By Bruce A. Smith
It’s been almost two weeks since Marla Cooper made her remarkable announcement on November 30, 2011 that Curtis Eng, the FBI’s case agent in the DB Cooper skyjacking, had told her he was “convinced” that Marla’s uncle, Lynn Doyle (LD) Cooper was the hijacker.
In addition, Marla also said that Eng had made a second statement to her, claiming that he would be shutting-down the FBI investigation into the DB Cooper case.
Since that time, the FBI has been inscrutably taciturn; declaring only that the case is still open. Most notably, though, they have not refuted Marla’s statements.
As a result of this opaqueness from the FBI, Marla Cooper has now become the central figure in this story. She has appeared on innumerable TV shows and news broadcasts, and has received tons of ink in the print media.
With that exposure, Marla’s credibility and that of her family are now being questioned, or at least examined.
Perhaps most troubling are the impacts upon Marla’s family if her story is true, because that would expose them to investigators wanting to know if they aided and abetted LD Cooper and his supposed getaway driver, his brother Dewey Cooper. Also, the question arises if any of the family obstructed the federal investigation, as Marla has said that the FBI questioned Dewey shortly after the skyjacking. Lastly, are any members of the Cooper clan culpable for maintaining a cover-up for 38 years – until Marla began sharing her memories? Bottom Line: If the family knew uncle LD was DB Cooper, how come they didn’t tell anyone?
As part of the effort to learn which members of the Cooper family knew about the skyjacking and what they did with that information, another side of Marla Cooper has emerged – one that is combative and secretive – revealing a woman fiercely protective of controlling her narrative.
Where Marla was once open and engaging, such as at the DB Cooper symposium in Portland on November, 26, when she talked freely about her family, including her self-revelation of being the mother of three adult sons and giving reporters the name and phone number of one of the law enforcement officials who assisted her, she is now increasingly uncooperative.
In fact, on Friday, December 9, 2011, she threatened the Mountain News with a law suit if this reporter tried to contact a John A. Santore, Jr, a man Marla described as her ex-husband. In the course of multiple phone calls to Marla to explain the importance of directly interviewing family members – particularly those that she has presented to the press, such as her mother Grace Hailey, and others who would have a balanced perspective on the family history that Marla is portraying – such as her adult sons – Marla became furious and hung up the phone, but not before saying, “I’m done talking to you.”
Prior, the Mountain News had asked Marla for assistance in contacting her mother, Ms. Grace Hailey, and another principal on her team, Dale Miller, the man who cared for LD when he was dying of lung disease in 1999. Marla agreed, in particular promising to ask her mother if she was able and willing to speak with this reporter. Despite my subsequent phone calls and messages Marla did not follow through.
After several days, the Mountain News contacted these individuals independently via a search of Facebook pages and other public documents. This reporter also endeavored to speak with other family members listed on Marla’s Facebook page, including one of her sons.
Marla seemed very upset with this turn of events and responded with the flurry of phone calls on Friday, December 9.
In retrospect, it seems that Marla did not realize that her credibility was being questioned or understand why. Further she seemed surprised that journalists would want to know more about the family she has placed before the public.
In addition, she appears to not fully appreciate the ethical – and possibly legal – implications upon her family if her story is true. If they knew LD and Dewey hijacked an airplane and kept it quiet for nearly four decades, what responsibility do they have to society? Do they apologize to flight attendants Tina Mucklow and Florence Schaffner for the trauma they endured at the hands of the Cooper boys? Does Marla sign over the royalties from her book deal to Northwest Orient Airlines as restitution?
The case seems to have grown beyond some kind of charming intellectual exercise to solve the iconic skyjacking case. Rather, the seriousness of the crime – where people’s lives were at stake – must now be factored into Marla’s current efforts to find her truth. Remember, according to Marla’s story, her uncle LD and Dewey stole $200,000 and threatened to kill thirty-six passengers and six crew members with a bomb.
In addition, Marla is declaring, perhaps inadvertently, that her family kept this crime a family secret for 38 years – until 2009 when Marla says she first began investigating her family’s legacy. Marla is specifically claiming that her father, Don Cooper, knew that LD hijacked the plane because she says she had a pivotal conversation with her father in 1995 where he said, “Don’t you remember that your uncle LD hijacked that airplane?”
