The Hunt for DB Cooper – letter sent by “DB Cooper” in 1971 is now causing a flap


  by Bruce A. Smith

At least four letters were sent to area media by “DB Cooper” in the days and weeks following the 1971 skyjacking.  Now, one of them, Letter # 3, is causing quite a stir within the investigatory community, along with the mysterious work of a Cooper sleuth known as “Al Di” who has analyzed the letter.

 Several days ago, noted DB Cooper researcher Galen Cook contacted me and asked if I knew the identity of “Al Di.”  I didn’t.

 Galen reminded me that Al Di is the self-proclaimed author of a video and web site that “decoded” Letter #3, and with that prompt I dug deeper.

 What is striking is that Al Di’s analysis of Letter #3 is superb.  His “decoding” reveals that the cut-and-paste letters Cooper used came from the June and July 1970 issues of Playboy magazine.  That level of sophisticated sleuthing suggests that Al Di is either an FBI agent or connected to the Bureau and its Cooper investigation – and either had access to the investigatory work done in the 70s, or was able to launch a sizeable investigation in recent years.

Letter #3 and a Playboy magazine, from Al Di’s web site. Permission to use is pending

 Or, the decoding might indicate that Al Di is involved with the skyjacker and learned about the Playboy usage that way.

 Or possibly he worked independently, such as a highly skilled graphics designer who knew the history of magazine journalism exceptionally well and was able to ferret-out the fonts of 42-year old skin mags.

 Playboy Magazine has had a reputation for quality journalism.  Historically, it has paid top dollar to its freelance writers, and presumably that dedication to excellence carried over into its publication values.  Hence, its use of graphic design, paper and ink would be easily recognizable to industry mavens.  As a result, uncovering the Playboy connection did not have to be an impossible task and FBI investigators could have discovered it with reasonable effort. 

Or Al Di did privately with exceptional diligence.

 In addition, Al Di’s decoding video has excellent production values, suggesting that it was professionally made and well-financed.  Further, the voice-over is a young male voice who speaks competently but with a veiled anxiety, suggesting a personal connection to the source material rather than a hired actor.

 Al Di’s web site was created in August 2011, and he announced its existence on the dropzone web site in September 2011, but the implications of his announcement are only now coming to light. 

 Further, Al Di says that the FBI only made the existence of Letter #3 known to the public on August 1, 2011 – about ten days before his own launch – when the FBI released it to the original owners, The Oregonian, Portland’s famed newspaper, by posting it on their web site, 

 The original letter was postmarked December 1, 1971, and was mailed in northern Oregon, but not in Portland.  The Oregonian had given it directly to the Bureau back in 1971, and had not published the letter nor revealed its existence at that time.

 Letter #3 reads:

 “Am alive and well in hometown P.O.

The system that beats the system

DB Cooper”

 In addition, the letter’s envelope is hand-written in pencil and addressed:

 “Editor – Oregonian

1320 SW Broadway


 So, who is Al Di?

 All efforts by the Mountain News over the past few days to contact Mr. Di have been unsuccessful.

 As a result, I have turned to the FBI.

 Ayn Dietrich, public information officer for the FBI’s Seattle office and the wellspring for the Cooper investigation, told me Monday that Al Di is not an FBI agent and has no relationship with the Bureau.

 In addition, Dietrich said that the “FBI has not reviewed Al Di’s work previously…but the case agent (Curtis Eng) is now aware of Al Di’s work and will review it.”

 Further, Ms. Dietrich was unable to confirm the conclusions of Al Di’s video and web site, specifically that the Letter #3 was crafted using text from the Playboy magazines, nor did she confirm that the FBI released Letter #3 to the Oregonian on August 1, 2011 as Al Di claims.

 However, Galen Cook says that the FBI released Letter #3 during the flurry of media releases in the first week of August, 2011, that included the Marla Cooper bombshell that her uncle LD Cooper was the “most promising” suspect, along with the roll-out of Geoffrey Gray’s book, Skyjack.

 Al Di says that he decoded the letter 10 days after the FBI released it, about August 10, 2011, which implies that he did the investigatory work recently.  However, he offers no corroborating information.

 As for his identity, Al Di says that he is just an “average Joe” who is interested in the DB Cooper saga.

 Mr. Cook is only able to shed a bit more light on Al Di’s identity, and says that the elusive Di first contacted him on August 16, 2011 and subsequently has sent him numerous emails.  Despite his requests, Al Di has never revealed his true identity to Cook, nor has Al Di called him.

