by Bruce A. Smith
As part of the resurgent investigation into the DB Cooper skyjacking case, there has been a recent effort by private sleuths to show pictures of the various suspects to the passengers from the hijacked aircraft.
Here is a collection of photgraphs that the Mountain News has been able to gather over the past few years.
The above FBI drawing of DB Cooper is known as “Composite B,” and is based on the recollections of passengers and crew who interacted with Cooper. It is widely considered to be one of the most accurate sketches of the infamous skyjacker.
In 1978, Barb Dayton confessed to several of her friends, including Ron and Pat Forman of South Hill, WA, that she was DB Cooper. Barb also told the Formans that she had formerly been Bobby Dayton, and in 1969 she had the first gender-reassignment surgery in Washington state.
After Barb died of pulmonary disease in 2002, the Formans researched their friend’s claims and published them in their book: The Legend of DB Cooper – Death by Natural Causes.
All pictures of Barb and Bobby Dayton are provided courtesy of Ron and Pat Forman:
Duane Weber / John C. Collins
While lying in a Pensacola hospital bed nine days before he died of kidney disease, Duane Weber confessed to his wife, Jo, that he was “Dan Cooper.”
However, Jo says she didn’t understand what her husband was trying to tell her.
As a result, he quickly grew frustrated and cursed, adding: – “Oh, let it die with me.”
Later, Jo Weber realized that “Dan Cooper” was the actual name that DB Cooper used when he bought a ticket in Portland and boarded Northwest Orient Flight 305 to Seattle, and the “DB” moniker only entered the case when an Associated Press reporter mixed-up the names in the early hours of the investigation.
Obviously, the name-switch stuck.
When Jo learned that Duane was actually confessing to the skyjacking, she became one of the foremost private sleuths in the case, and ever since, she has been very active to uncover the truth of her husband.
Along the way, she discovered that her husband had a second identity, John C. Collins. Jo says that she further discovered that a man by the name of John C Collins registered at a Portland airport motel the night before the skyjacking and had been a subject of the FBI’s Cooper investigation.
All pictures of Duane Weber are provided courtesy of Jo Weber.
Kenny Christiansen was a flight attendant for Northwest Orient Airlines for nearly thirty years, serving mainly on trans-Pacific flights. However, in the mid-1990s he made a cryptic death-bed confession to his older brother, Lyle, “I have something very important to tell you….”
The family interceded and tried to comfort their distressed loved one; ultimately, Kenny passed away before he could tell Lyle what the important confession was.
Years later while watching a TV documentary on DB Cooper, Lyle realized that his brother could have been DB Cooper, and launched a personal investigation that has included a New York City private investigator, two different book authors, and a documentary on the History Channel.
Lyle is absolutely convinced that his brother is DB Cooper, but has only circumstantial evidence, such as Kenny’s inexplictable ability to buy a house for cash in Bonney Lake, WA shortly after the skyjacking.
Picture provided by Lyle Christiansen:
Several years ago during a Coast-to-Coast radio interview, two sons of former Marine and Army paratrooper, William Wolfgang Gossett, declared that their father had confessed to being DB Cooper. These declarations solidified the findings of long-time Cooper sleuth Galen Cook, who also discovered other individuals that had received Mr. Gossett’s confession. Since then, Galen has been diligently exploring all facets of the case seeking to find corroborating evidence.
Gossett had all of the salient chacteristsics of DB Cooper: he was 41 years old in 1971; had brown eyes and was 5’10” and 186 pounds; and he was a smoker. In addition, he had a medium complexion, spoke with no discernible accent, and was trained as a reconbaissance paratrooper with the Marine Force Fleet.
He was also a quirky guy. After his military service he was a talk radio host in Portland and specialized in paranormal activities. He apparently discussed the DB Cooper case, and according to his radio side-kick, Gossett’s business card is posted somewhere on the rafters at the Ariel Tavern! He was also an ROTC instructor in Utah, and even became a priest in an off-shoot version of Catholicism.
Picture of Mr. Gossett is provided courtesy of Galen Cook, and it is the property of the Gossett family.
By his own admission, Sheridan Peterson has been investigated twice by the FBI in connection to the DB Cooper case, and the reasons are obvious: on paper “Dan” is the ideal suspect.
His identity is being partially obscurred since he says he is not DB Cooper and has not been charged in the crime.
Dan, as he is known to some of his associates, lives in northern California, had been a smokejumper during the 1950s, and was a founding member of the Boeing Employees Skydiving Club, where he worked as a technical editor during the 1960s. In this latter position, it is believed that Dan gained vital knowledge about the capabilities of the 727 as a skydiving platform.
Also at this time, Sheridan parachuted during a Boeing promotional exercise while wearing a business suit and toting a fifty-pound sack of white flour strapped to his legs, which streamed behind him during his free-fall – all qualities that DB Cooper displayed on the night of November 24, 1971.
Further, Dan has the physical characteristics of Cooper – he’s tall and trim, and by most accounts he carries a grudge. In fact, Sheridan has told me that he was “invited” to leave Vietnam by the US Ambassador due to his strident advocacy for the south Vietnamese villagers under his care as a refugee advisor.
In addition, Dan’s alibi is wild – he says he was raising two small children in a mud hut in Nepal and writing his accounts of American atrocities in Vietnam when Cooper hijacked Flight 305.
Sherdian’s subsequent travels are also a marvel. According to his own published accounts on the Internet, Sheridan lived in Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Papua New Guinea, Japan and the Philippines. The last FBI agent to interview him, Mary Jane Fryar, told me that Dan was the “most fascicnating” suspect she had ever interviewed during her FBI career.