Marla says that this dialogue began her conscious recall of the bizarre, bloody family scene at her grandmother’s house in Sisters, Oregon on the morning of Thanksgiving Day, 1971, when Marla was eight years-old.
Further, Marla also says that her mother reiterated the tale of LD as the skyjacker in a second, and even more critical conversation with her in 2009, which solidified Marla’s dedication to unearth the truth of these family sagas. Marla also says that her mother “clammed-up” after this crucial discussion.
Hence, if Marla’s story is true then the Cooper family has some degree of culpability, and they are fair game for journalists seeking to know exactly what they knew, when they knew it and who they told – or didn’t tell.
Yes, the statute of limitations on any legal liability is long expired –even Dewey’s complicity is now beyond the pale of any prosecution – with only a warrant for DB/LD Cooper still viable.
Further, Marla is bringing selected family members into the media frenzy, most notably her mother, who has appeared in several news broadcasts. Certainly, her mother must continue to be available for interviews to all media.
So too, the law enforcement figures on Marla’s team must be available for interviews, especially the Oklahoma cop named Arden Dorney and an unnamed FBI agent from the Midwest, who Marla says have been critical to prodding the FBI into examining the information she has collected about LD and Dewey.
As previously mentioned, Marla provided the name and contact information for Mr. Dorney, and it was with this individual that the Mountain News began examining the back story of Marla’s claims.
When Marla gave me Arden’s name, she advised me that his “memory might be off,” and gave me a description of him totally losing sight of certain facts during their investigation. I have come to learn that such lapses, or mental fuzziness, are part of the story since so many of the principals have advanced age.
I assured Marla that I would take all the information Arden told me with a measure of circumspection, and I advise the reader to do the same with your analysis of what you are about to read.
Nevertheless, certain aspects of Marla investigation can be clearly surmised from what Arden told me.
First – details, facts and corroboration do not appear to be highly valued by Marla and her team. To whit, after two lengthy interviews with Marla and over a dozen emails and phone calls between us, plus my hour-long chat with Arden, and conversations with several other family members including the widow of Dewey, and Marla’s mother, Grace – no one knows how tall Lynn Doyle Cooper was and how much he weighed, especially in 1971 – and no one seems concerned about the failure to obtain those facts. Not one person seems to have gathered a copy of LD’s driver’s license, his military records or any medical documentation that would confirm details as simple as height and weight.
I find that appalling, particularly in a cop. Despite such obvious failures, Arden was happy to declare, “As a former investigator, I am totally satisfied that Marla is the niece of DB Cooper.”
Further, Marla apparently doesn’t know what kinds of cops helped her. At the Portland symposium, she said they were from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol – at least the one she had initially talked with, namely, the abovementioned Arden Dorney.
However, Arden told me that he had been a detective for many years with the Elk City, Oklahoma Police Department, and then had a lengthy association with the Oklahoma Drug Task Force. During this latter assignment, Arden told me he had extensive professional dealings with an investigator from the FBI, an individual now retired who became absolutely critical to having the Seattle office take the LD lead seriously.
“The FBI respects their own,”Arden said simply, adding that the FBI didn’t bother with his own efforts to share his LD Cooper information, which caused Arden to reach out to his former cohort from the Bureau.
Arden refused to tell me the identity of the FBI guy, or many details about their professional association, claiming that the G-man had to maintain his undercover status.
Further, as I dug deeper my conversation with Arden revealed many more flaws in his joint investigation with Marla.
To begin, Arden doesn’t have a picture of Lynn Doyle Cooper, and told me he had only seen one – the little photo that Marla had presented to ABC – TV last summer, the pix of LD with the guitar strap.
Along those lines, when I asked Marla for pictures of LD she said that she wouldn’t be able to provide me with any, adding that family members have been coming forward with photographs of LD, but that they wanted compensation, which I was unable pay.
After an hour of talking with Arden, his cell phone battery began to fade and we had to terminate the call. He agreed to resume the discussion in the next few days, and despite my many phone calls to him since our initial chat on December 3, he has not answered nor responded to my many messages.