 Further according to Cook, Al Di has not revealed exactly how he decoded Letter #3, claiming only that he “colorized” the black and white version that the FBI sent to the Oregonian.  Once colorized, the unique characteristics of the background used on Playboy cover pages were apparent, thus revealing the source of the lettering to Al Di.

 But why should anyone play cat and mouse at this stage of the Cooper investigation?  Why won’t Al Di reveal himself?  If the decoder is a member of the FBI, why not come clean?  If Al Di knows DB Cooper, is he keeping quiet because of a fear of retributions – but what kind can there be from a man that is probably 90 years old, or dead?

 Nevertheless, the manner in which Al Di describes DB Cooper is interesting.

 On his web site Al Di describes DB Cooper as a “sky pirate” and one that is “brash, (and) highly calculating” and who “coolly executed” the hijacking.  He characterizes the skyjacking as “akin…to a James Bond movie.”

 These are not the perspectives usually associated with the typical views of the FBI or former agents involved in the case.

 Further, what is the response of the FBI to Al Di and the presence of Letter #3 – and in fact all the letters?  Are they checking the DNA of the envelopes?  The stamps?  What are their conclusions from this evidence?

 Mountain News reader Bob Sailshaw has been quite vocal in championing the examination of the DNA from the letters, demanding that the sample be compared with the DNA findings obtained from Cooper suspect Sheridan Peterson.

 Passionately, Sailshaw wants to know if Peterson’s alibi can stand up to scrutiny – that he was living in a mud hut in Nepal with his new wife and two little kids at the time of the skyjacking.  Sailshaw feels that the DNA contained in the saliva residues on the envelopes and stamps can prove whether Peterson was actually stateside, or not.  It won’t prove conclusively that Peterson was Cooper, but it can show whether “Petey” is telling the truth about his whereabouts on November 24, 1971.

 Sailshaw also claims that a line from Letter # 3, “The system that beats the system” is close to a mantra uttered frequently by Peterson when he lived in Sailshaw’s home in 1961, that he was looking for a “system to beat the system.”

 “The coincidence is just too uncanny,” says Sailshaw.

 As for the four letters, here is what is known.  First, they were all sent to newspapers by an individual calling himself “DB Cooper.”  No one knows for sure if the letters are from the skyjacker, but the question clearly haunts the investigation.

 The first letter was received by the Reno Evening Gazette in Reno, Nevada on November 29, 1971, just five days after the skyjacking.  In addition, Cooper’s plane had landed in Reno for refueling after he jumped somewhere south of Sea-Tac airport.

 Letter #1 was postmarked on November 27, 1971 in Oakdale, California, a small town northeast of Modesto.  According to Mr. Cook, it was a cut and paste job using lettering from the Friday, November 26, 1971 evening edition of the Sacramento Bee newspaper.  It read:


Thanks for the hospitality

Was in a rut.

DB Cooper”

 It was published by the Reno Gazette and then given to the FBI.

This photo of Letter #1 is the property of Galen Cook and used with permission.

 Letter #2 was hand-written and sent to the Vancouver Province newspaper in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  It was sent to the Province between November 30 and December 2, 1971, and was mailed in Vancouver, BC.  It claimed that the first composite drawing of DB Cooper “did not represent the truth,” and contained the following:

 “I enjoyed the Grey Cup game.

Am leaving Vancouver.

Thanks for the hospitality.

DB Cooper”

 The Grey Cup game is the championship professional Canadian football game, and in 1971 it was played in Vancouver on November 28.

This photo of Letter #2 is the property of Galen Cook and used with permission. Galen was the first DB Cooper investigator to discover the letter, and did so despite the Province newspaper denying its existence. He found it through diligent searching in their archives, knowing that the Reno Gazette had mentioned it in 1971 in their reportage of Letter #4.

 Letter #4 was also mailed to the Reno Evening Gazette and mailed December 1 from the Sacramento, California area.  Although received, the Gazette did not publish it in accordance with the FBI’s wishes.  However, the Gazette did write a story about the letter’s existence. 

 Again, it was a paste-up and contained the following:

 “Plan ahead for retirement income.

DB Cooper.”

 ©  2012  Mountain News-WA

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24 Responses to The Hunt for DB Cooper – letter sent by “DB Cooper” in 1971 is now causing a flap

  1. Josh Magill says:

    Great article.

  2. David J Johnson says:

    Oh God, it’s getting even more complicated!

    When is the next chapter of you “Book” appearing, Bruce?



  3. A reader says:

    There’s another website with Galen Cook talking about D. B. Cooper letters.

