The Hunt for DB Cooper – New evidence on money find sheds harsh light on FBI investigation but excites citizen sleuths

by Bruce A. Smith

A small group of fishermen may have found pieces of DB Cooper’s ransom money on the banks of the Columbia River weeks before 8-year old Brian Ingram found his famous three bundles of twenties, investigator Galen Cook has announced this week.

 Cook’s claims cast a harsh light on the FBI’s subsequent investigation of the area known as Tina’s Bar and the many fishermen who frequented the popular fishing spot, as it generates suspicion regarding the Bureau’s thoroughness in following up on leads.

The Ingram money find at Tina’s Bar, totaling $5,800, is the single confirmed recovery of physical evidence from the DB Cooper caper, the only unsolved skyjacking case in the history of the United States.

 Cook says that in the summer of 2012 he spent a week at Tina’s Bar, located about six miles downstream from Vancouver, WA, talking with fishermen, boaters and river lovers.  After dozens of pleasant conversations and many discussions on the finer points of Cooper lore, he eventually met a fisherman who had indirect knowledge of a money find that pre-dated Brian Ingram’s discovery in early February, 1980.

 The fisherman, unnamed by Cook, says that he knew of two other fishermen, now adults but teenagers in 1980, who say that they had found money along the Columbia in the vicinity of Tina’s Bar.

 Cook located the two gentlemen and corroborated the story of the first fisherman.

 Cook says that the two boys – now in their mid-to-late forties and living in the Portland, Oregon area, but then aged 12 and 14 – had been fishing at Tina’s Bar for steelhead in January, 1980, one month prior to Brian Ingram’s discovery.

 The two teens say they found about a dozen pieces of 20 dollar bills buried in a small hole at a site the Cook later determined was about three feet away from the spot where Ingram found his money. 

 The teen fishermen told Cook that the shards were all corner pieces of twenties, fairly similar in size, and that they knew the shards came from a twenty because each piece had the numerals “2” and “0” on it.

 Cook also says that the lads told him that they found a handful of similar pieces the following weekend about 100 yards downstream from their first find, and that the shards were lying on the surface of the sand, as if they had been washed there by the river current.

 At the time, the teens did not know the significance of their find and did not save the shards.  Only later, after the Ingram discovery, did they understand the nature of their encounter.  However, Cook has not disclosed why the teens did not tell authorities of their own money find.

 However, if this story is true it indicates that the FBI did not follow up with Tina’s Bar fishermen once they knew about the Ingram recovery.  Part of the reason may be how the FBI structured its investigation.

 The DB Cooper investigator for the Portland office, Special Agent Ralph Himmelsbach, retired two weeks after the Ingram find.  His replacement in those duties, Dorwin Schroeder, told the Mountain News in 2009 that he and the FBI did not initiate any investigation into Cooper in the following years, and “only followed-up on leads as they came in from the public.”

Nevertheless, the Bureau may have blown an ideal opportunity to break the case open by not canvassing the people who may have found other bits of money.  Also, if they had surveyed the beach goers they may have discovered individuals able to offer other kinds of clues, such as descriptions of folks burying money on the beach.

 Despite that tepid long-term response, the FBI’s search of Tina’s Bar immediately after the Ingram find was substantial, and included scores of agents and volunteers digging in the sand for days, along with back hoe support from the Fazio Brothers, whose family owns Tina’s Bar.

 Based upon what the teens told him, Cook believes that the corners of the Cooper ransom money were purposefully torn, and deliberately buried in at least one site and possibly two, for reasons that are wholly speculative.

 Further, Cook has commissioned an extensive river hydrologic study and soil analysis, and he believes the ransom money had been buried in a damp environment prior to discovery at Tina’s Bar.

 However, Mr. Cook did not share any details that illuminated his hypothesis.

 Nevertheless, Cook says that his special investigation also suggests that the money arrived at Tina’s Bar in the year preceding discovery, and possibly in the summer or spring of 1979. 