Further, efforts to reach Marla to clarify what Arden has told me have come to naught, as she didn’t return any phone calls until the huff on December 9 over talking with her mom and son.
Nevertheless, here is what Arden told me:
Arden says he first met Marla when she came to his house as part of her part-time job as a “designer.” In the course of Marla’s site visit, Arden says they “bonded” in a way that he describes as “divine intervention.”
The trigger for this dynamic appears to be a discussion about disappearing family members and trying to find them. Marla says that LD Cooper vanished from his family, beginning in 1973. However, subsequent conversations with Janet Cooper, Dewey’s widow, reveal that Dewey and LD had regular, but brief, phone visits from about 1981 until Dewey’s death in 1985 in Salem, Oregon.
As for Arden and Marla, Dorney says that the story that Marla told him, “just seemed to fit together.”
However, Arden’s overall knowledge of the case appears to be quite modest, and he told me that he first learned anything of substance about DB Cooper when he watched the National Geographic documentary, “The Skyjacker Who Got Away,” in the summer of 2009.
Nevertheless, Arden was very impressed with Marla and her story, and he relayed to me what he remembers her telling him.
“She said it all comes back in bits and pieces,”Arden told me.
He added some unusual information, as well, saying that Marla had claimed that her father “came back in tears after visiting with LD and Dewey after they had left the mother’s house” on that fateful Thanksgiving Day in 1971.
LD and Dewey apparently left the grandmother’s house and went to Dewey’s then-girl friend’s house, a woman known as Wink, where Dewey allegedly carried LD into the house because LD was unable to walk due to his injuries.
Arden also said that Marla had made entreaties to the FBI before coming to him, but she had been rebuffed by the Bureau. Arden also said that Marla had gone to the Facebook page of an FBI agent, presumably the case agent – possibly Larry Carr or Curtis Eng – and “he rejected her.”
Arden says that his conversations with Marla continued over a period of weeks, and then he began to construct a case file, building a dossier composed of information he discovered on the Internet and drawing upon Marla’s stories and commentaries.
Arden then shocked me.
“LD was a paratrooper!”
When I questioned Arden on how he knew that, he responded with a tale that LD was a paratrooper in the Korean War, but that no one had any records to corroborate this because all the military records pertaining to LD had been lost, possibly in a fire in the military records depository in St. Louis, Missouri.
Regardless, Arden continued. He told me that LD had been a patient in a military hospital in Great Britain, and was apparently held against his will. Because of this, Arden believes the facility was a psychiatric hospital and that LD was suffering from PTSD.
“But they didn’t call it PTSD back in those days,”Arden said, and agreed with me heartily when I suggested that it might have been called “combat stress” or “shell shock.”
Arden said that he had discussed his angle with Marla and that she had told him that LD didn’t have any physical wounds, so Arden surmised that what landed LD in a hospital was a mental illness.
Arden feels that LD was held in a locked unit, which formed the basis of his renowned “grudge” that he supposedly took aboard Flight 305.
While undergoing possible Occupational Therapy treatments in the psych hospital, Arden feels that LD developed his skills at leather-working, abilities that he drew upon to gift both Marla and her brother Dave with half-completed leather belts at the last occasion they saw LD, Christmas, 1972.
“But she doesn’t have it any more,”Arden told me.
Arden also said that LD first learned of the Dan Cooper comics while confined in the psych hospital. Arden also said, quite passionately, that the Dan Cooper comics were written in English.
Dorney also told me that he wasn’t sure how LD – or Dewey – knew that the 727 could be jumped, nor how they learned the metrics necessary to fly a jetliner slow enough for a skydiver to successfully exit the plane, parameters that not even the pilots knew.
At this point, Arden’s recall faded and he acknowledged that his memory is spotty. He made a simple answer about the 727s, saying that Marla had told him that she thought Dewey had worked at Boeing in the 1960s on their 727 production line, but Arden wasn’t able to corroborate that claim.
Arden also struggled in discussing the jump, and simply said, “The money got separated somehow and blew away in the wind – all the way to California for all we know.”
Arden also mis-represented the money bag and stated that it was a fifty-pound load.