However, all that I know about Sheridan as a DB Cooper suspect comes from his own writings, as he has been a journalist and has published several articles on the Internet about his entanglements with the FBI regarding Cooper.
Because Sheridan is a semi-public figure as per his writing on the Internet, I have also posted his yearbook photo as found there.
Former United Airlines captain, Don Burnworth, may be the only DB Cooper suspect to actually have served time in jail. Don spent a week in the San Mateo County hoosgow in 1972 for refusing to disclose the whereabouts of his three daughters to a family court judge during a contentious custody dispute.
As he is still alive but not charged in the crime, his identity has been partially obscurred to protect his privacy.
At the time of his arrest in the marital dispute, Burnworth was interviewed by the FBI regarding the still-fresh DB Cooper case. Burnworth also claims that the Bureau placed a “ringer” in his jail cell to see if he would spill the beans about the hijacking. In addition, United fired him due to unsavory public relations.
Burnworth says that his ex-wife instigated all of these troubles, and he was he cleared by the FBI in conjunction with the skyjacking. In addition, United later re-instated Burnworth, but only after a lengthy legal battle.
Although cleared of all complicity in the DB Cooper incident, his photograph is widely considered to be one of the most similar to Composite “B.”
One of the most intriguing aspects of the resurgent investigation of DB Cooper in recent years is the information provided by commandos from Vietnam, now that their covert activities have been de-classified.
Plenty of troopers from the Special Operations Group of the Materials Assistance Command-Vietnam are talking to journalists and writing their own accounts of the illegal wars fought in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam during the larger conflict in South Vietnam from 1962-1975.
Two topics come blaring forward. First, the DB Cooper skyjacking has all the hallmarks of a SOG operation in terms of the planning, equipment and execution. Secondly, two leading commanders of SOG units, SgtM Billy Waugh and Major John Plaster say that within their ranks a rogue SOG trooper by the name of Ted Braden is widely thought to be DB Cooper.
Braden’s military career is filled with mystery and intrigue, including the assertions by some in his command that he was a professional intimate of General John Singlaub, one of the founders of the CIA and a leading figure in the Iran-Contra affair during the 1980s. Further, after Braden went AWOL in Vietnam in 1966 and was caught by the CIA trying to join the commando forces in the Congo civil war, he was incarcerated at Fort Dix, NJ. According to the officer responsible for inmates at Dix, Braden was later released by the personal intercession of the Army Chief of Staff, General Harold Johnson.
Braden’s whereabouts afterward are still hotly debated.
This picture is from Ramparts magazine, in an article they published about Sgt Braden’s exploits in Africa. Sadly, Ramparts ceased publication in 1975.
Lynn Doyle Cooper is the latest individual suspected of the DB Cooper skyjacking, due to the allegations brought forward by his niece, Marla Wynn Cooper in 2009.
Marla says that when she was eight years-old in 1971, she witnessed a traumatic family incident at her grandmother’s house near Sisters, Oregon. She claims that early on Thanksgiving morning, her uncles LD (Lynn Doyle) and Dewey arrived at the house and that Uncle LD was bloody and unable to get out of the car. She says a hub-bub ensued and she heard something about the two brothers hijacking an airplane and that “their money troubles were over.”
In addition, she says that she was told that Uncle LD suffered his injuries during the parachuting getaway.
However, Marla claims her memories stayed murky for 30+ years until a few heart-to-heart conversations with her father and mother in recent years re-kindled her recall of those events.
Subsequently, Marla has been on a quest to present evidence to the FBI, and she claims the Bureau has told her that her Uncle LD is DB Cooper. However, the FBI has not confirmed that conclusion in the slightest.
Nevertheless, Ayn Dietrich, the Bureau’s Seattle office public information officer, did tell a British journalist that LD is the “most promising” lead the FBI has had in the case.
Further, the Mountain News is waiting for a series of clear pictures of LD Cooper from Marla. In the meantime, here is the picture of LD Cooper provided to media by Marla that is a picture of a Polaroid shot taken in 1972. It has been slightly re-formated by a Cooper researcher named Georger to take away some of the elongation seen in the original print. The picture is believed to have been taken at Christmas, 1972, after which Marla never saw her uncle again.
There is much variance in the sketches of DB Cooper produced by the FBI. The first one, known as composite A, was done in the days immediately following the skyjacking, and is commonly known as the “Bing Crosby” sketch.
However, disagreements erupted among eye-witnesses and a few months later another composite was developed, known as Composite B.
Still, disagreements continued and a third sketch was commissioned in the early 1980s by a media organization utilizing the recollections of one of the flight attendants.
Subsequently, other artists have endeavored to blend the initial composites into a more comprehensive drawing.
Further, some investigators have attempted to age-advance the composites to reveal what DB Cooper may have looked liked in later years, if he survived, which is unknown. Below, is such an age-regressed comparison prepared by Jo Weber and found on “Sluggo’s” website, at http://n467us.com/index.htm .
Perhaps one of the most intriguing new developments in the Cooper case is the information brought forward by Geoffrey Gray in his 2011 book on Cooper, titeld, Skyjack – The Hunt for DB Cooper. In Skyjack, Geoffrey reveals that one of the passengers aboard Flight 305 claims that Cooper had wavy, “marcelled” hair and wore a “russet” sports jacket, which is similar to maroon in color. The following picture of this “revisionist” view of Cooper was developed by Geoffrey and used as a poster at the 2011 DB Cooper Symposium in Portland, Oregon.
© 2012 Mountain News-WA
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