    Here it says Oakdale is a small town 15 miles northeast of Modesto instead of just south of the town. It also says that a reporter from the Modesto Bee identified some of the words as being from his paper printed on Friday. Reporters have trouble keeping things consistent.

    This article has Oakdale just 25 miles down the road from Reno and not hundreds of miles. Should Oakdale be identified before all these assumptions about Al Di’s skill levels is considered?

    In this article Al Di is decoding the same letter from Oakdale which is 10 miles north of Modesto with the letters being cut out of the Modesto Bee newspaper. What criminal has ever used cut and paste letters stuffed in a hand addressed envelope? Interesting how the Sacramento Zip Code prefix of 956 is subtly expanded to include Oakdale, which in truth is 953. Could Al Di just be a cashier in a grocery store?

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thanks for your corrections.

      • D.W says:

        In reversed perception ._. Police searched all over for the owner of the tie. He disappears into the night. He ran down a flight of stairs . He either leaves or looses the tie behind ._.Somtime around midnight._.
        This is a Cinderella story for men._.So far i have discovered 5 disney nursey crimes useing mirrored perceptions in usa media._.
        Db cooper is a media created Cinderella story mirrored from fantasy to reality.

  4. Jamie Cooper says:

    Letter #3 was not sent by the hijacker, it was essentially a blackmail type threat from an accomplice after the fact aka my mother whose nickname was “Angie”, who was pissed off at the time. “the system that beats the system” was a reference to various things that wont make sense to others but the fact that I was born in June of 1970 might and a child being “the playmate of the year” to new parents might, blood being thicker than water is also a system that beats all systems might make sense to you, especially when one who is bound by blood has or at least had, knowledge and evidence of incriminating facts.
    the tie tack should be from a costume jewelry company called Sarah Coventry, I would suspect by now, at least that has been established by you sleuths?

  5. A great American mystery, the enigmatic D.B.Cooper.I started jumping in the late summer of 1970. The sport was heavily populated by military jumpers , both active duty and veterans. My training was provided by A U.S.P.A Jumpmaster , Special Forces vet, HALO Instructor , Military Freefall Instructor. Other mentors were from the 173 Airborne Brigade and the 82nd Airborne. Training was A hybrid of the Ft. Benning School protocol ; PLF’s 5 Points of Performance etc. . Not being A veteran myself, 4F Status, I was not aware of the history , the culture , the heritage ; yet. 40 Years later, we still debate the Cooper Odyssey. I am of the genre’ that doubts he left the aircraft, although the jump was not technically daunting , no mission impossible. The parachute connector links , snaps , spring loaded pilot chute , all the metal rigging components leave A radar hit. Military insertion rigs can be constructed with high density platstic rigging to prevent this . No chaff? No ” chip ” to emanate A signal ? No visual contact on the part of airborne observers? A parachute 28′ in diameter , the suspension lines and A suspended man @ 6′ tall ? Knowing airspeed , takeoff point , heading , elapsed time and A speculated exit point , yet not knowing where they were, nor the calculated landing point? Too many holes. An exercise in security strategies? A removable panel in the aircraft to conceal ones self and exit later, dressed differently while the plane was being serviced? All great stuff to ponder and debate ! ike

    • David J Johnson says:


      I agree with you. No-one has ever given me a satisfactory answer when I asked if the 727 was thoroughly searched when it landed at Reno. It seems to me to be far more likely that Cooper did not jump. After all the massive search did not come-up with any evidence of a landing.

      I also find it very strange that the cigarette butts have disappeared. Are the FBI really that incompetent?

      Greetings from Portland, UK. David

      • Dave B says:

        I agree, I am also wondering if he was able to find a way to get in the belly of the craft, If he worked for Boeing and knew the structure, who knows, he was in the bathroom for some time? also possible he could of manipulated the door with the 80 feet of cord from the reserve! many options to think about that are just as crazy as the stunt itself!

  6. Galen Cook, Attorney at Law says:


    Nice job on reporting, as usual. I’ve taken some time away from the investigation due to other legal matters being tended to. But Cooper is never far from my law office desk.

    Commenting with respect to the D B Cooper letters, I met with the FBI over a year ago to focus on this aspect of the mystery. Special Agent Curtis Eng was polite to give me several hours of his time while we poured through the letters. His principle focus is the letter generated from the Playboy magazine. My focus is more oriented towards the letters sent to Reno and the letter sent to the Vancouver, BC newspaper. [I actually drove to Vancouver in late 2010 and researched the archived newspaper files in the library. No one had paid attention of that letter before, and I’d only heard about it through a back-channel. But there it was, the letter written out and signed by D B Cooper and published in the Province. I also met with the Vancouver, BC Police Department to query them about their knowledge of the strange letter. The Chief is intrigued by this case too.]