Arden seized upon the notion of LD’s mental illness, and said that LD was known to be instable.
“He didn’t have both oars in the water,”Arden said, adding that a mental illness could account for the variables in DB Cooper’s behaviors as reported by the flight attendants. Arden recounted how Tina Mucklow described DB as “a gentleman,” whereas others, such as SA Ralph Himmelsbach, characterized DB Cooper as, in Arden’s words, “a blathering idiot who lost his temper.”
Arden appeared mentally refreshed when he drifted back into anecdotal stories he had heard from Marla concerning the antics of the Cooper brothers. Arden told me the story that Marla had told him about LD and Dewey making weird preparations before Thanksgiving, constructing a duck blind out of plywood that was too big to fit in Dewey’s small, two-seater automobile.
“It was just an Austin Healy or something like that,”Arden said.
Arden continued, and declared, “I believe everything she (Marla) has told me,” adding that Marla had claimed LD looked like Bing Crosby and had a high forehead.
Arden also said that he believed the FBI “may have enhanced” the picture of LD before they showed it to the flight crew.
When I questioned Arden– as a seasoned detective and investigator – how he could be absolutely certain that LD Cooper was DB Cooper despite the lack of any hard evidence – no parachute and no black suit, no money, no flares or bomb, and no briefcase, he seemed to back-track a bit.
“What Marla has told me makes more sense that any other story I’ve heard,” he replied, “But it’s not written in Ce-ment.”
Arden spoke tenderly of Marla, as if she was a daughter.
“I want her to get what’s due,” he said. “I don’t want anything from this.”
When the conversation drifted a bit, Arden added that he understood the family had been investigated by the FBI shortly after the skyjacking.
Arden brightened considerably when he discussed our last bit of conversation – his discovery of LD Cooper’s widow, Marcia Cooper.
“I found LD in Sparks, Nevada, via phone records,” chimed Arden. “I found him. It wasn’t the FBI.”
Arden also told me that LD had a small arrest record for minor infractions, such as failure to pay a vet bill.
“It was all misdemeanors and civil charges, so he never got fingerprinted. He just slipped through the cracks.”Arden relayed.
Arden also said he had never interviewed Marcia Cooper, LD’s widow, and that he had appealed to local LE to conduct an inquiry, but they found Marcia to be uncooperative and they backed-off.
“But I had a law enforcement buddy check things out,”Arden said, inferring the records review.
Arden also found that LD had a couple of daughters, and they apparently used LD as a co-signer on some financial dealings, possibly a car loan. Arden also said the daughters might have some Spanish heritage, but he was unable to be more specific. Arden was also way-off in his re-construction of time lines, failing to understand that LD died in 1999. Arden thought it was just a few years ago.
Janet Cooper, Dewey’s widow
LD Cooper was not as disappeared as Marla has described. In fact, LD was the best man at Dewey’s wedding to Janet in 1981.
I called Janet Cooper, now 73, in the aftermath of my haggling with Marla over who in her family would be copasetic to interview. She recommended Janet and told me that she still lived in Salem.
Marla also suggested I call Dewey’s two sons, Dennis and Dean, but she gave no contact information, saying. “You’re an investigative journalist, you go find them.”
When I called Janet Cooper on Friday, December 9, she meekly answered.
“I don’t know how much I can tell you,” she said softly.
“Just tell me what you remember,” I suggested. “Perhaps you can tell me a little about the family – their history, what they were like. What kind of guy was Dewey? Or LD?”
“Well, LD, I met him,” Janet replied. “He and Marcia stood up for me and Dewey in 1981.”
Janet continued and said that the five Cooper brothers split from Sisters, Oregon soon after the skyjacking and didn’t stay in touch. Nevertheless, by the late 1970s Dewey began searching for his long-lost brother LD in phone books, and found him Sparks. Soon after, Janet and Dewey traveled there to marry.
“We stayed with them overnight in Sparks,” she said.
Janet said LD and Marcia were a hard-working couple, and that she liked them.
“But I never saw them again,” she added, and said LD only called her once, in 1985, to pay his condolences when Dewey died of lung cancer.
I asked Janet if she thought LD was the skyjacker and Dewey his getaway man.