 Cook’s perspective adds weight to the speculation put forth by Jo Weber that her husband Duane, a self-confessed DB Cooper suspect, threw a brown paper sack filled with unknown contents off the Quay in Vancouver in late September or early October 1979.

 This possibility is supported by the widely held conclusion established by the FBI’s hydrology expert Leonard Palmer, whose findings state that the money could not have arrived at Tina’s Bar prior to 1974 when the last known dredging of the Columbia occurred in the channel fronting Tina’s Bar.

 Cook’s announcement, just one week prior to the 41st anniversary of the skyjacking, is sure to cause a sizeable buzz at the Cooper Daze festival, held annually at the Ariel Tavern, the center of the FBI’s ground search for Cooper back in 1971 and 1972.

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23 Responses to The Hunt for DB Cooper – New evidence on money find sheds harsh light on FBI investigation but excites citizen sleuths

  1. Dave says:

    since we have no proof the money was found by them, I think the word “alleged” should be used.
    seems strange to pop up all of the sudden?

    • brucesmith49 says:

      The speculative nature of this clain is clear, Dave. No need to hit a 10-penny nail with a sledge hammer.

      As for the timing, I first heard about Galen’s find about two weeks ago and it has taken him this long to become comfortable with making it public. Galen is in an interesting position. He spends a ton o’ money to obtain information no one else has, and yet how does he re-coup? Writing the book is a long and tough journey. How much can he afford to share with us along the way?

      Me, I’m just an open-sourced guy. And broke, too.

  2. Dave says:

    agreed, I was referring to the witnesses coming forward now, just find it strange after all of these years they were silent? but what isn’t strange about this case!

    • brucesmith49 says:

      I find it strange that they never told anyone – cops, FBI, their families? A 12-year old and a 14’er finding bits of 20s on a beach that a month later is on the front pages of every newspaper in the world?

      As you say, what isn’t strange about this case – yup.

  3. Pat Forman says:

    If this is true, it could also support the Barbara Dayton theory. We don’t remember the exact timing of when she moved the money, so it could have been in the spring of ’79. We only remember that it was before the money was found by Brian Ingram. Also, according to Barbara, prior to being moved the money was sitting in a cistern. Could that explain the “damp place”? Knowing Barb as we did, we could also picture her tearing the corners off some of the bills. That way she could leave the money to be found and still keep the majority of her “trophies”. At any rate this is all speculation. It doesn’t prove anything but is very interesting.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Yes, Pat, I was thinking that, too. Plus, I pushed Galen on why he thinks the bills were kept in a wet place and he was very circumspect out of proprietary concerns. He wants to share but he also wants enough goodies kept secret that he can sell a ton o’ books.

      One thing about Galen, he always has plenty of great tidbits, but he also has a lot of people bugging him for information, including LE.

    • theauthors says:

      I apologize. I should have stated “when we believe she moved the money”, not “when she moved the money”. We came to this belief in 1980 when the money was found because of her actions prior to when the money was found.

  4. It isn’t about selling books. It’s about the truth.
    The fishermen (they were boys at the time) didn’t keep any of the shards, said they were only corner pieces, and told no one about it, even though the finding of the Tena Bar money just weeks later went national news.

    Now Galen Cook finds these guys four decades after the hijacking? No shards. Never came forward until now? Fishermen, always got a whopper of a story, LOL. Without proof, it goes into the Cooper Fable Vault.

    Pretty thin, in any case. Let’s face it, anyone could say today that they found a few shards before Brian Ingram did. The location of the find has been famous for more than thirty years.

    This is no reflection on Bruce Smith. It’s his job to report these things. It’s not like he made up this piece of hogwash. That was done by others. I’ll keep subscribing to the Mountain News.

