airport, which is near Gresham.
Adding some speculations into this cauldron, it is important to discuss the psychological point of view of the cockpit crew during the skyjacking.
Rataczak told me, “It was like war. He (Cooper) wanted to get us and we wanted to get him.”
Rataczak also told me that his original intention was to fly out over the Pacific Ocean and “see how long DB Cooper could hold his breath.”
Rataczak’s proposed flight plan was over-ruled, but it does indicate his belief that it was important to make things as difficult as possible for DB Cooper in his upcoming jump.
In fact, official transcripts of radio transmission between Flight 305 and the FAA’s Seattle Center indicate they tried to fudge the jump conditions by climbing to elevations higher than 10,000 feet in an attempt to rob Cooper of oxygen, and they also increased the speed of the plane.
So, the notion of flying east and deeper into the Cascades, all the while keeping a close lookout for the numerous peaks over 10,000 feet, such as Mt Hood at 11,300, and Mt. Adams at 12, 200, would be another way to help Cooper scooch-the-pooch. If this was in fact what was done, it makes sense that principals in the case would not want to reveal it and would explain their forgetfulness.
Confounding things further, a plastic laminate card with instructions on how to lower the aft stairs in a Boeing 727 was found smack-dab in the middle of V-23, just north of Ariel, many years later by a hunter. When Boeing repaired the stairs damaged in the landing at Reno, they reportedly discovered it was missing its instructional card.
So, was Captain Scott mistaken as to 305’s position that night, or are Himmelsbach and Thomas in error, or did a MKULTRA mastermind fudge a military radar report and slip a ‘27 instructional card into the woods?
A more perplexing bit is provided by Pat Forman regarding Barb’s money burial at Tina’s Beach. Pat told me that Tom Kaye, the leader of the Citizen’s Sleuth Team, had reportedly claimed his soil analysis of the money showed the money had spent time in the ground south of the Columbia River basin, which means it could have spent nine years in the irrigation cistern on a Woodland, Oregon farm.
However, Kaye told me that he has no conclusive findings on the soil analysis, and that he “needs more time,” even though he’d been at it for over a year when I spoke to him.
Another quirky money mystery
As described above, the land where the $5,800 bundle was discovered has been in the Fazio family for generations. Besides operating a sand and gravel business on the property, the Fazios graze cattle on their many acres of pasture.
In 1991, long after the money find, Al and Richard experienced another extraordinary event: about five or six of their cattle were mutilated in a bizarre fashion.
One night in late winter, the cattle were killed with no obvious signs of a struggle, and each carcass had several parts of their body removed, such as an eye or section of jaw.
According to a necropsy performed by vets at the Oregon State University, they determined the incisions around the excised parts had been performed by a high-temperature electrical instrument, which cauterised the remaining tissue at the edge of the wound. The wounds themselves were clean, with no pooled blood or shredding of tissue. Many of the incisions were “cookie-cutter” shaped or zippered-looking, and the angles of incision were very precise.
The local Sheriff’s department conducted a thorough investigation, but was unable to come to any substantive conclusions.
These kinds of incidents are widely reported in the paranormal world, such as Coast to Coast radio, and are also investigated by serious journalists such as the award-winning TV reporter Linda Moulton Howe, who has conducted a career-long investigation of these kinds of mutilations.
Howe endeavored to inspect the Fazio incident, but they declined citing they had enough of media attention with the Cooper case.
Is there a connection between Cooper and the cattle?
The Fazio brothers, Richard, left, and Al, right, displaying their “X-Files” folder, which contains photgraphs of the cattle mutilations that occured on their property in 1991.
Last word on Barb
Let’s go back to a thread that we began pulling long ago: “Was Barb Dayton DB Cooper?”
Here, I’ll give Barb Dayton’s daughter, Rena, the final say:
“I asked him once, out-right,” Rena declared. “But he was evasive, saying simply, ‘Whoever that was must have been a very brave person.’ My father didn’t tell lies. He was pretty much on the up and up.”
After a pause, Rena continued, “Much later, I asked my mother if my father was DB Cooper, and she said, ‘He could be – he had the mind for it.’
“So, yes, I really, truly believe my father was DB Cooper.”
My last word
Even with all of this information I still don’t know who DB Cooper is, what’s happened to him – or her – or how the money ended up at Tina’s Beach.
In fact, I’m getting Zen-like about the Cooper case. The more I know, the less I’m sure of anything.
Nevertheless, here are my feelings.
I believe there is a bigger story to be told about DB Cooper, something that goes beyond the usual parameters of the case.
I say this because too many witnesses are hiding, refusing to talk, or fudging what they tell me.
In addition, too many FBI agents are giving me resistance: either refusing to talk to me, dodging the phone call claiming a bad connection, or becoming forgetful when my questions turn probing. One former FBI agent intimately involved in the case insists that I pay him a good-sized stipend for sharing what he knows.
From so many sources I get the feeling that principals in the Cooper case would like me to go away, and I think they wish the DB Cooper story would just evaporate into the mists of history.
I sense something very nasty, like MKULTRA, has forced the FBI into a cover-up, and from the writings of Russ Calame and Bernie Rhodes I draw the conclusion they do as well.
The cover-up could also be something very simple, like protecting a very hi-tech and super secretive Air Force radar system called SAGE that was tracking Flight 305 that night. Perhaps officials fudged the flight path a little– that Rataczak was flying actually over the Cascades to dump Cooper onto a mountain peak, but the government didn’t want our cold war enemies from Russia to know the abilities, or weaknesses, of the SAGE radar. Further, was SAGE so advanced it could track DB Cooper parachute jump all the way to the ground, pnipopinting his exact LZ?
Or maybe they got Cooper right away with the precision of the SAGE and found it was their ol’ buddy Ted Braden, who immediately blackmailed them with his knowledge of the covert wars in SE Asia. Hence, they backed-off, and once the cover-up started they had to cover-up the cover-up, and here we are four decades later still dealing with smoke and mirrors.
Nevertheless, I’m still on the hunt. Someone’s going to talk sooner or later, or I’ll find another pathway to the truth. Maybe I’ll teleport back in time to November 24, 1971, hop on board Flight 305 and say to the fellow in seat 18-E:
“Excuse me, Mr. Cooper, but I’m a reporter from the Mountain News. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions…….”
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/
© Bruce A. Smith 2010, 2011
Note: All pictures of Bobby Dayton and Barb Dayton are the property of Ron and Pat Forman, and are used here with their permission.
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