“There were a half-a-dozen times when the topic of DB Cooper came up, and Dewey just laughed it off,” Janet said.
She described the occasions as beer-fueled gatherings where Dewey would be joshed.
“’We know you’re DB Cooper,’ they say and he’d just laugh it off.”
“But do you think Dewey was involved?” I queried.
“I questioned him directly, once,” Janet said. “I asked him, ‘Is this really a joke, or what?’ And Dewey said it just a big joke.”
As for family history, Janet didn’t miss a beat.
“Dewey was the first to go, in 1985. Then, Clyde, and we knew about it because Clyde lived here in Salem. Then Donny, and then Wendell – he was the youngest. LD was the last, in 1999.”
I asked her about Dewey’s sons.
“Dennis and Dean are not my boys,” Janet said flatly, adding, “Dewey was married a couple of times before. I think Dennis is in Idaho, but I’m not sure where – maybe Prineville. One of the boys, maybe Dean, used to work for a newspaper in Reno.”
However, Marla may know the boys’ whereabouts, as Janet told me that Miss M stayed with her in Salem for a few days last week, and when she left was heading to see the lads.
Regardless, Janet affirmed that she had no contact information for them, and stated that she hadn’t kept in touch with them for many years.
Once she began reminiscing, though, Janet warmed to the conversation, waxing especially in her memories of Marla’s dad, Don Cooper.
“Donny made more sense to me than any of the others,” she confided. “He spoke with an open mind. His was easy to like – he certainly was no fake.”
Janet told me the five Cooper boys all graduated from Sisters High School.
“They all liked to drink – they were all good ol’ boys,” she said. “They like Cajun music, too,” adding that Donny Cooper tried to make a professional career in music.
“He was in a band and very talented.”
When asked about the details of the skyjacking, Janet was perplexed.
“How the skyjacking came about, I have no idea. I never would have guessed they’d be involved. Dewey never showed that side to me.”
But is LD DB Cooper?
“I really think that LD and Dewey did this,” Janet said.
But she was obviously conflicted with the reality of what that statement means.
“But I wouldn’t have stood for it. If he had told me that he had done it, I probably would have thrown him out the door…I probably would have turned him in,” Janet stated.
As for Dewey working at Boeing, Janet is unsure.
“I really don’t know. All I know is that he worked power line construction – out of the union here in Salem, and they’d send him all over – out of state, too.”
Janet added that all of the brothers married “two or three times,” and that one of Donny’s wives, Dolly, owned “a couple of homes in New Mexico.”
Janet has strong feelings of affection for Donny Cooper, engendered most deeply by Donny’s caring for his brother when the latter got ill with cancer.
“Donny came up and stayed with us when Dewey got very sick. Dewey was a big man, and Donny could turn him and take care of him.”
Janet spoke of the Cooper clan with a note of wistfulness.
“I love to cook, but the boys never had any family reunions or any get-togethers like that.”
“She’s the real deal.”
How about LD’s widow, Marcia Cooper?
“She wants no part of this. She’s not talking to anyone. But she had two girls with LD.”
I assured Janet that I too had been unable to make contact with Marcia Cooper – that her phone doesn’t have a message machine and she never picks up when I call.
One little interesting side note. Janet told me she used to do a little flying and “jumped out of an airplane three years ago,” when she was seventy.
Lastly, Janet, said that LD and Dewey “wouldn’t ever go out and hurt anybody,” inferring that the notion of them blowing up Flight 305 was not real somehow. “They were just a bunch of good ol’ boys and full of mischief.”
Not hearing from Marla about her mom, Grace Hailey, I located the matriarch via her Facebook page before it was scrubbed last week, and other public documents. Her husband, Robert Hailey, answered the phone when I called Friday, Dec.9.
“You’d better speak with my wife,” he told me after I introduced myself.
Grace was soft spoken, a little shy and uncertain, but generally gracious and warm. We spoke for about 20 minutes and she did not appear stressed despite recovering from an unspecified surgery three weeks prior.
“So what do you think of LD as DB Cooper?” I asked.
“I always had a hunch,” she said, “but it was more like what they didn’t say.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“It was like they’d get real quiet when somebody would walk into the room. It was more of a feeling than anything specific.”