  5. Bob Sailshaw says:

    Bruce: Interesting news on the new shards of the 20’s. Most likely from the DB Cooper Caper as you just don’t find torn 20 corners at Tena’s Bar just laying around. This is all if you can believe the boy’s story.
    Galen Cook told me he is going to talk to FBI Agent Eng about getting the DNA from the four letters (under the stamps and envelope flap) sent to the News Papers following the DB Cooper Caper. I believe this last remaining evidence that the FBI has that they have not looked into will blow the case wide open and they will find a match of the DNA with that they have taken from Sheridan Peterson. This would place Sheridan at the scene of the crime and not in Nepal as his alibi goes, This is the “Smokeing Gun” evidence in the case and could quickly solve the crime, Bruce have you any information about the FBI moving forward with this DNA clue/case buster?

    • brucesmith49 says:

      I do not know what and if the FBI has done about the letters, stamps or any DNA testing. They are steadfastly maintaining a tight lip about the case, in stark constrast to the actions of Larry Carr just a few years ago.

  6. SafeCrackingPLF says:

    While interesting, I cannot buy the story. I might be able to had the kids (now adults) not claimed to find scattered pieces 100 yards away the following weekend. There’s no corroborating evidence to remotely suggest this was even possible. Additionally, the corners were worn from the packs but yet they claim to find corners – perhaps they don’t see the inconsistency there and only think I’ll see the prima facie correlation (presumably that the corners came off the packs and washed around the beach). Having said this, I wouldn’t think it’s impossible and I’m not necessarily saying they’re lying, but something here doesn’t add up to me.

    My money is good Bob. My bet it still outstanding. Let’s make a wager that DNA will place Sheridan “at the scene”. I say it won’t. Easy game. If the wager is high enough, I might even be willing to finance the DNA test. The bet goes for anyone. I bet you will not be able to place your guy (or gal as the case may be) on the plane or to the evidence using the available DNA. Cook can recoup a lot of his losses by simply wagering on Gosset. I’m willing to go as high as 20k at the moment of typing this – which is probably more than any book would net.

    As tempting as it is to agree with Blevins and close the door on this, doing so would be imprudent. I’m not positive it’s all BS – only that it looks very much so. Mind you, we have a few decades worth of time to embellish and embed portions of memory that might not be otherwise accurate.

    I’m curious if Pat Forman would like to send me a first edition (2008) version of the book. While I’m massively confident that I’m on the right track (willing to put up at least 20k on it), it would be stupid of me to just brush off all others… and what I’m most interested in is if Dayton’s claim of hiding the money and then moving it in 1979 were in the original printing of the book, or if that ‘s something that just came to light recently. If it’s in the book, you’d go a long ways to getting my attention. I’m prepping to do another series and am wanting to get my homework done in greater depth and detail this time. You have nothing to lose Pat.

    Certainly I will ponder this whole money find situation before reaching a conclusion – which will more than likely be no conclusion at all (ie, not conclusive)

    • theauthors says:

      I found an original copy of the book that I could send you. Let me know how I could get it to you. When she first told us she was D B Cooper, Barb said the money was hidden in a cistern in Woodburn, Oregon and gave us details on how to find it. Then, not too long before the money was found on Tina Bar in 1980, she told us she had a dream that the ink was running on the money and the money was deteriorating. She then left on a road trip and was gone for a week. This was not too long before the the money was found on Tina Bar, and it caused us to believe she had gone to move the money. She did not specifically tell us that she went to move the money, but this has been our belief since 1980. The timing of her dream, her absence from the airport after her dream, and her grin when we first talked about the money being found led to our conclusion that she had moved the money.

      • SafeCrackingPLF says:

        Sounds good. Email ultimatewinner [at] gmail and I’ll get in touch. I’m definitely interested in the road trip and learning more.

  7. Galen G. Cook says:


    Just a few comments to clear up some possible misunderstandings.