    The current FBI agent seems to lend a lot of credibility to these letters and he has informed me that DB Cooper must have survived and escaped detection. This is a huge departure from the FBI’s previous position, including the position of the prior case handler, Larry Carr. Thus, I give Special Agent Curtis Eng a lot of credit for his expertise and continued involvement in NORJAK. It’s my opinion that Agent Eng really does want to see NORJAK solved while he is managing the official case file.

    Galen Cook
    Attorney at Law

    • Bob Sailshaw says:

      Galen Cook: Maybe the FBI will now finally compare
      The DNA under the stamps/envelope flaps with the DNA they have from Sheridan Peterson. If it is a match, and I truly believe it will be a match, then Sheridan’s Perfect Alibi that he was in Nepal will be blown away. this is really the smoking gun in the case. that will mean that Sheridan was in Portland shortly after the caper and not in Nepal as he told them. a lie to the FBI could put him in jail for the rest of his life as he is 85 now. What will it take to get the FBI to finally check the DNA under the stamps/envelope flaps? they should have done this years ago and it would finally solve the case.

      Bob Sailshaw

  7. smokin99 says:

    Hey Bruce, Thought I’d post this here too. I remember reading in one of those trivia type books that there was a rumor about the stars either in or beside the “P” on the cover of Playboy. The rumor was that these stars indicated the number of times Hugh had slept with that month’s cover girl or how “good” she was. Sigh…what silly creatures boys can be sometimes Tongue Hugh probably started that one.

    Oh well, seems the actual reason for the stars was to designate the advertising region for different editions of the magazine.
    Apparently, the number of stars indicated the domestic or international advertising region for that edition of the magazine. The regions included a military edition, Canada, the United Kingdom, Chicago, Los Angeles metro, New York metro, eastern United States,
    southwestern United States, etc. Each edition had a certain number of ads intended for the regional audience only. The stars enabled the distribution people to identify the editions and send them to the right place.

    Unfortunately for Cooper sleuths, looks like the stars are cut off on original letter. (If it would have meant anything anyway – those are some wide distribution areas – but was this cunning or dumb luck by whoever constructed the letter? 🙂

  8. smokin99 says:

    can’t edit my post above but the word tongue in the last sentence, first para was one of those emoticons from the other site I accidentally left in…lol..doesn’t cross over to the written word very well.

  9. Just Jo says:

    Letter # 1 is postmarked from Oakdale, CA – only a few miles from Modesto where Duane Weber’s sister was residing.

  10. Just Jo says:

    Letter # 2 bear the markings of a left handed person turning the paper sideways the ways like my brother has done most of his life. A moment ago I said sister (they are both left handed). Just saying!

  11. RMB says:

    Sure, Jo. You always have some way to pigeon-hole your own information about Duane into objective investigative facts of the DB Cooper case. Letter #3 must have been from the prescription of Playboy magazine that Duane was receiving while he was in the penitentiary? I’m sure it was Duane. And Letter #4 was crafted by Duane while he was sneeking out of prison for a few hours and counting his money down by the river? Have another scotch, Jo.

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  13. D.W says:

    I love it ._. Its funny. You see something with same perception as every body else and its a mystery._. Use a different perception and everything about db cooper makes sense._.
    Use another perception and you see who created the lies._.
    This is main perception .
    Somtime around midnight , cooper goes down some plane stairs during a storm. He disappears into the night.
    All they found was his tie , he left behind._.The police searched for a man to match the tie.
    Also, Somtime around midnight, Cinderella goes down some castle stairs and disappears into the night. The guards searched for the girl to match the shoe._.
    I love the society of lies._.
    Db cooper is a Cinderella story for men._. Another disney nursey crime._.

  14. D.W says:

    Db cooper was in Vancouver across the Columbian river from portland. Not canadas Vancouver .._.Canadas Vancouver is a false trail._.Game was televised._.By adressing the provincial paper is a minds false trail ._. Vancouver Oregon. By adressing the game creates a false perception ._.
    Tuesday or prior letter being recieved he leaves Vancouver Oregon._.
    Rut or land indentation or doing same thing too long._. He also had a safe house._.In Vancouver Oregon._.
    Second letter is a final so long ._. Nov 29 and 30 he thanks them again ._. The people he stayed with had no phones so he used media._. Nice._.
    3rd letter is a change of mo._. Sent to Oregon paper and not prov._.Dec 1._.I have a feeling these letters are not real db cooper._.Just a paper making money._.

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