Grace never was specific about what she thought, either. Ms. Hailey never said anything definitive, such as “Yes, I think LD Cooper skyjacked that airplane.”
Nevertheless, she cast a lot of light on the family dynamics.
“The last time I saw LD was the Christmas of ‘1972. After that he disappeared. He didn’t even show up for his mother’s funeral. The brothers couldn’t find him.”
Grace continued and said that she and her husband, Don, and Marla and her brother Dave, were living out-of-state and money was tight.
“My husband was laid off, and out of work. Dewey called, and said he could send enough money to fly just my husband back for the funeral, so I didn’t go.”
Grace said that Dewey was still living with his mother when she died. She also gave some interesting insights into LD.
“LD stayed to himself a lot,” Grace said, describing how LD would go off into the woods and stay out there for extended periods of time. She also said that LD had long hospitalizations in the VA.
“That’s what the family told me, at least,” said Grace. “But it was all hush-hush; the family didn’t talk about it too much.”
Grace said that after she and her husband divorced in “about 1980,” she lost contact with the Cooper side of the family.
When asked about LD’s physical characteristics, Grace paused.
“Well, Don was the shortest. LD was around, hmmm, 5’9”, maybe 5’10,” but he wasn’t 6-foot. And Dewey – he was overweight. He was always pretty soft.”
As for pictures of LD, the only one she had was the famous shot with the guitar strap that she had given to Marla.
Grace continued to describe LD.
“He was friendly, but not too friendly. Those guys drank – all the brothers – they loved to drink. When they’d start drinking I didn’t want to be around them, and that’s when they’d take off, like into the woods.”
Grace said that LD and his brothers would sneak off into the nearby forests to drink as their mother “wouldn’t put up with it in the house.”
Surprisingly, Grace does not remember the details of the fateful morning.
“Marla says she remembers that I was up at the restaurant, baking pies, but I don’t remember. I’m not remembering too much from forty years ago,” she said.
When I asked Grace how she and the family were handling the publicity from Marla’s revelations, she was non-plussed.
“I’m not getting as many phone calls as you would think,” she replied, and added that she hears that others in the family, such as her son Dave, think “Marla is nuts.”
“But no one has said that directly to my face – I’m the mother!” she declared decisively, and Grace and I shared a few thoughts on how families protect their mothers, and maintain certain family decorum and respect.
Lastly: “It’s hard to keep track of Marla,” Ms. Hailey concluded.
Dale Miller accompanied Marla to the DB Cooper symposium in Portland last month, and she presented him to the audience as the man who had lived with LD Cooper during the last four years of his life.
Mr. Miller later identified himself as a self-styled pastor who runs a small ministry for ex-felons in Eugene, Oregon. He said that LD Cooper, whom he knew as Lynn, was a good friend and that he died in his ministerial home in 1999.
Dale, who is in his mid-70s, was very personable in Portland, and even declared he was a professional Santa Claus, a claim that was very believable from his snowy white beard.
However, it was very hard to get a follow-up interview with him later. His emails bounced back to me, and Marla did not follow through with her promise to give me his phone number. Nevertheless, I was able to track him down via public records. Yet, he did not return any of my initial phone messages, and I only spoke with him when he happened to pick up the phone when I tried him again.
Despite the prior resistance, Dale seemed comfortable speaking with me and we chatted for nearly 30 minutes.
He, too, did not know Lynn Doyle’s physical characteristics.
“I guess he was about 5-10, I’d say, give or take. I’m 6’1” and he was a little shorter than I am. As for weight, hmmm, he was heavier later, of course, when I knew him at the end of his life, but I would estimate his weight to be about 175.”
Dale relished talking about Lynn as his dear friend.
“He was a fun guy to be around; he was always on top of everything. He was intelligent, and listened to the news – that kind of thing.”
Dale also said that he knew Lynn enjoyed working with leather, and that he had made a couple of pouches for Dale’s digital phones.
As for DB Cooper, Dale’s reply was oddly tangential.
“I didn’t even know he had any previous ties to Oregon and Washington,” Miller said.