    My investigation into the D.B. Cooper mystery branches out into many areas of inquiry. Tina’s Bar is just part of my overall probe into the case, however it does hold some fascinating clues if one wants to conduct a deeper examination. Back in 2009, SA Larry Carr and I discussed the issue of the Brian Ingram find, particularily as it pertained to the decomposition of the $20 bills. Later that year, I associated with a particularily experienced scientist from Portland who agreed to come on board and work with me at the Tina Bar discovery site. We basically mapped the entire area into a scientific grid. We had the full support of the Fazio’s and unlimited access to their beachfront via their private drive.

    Our experiments apparently caught the interest of the FBI. The Supervisory Agent in Seattle put me in direct contact with SA Curtis Eng. Then, the FBI released the “Palmer Report” to me. That report cited a most likely “arrival time” of the $20 packets at between 9 months and 12 months prior to discovery. Palmer’s specialization was “shoreline process,” which would allow a scientific examination of sedimentary deposits and the strata of the beach soils. A packet of bills found at a particular strata on the shoreline can be correlated to a specific period of time in which they “arrived.”

    My goal was to try and simulate the money find, including the decomposition process, using various controls. We conducted our experiments both at Tina’s Bar and in the lab, and then replicated them more than twice in order to gain confidence in our experiments. The results of the experiments will be published at a later date.

    I found it odd that there were never reports of others finding pieces of Cooper’s money at Tina’s Bar. Richard Tosaw and I had discussed this issue many times while we worked together on the Columbia River during 2005 and 2008. [there were reports that the FBI had found “shards” back in February 1980, but this matter was never verified, nor was there an indication of it when SA Curtis Eng allowed me to inspect the Cooper money at the Seattle Field Office].

    In late summer of 2012, I spent a rather long period of time at Tina’s Bar and got to know the fishermen who fish the area. I also learned why Tina’s is such a popular location for fishermen. Fishermen are a bit like goldminers, in that they tend to be evasive as to what they know about the area, particularily when non-fishermen are asking the questions. But after a discussion with a lone fisherman, he casually told me that Ingram’s find was not the only discovery of Cooper’s money. Through some coaxing, I received enough information to locate the two individuals who had made the earlier discovery. Both grew up in Vancouver, WA and fished at Tina’s Bar since childhood.

    Bruce’s narrative is pretty accurate about what happened next. The men, now in their 40’s, but age 12 and 14 at the time, found the shards at Tina’s Bar approximately 4 weeks prior to Ingram’s find. I went to some length to corroborate their story, which checked out. I asked them why they never notified the authorities and they told me that they had no idea whose money shards they found (before 2/10/80). It wasn’t until the Ingram find came out in the newspaper that they understood what they had found. It didn’t make any sense to notify authorities at that point because the media was giving full attention to Ingram, and, the two boys didn’t keep the shards anyway. [this story was checked-out through the parents, who also saw the shards on the beach on that day of discovery].

    The shards standing alone means nothing to an investigator. What I needed to know is (1) “where” the shard were found; (2) “what condition” the shards were in; and (3) “how many” shards were viewed?

    I received the answers. These fellows took me to a location that was very important to myself and the scientist who works with me. That location, the depth, the condition, the number of shards, as well as the location downriver where a few more were found, is what matters most. It would have been nice if they had kept the shards, but what would a couple of youngsters do with small corner tips of $20’s? These kids were just fishing with their parents and hanging out at their favorite fishing site.

    After 32 years, no one else has ever come out with a story about finding more Cooper money at Tina’s Bar. There is nothing to gain by this kind of story, well after the fact, unless of course, the specific information can be related back to other known information and can be fitted into a scientific model that will assist in further experimentation and investigation.

    This 32 year-old information, which has very slowly worked its way out, tells a great deal about the complexities of the Tina Bar mystery, at least from a scientist’s perspective. All it took was some willingness to get to know the true nature of fishermen, and get them to finally talk. That took some time, but it was worth it.

    Galen G. Cook
    Attorney at Law

    • SafeCrackingPLF says:

      Though “corners” sounds a bit suspect to me, I can believe the story after thinking it through over night. It would sound more plausible and believable if re-phrased into “pieces” or shards as you call them. Further, it’s doubtful that more than a small percentage would have had legible digits on them. I do think that there could have been up to a thousand shards lying around. It also follows that they’d be shards (or tiny fragments), which suggests a length of time on the bills. Based on these fishermen, the timeline, however, contradicts the 9 to 12 month time frame. If there were shards everywhere up and down the bank for a hundred yards, it would strongly suggest deposit/decomp fairly recent to that discovery and not spring of 79 like Palmer seemed to favor. It suggest the bills were breaking apart around the time they found the shards or within a fairly reasonable time prior (2 to 3 weeks). Having said that, you’d want to couple this opinion with your personal tests (of which I’ve thought of doing myself a few times but don’t live near there to attempt it)

      I’m telling you now that I have this thing about nearly sowed up and I’m massively confident in saying that. When I say sowed up, I mean knowing what happened; no one is solving this crime ever, IMO. I do think enough compelling evidence (or argument) could be put forward to be very convincing though. For someone like myself to say what I’m saying (after controlling for belief biases, heuristic biases, confirmation bias, etc) the odds that I’m wrong are infinitesimal. For that reason, we should perhaps talk. If I can figure out that you were Bruce’s source on the Tina photos, I’m somewhat confident I can find you.

      • brucesmith49 says:

        Say Safe, if you’re looking for Galen, why don’t you just join him and me for a beer the next time he’s in town. Fish Tale Pub, Jefferson St in Olympia, WA. Some of our best sleuthing is done down there and it’s where I first saw the pix of Tina.

      • Jockomo says:

        SafecrackingPLF, which “this thing” do you have wrapped up? The thing before the last thing, after the thing before and after the thing before/after that? I also think I have it wrapped up. Is your thing the same as my thing? Think about it!

  8. M. Louie says:

    Hi Bruce,

    Good to see you writing about the case again, I hope you are well. I am responding to Galen Cook’s prior post.

    So the parents of the kids who found the money shards were with the kids that day — when the boys found money shards 3 feet away from the Ingram money-find. Just a few weeks later, the whole world finds out about the Ingram money-find, at the very location (at Tena’s Bar), just 3 feet away from where the boys and their parents found the shards. The parents did not find it necessary to come forward and report what they and their boys had found a few weeks earlier, because it just didn’t seem important or relevant enough. In fact, it was so irrelevant they discarded the shards they had found — even after every major newpaper in the world had Brian Ingram, the money packets, and the Tena Bar location plastered all over their front pages.

    So, Mr. Cook, finding those money shards just wasn’t relevant or important enough for the boys and their parents to come forward and report it? Sounds pretty fishy to me, even far-fetched and preposterous. That family had to have made the connection to the now-famous Ingram money-find, at the very spot they found the money shards — and you’re saying they didn’t feel it was important enough to come forward and present their evidence? I’m betting they would have jumped at the chance.

    M. Louie

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Greetings Meyer,

      The FBI search at the money find site was very thorough. They dug up most of the beach in the vicinity of the find, and judging by the pictures I would say that they went in about a 75-foot radius out. They also dug as deep as three feet down in places, and there are pictures of Ralph Himmelsbach down in a trench.

      I’ve written extensively on the FBI search, and one agent McPeters, told me that he also found shards along the tide line – both on the surface and about as deep as a shovel blade. He also said the bills were discolored, but when I pushed him on that point he back-tracked.

      The PIO at the beach, Dorwin Schroeder told me that they found “thousands” of shards, but Dorwin’s memory is suspect as he says they also found part of the briefcase and that an ACE dredge was working just off the beach in the Columbia.