The story of how LD Cooper came to live with Mr. Miller also seemed strange. Miller said that one day LD drove into his driveway in a beat-up pick-up truck, accompanied by two unsavory characters that LD said he had just picked-up.
Dale said that the two were trying to hustle a ride from Lynn to go to Alaska to fish.
“LD didn’t look like he had the street savvy to handle them, so I got rid of them,” Dale said.
Miller said that he was able to separate the two guys from Lynn and get them on the nearby Interstate 5.
“After that, LD just stayed for dinner, and then he moved in next door in the small duplex I keep for my ministry.”
One day led to the next, and Lynn Doyle Cooper effectively moved in, staying for four years.
Dale said that Lynn had “asthma real bad,” and was frequently admitted into VA hospitals, including stints at facilities in Roseburg, Portland and White City, Oregon.
“White City is near Grant’s Pass and he had a room down there – it was a convalescence facility. He had plenty of medical problems – mostly respiratory, but he was gimping around, too.”
Dale did not explain how LD could have a room at the VA convalescent facility and also live in Eugene. Nevertheless Dale said that Lynn left his ministerial duplex on occasion.
“He stayed with a daughter Back East somewhere, I really don’t know – Nebraska? Something happened and he came back.
Dale also said that he had been kicked out of his house in Sparks by his wife.
“She had enough, and took everything. So Lynn was on the street – all he had was his beat-up truck, and he ended up here,” said Miller, adding, “She really didn’t like him at the end.”
Dale had no knowledge of Lynn’s origins in Sisters, Oregon.
“It shocked the hell out of me when the coroner told me they buried him down there.”
When asked if he thought Lynn was DB Cooper, Dale was fairly direct.
“He very much could be. What Marla’s dug up from the family all ties together.”
How Marla Cooper entered Dale Miller’s life, though, is somewhat mysterious.
“I’d heard about it (the tie to the skyjacking) in the news, but the first thing that happened was a reporter called me.”
“How did the reporter know that you were connected with LD Cooper,” I asked.
“I have no idea,” Dale replied, laughing.
Dale says that Marla soon entered the picture, and then he called the FBI to inform them he had some of LD’s personal effects even though the man had died almost ten years before.
“The FBI told me, ‘Yeah, we’ll send somebody over next week to pick them up.’ But an FBI agent showed up at my door within the hour!” Dale exclaimed.
As for Marla, Dale says she is “like the wind,” and that the story “has taken over her life.”
He also said that Marla had stayed with him a few days prior to our chat.
As for Lynn’s previous life, Dale only had a few glimpses.
“I knew he was a surveyor, and I have his plumb-bob,” said Dale. “He also checked-out my property.”
Dale said that LD most likely worked as a surveyor in the Sparks area. He also said that Lynn didn’t work too extensively in the timber business, and that LD was more of an intellectual than his brothers. He also said that Lynn was clean and sober during the time he lived in Eugene.
“There was only one incident. Lynn and another resident were drinking beer and a fight broke out – and I had to break it up.”
Dale also shared his perspective on Lynn’s military background.
“I knew he was a Korean War vet, but he told me stories that I later found out were not true, so…”
Dale also said that Lynn had a “real distaste for Orientals.” He also said that Lynn boasted of being one of the “Chosen Frozen,” those heroic Marines who fought in bitter cold winter storms in northern Korean during an epic retreat from the Chosin Reservoir near the Chinese border.
“Is that true? I don’t know,” said Dale.
“I never heard anything about that,” Dale replied.
“I don’t know for sure, but I remember having some conversations about flying with Lynn – but then I took some flying lessons in Germany while I was in the service.”
Lastly, Dale fondly remembered Lynn Doyle Cooper as he said, “He was a real nice guy to have around.”
Dale continued and described how LD would go out on bids and jobs with Dale in the latter’s janitorial service. Dale Miller has a business that does floor cleanings for all of the Staples in Oregon.
“Lynn would just lean on a mop – if you want to call it that,” said Dale. “That was okay with me. We had a crew to do all the work. He just basically kept me company.”
Dale said that Lynn died in the duplex, about a week after returning from his ill-fated trip to see his daughter.
“He just could catch his breath. He couldn’t breathe.”
© 2011 The Mountain News – WA