      The big problem is where are these shards now? There is no one that I know that has ever seen them. Galen, Tom Kaye, Carol A, and the rest of the CST have examined the evidence collection and they all tell me they have never seen any shard as described by the Bureau. Carol did tell me that there are two small plastic containers about the size of small match boxes that contain particles of the bills, but Brian Ingram thinks they are the crumblings of the bills being stored in the FBI’s evidence folder, which sounds plausible to me.

      Further, Larry Carr nor anyone else at the Bureau has ever displayed the shards, or the plastic bags they were purportedly placed within, nor any evidence tickets describing where and how they were found. I find that quite disturbing and suggests poor police work.

      If the two teens were remiss in not saving the shards they found or telling the cops about them when Brian found his, then the FBI has done a worse job of protecting the evidence they had.

      …and don’t get me started about the missing cigarette butts….

  9. Galen G. Cook says:


    Comments to your responders above. You have to put all of the material factors of beach erosion into play. Natural flow, freshets, tidal forces, wakes from passing ships or smaller vessels. There is a tendency towards continuing beach erosion. We took decisive measurements of this from 2009 to 2012. The only evidence of accretion was from the dredging operations, which occured just south of Tina’s Bar, or near the wingdams, which are erected as pilings into the main river current. Thus, it would be almost impossible for the money to arrive by natural means from upstream and then be covered and buried at a substantial depth by natural beach build-up at an area downriver from dredge stacking, or, at an even greater distance downstream from the wingdams. Apparently, the depth of the discovery sites and the various types of sand stratas were the only relevant factors for Dr. Palmer in 1980, as that allowed him the proper shoreline process analysis in which to determine an arrival date. My understanding is that the FBI is not in disagreement with his conclusion. What Dr. Palmer does not do is create a scientific theory as to how the money arrived at TB. So, the question of “how” the money got there is still in play.

    As to the shards: It seems that too many corner pieces of $20s were found to account for the missing $120 (six bills) from one of the packets. Three packets were found together, but the shards were found in a separate discovery hole. Why is the money separated into two discovery sites, and why is the money found in two distinct forms (bundled; sharded)? It seems that there was probably more than $6000, but far less than $200,000 at TB.

    As to the shard discovery by the kids: they were young teens, and their parents had no reason to get involved. Shards of bills are not worth anything. Back in 1980, everyone reading the news in that area just figured that Cooper must have died and this was some of the evidence left behind. The FBI and the Fazios closed the entire area down for weeks after the Ingrams find and the fishing ceased for a time. These are fishermen, not scientists or sleuths. They prefer to be left alone and fish. I doubt any of them read the DZ, or sit around and try to establish the latest preferred theory. Most of the fishermen I talked to could care less about D.B. Cooper.

    Anyway, good questions nevertheless.

    Galen Cook

    • David J Johnson says:

      Galen & Bruce: Reading all the comments above could I just add a observation regading the money find?

      I am a retired banknote printer (legally!!) and, as Bruce knows, living in the UK. From what I am given to understand about the finding and condition of the notes, it is impossible that they would have been in the condition they were found – if they had been deposited at the time of the original hi-jacking. To me it is also inconceivable that the Dollar bills had been there for much more than a year.

      That, of course, raises the question: just who put them there?

      Over the years my company advised the US Bureau of Engraving on security of their currency, as well as numerous other goverments.

      Keep-up the investigations folks.

      Regards to you both from Portland, UK,


      • Galen Cook says:

        Astute observation. Since you have worked with printed money (legally), I’d like to ask you what you know about………

        1) brown stains found on the money.
        2) small holes found on all of the bills.
        3) rounded corners found on all of the bills.

        Can you come up with a plausible explanation as to why these specific “markers” are found consistently on all of the DB Cooper bills?

        If you need to get in touch with me, contact Bruce Smith. I’ll respond back directly to you.

        Galen Cook

  10. Hugo Savinovich says:

    Galen – Chances of an appearance on C2C this weekend since it’s Thanksgiving time and all?

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