By Bruce A. Smith
DB Cooper is back in the news this evening as a local Seattle NBC report on the metals found on his tie is going nationwide. A special investigation by KING 5 TV reporter Chris Ingalls has been pricked up by other news organizations, such as USA Today, and is being reprinted and rebroadcast. Most tellingly, I just got a call from my mother in New York City that she saw a clip on it during the evening news.
In his piece Ingalls interviews Tom Kaye, the head of a private group of scientists recruited by the FBI in 2009, known as the Citizens Sleuths, to study the DB Cooper evidence in depth. Kaye discussed the recent findings that nearly 100,000 particles, including rare earth metals such as Yttrium and Strontium, have been found on the tie DB Cooper left behind on his plane during his famous hijacking event 45 years ago.
It is the only unsolved skyjacking case in the history of the United States, and the FBI officially closed the case last July amidst great controversy, citing a lack of substantive evidence and a dearth of suspects. Now, the case seems to be re-ignited, although the FBI has yet to comment on this most recent findings nor has it officially re-opened its investigation.
The 100,000 particles were discovered recently by the world renown research firm, McCrone Labs, who had been expanding upon the earlier research conducted by the Citizen Sleuths. According to Kaye, McCrone used “fully automated scanning electron microscopes to find, photograph and then analyze over 100,000 particles from 20 different stubs.”
Prior, the Citizen Sleuths had only been able to examine 800 particles that the team had looked at manually. Initially, in 2009 and 2010 the Citizen Sleuth had taken “sticky tape” samples from the tie and examined them under their own electron microscopes and other conducted other metallurgic and chemical tests. Surprisingly, they discovered shards of pure titanium, bismuth, and other exotic metals. These findings led researchers to explore the possibility that DB Cooper had worked in an advanced metallurgic foundry, such as Oremet in Albany, Oregon, or was a lab technician.
One independent Cooper sleuth, Bob Sailshaw, who is a former Boeing engineer, postulated that DB Cooper might have been prime suspect Sheridan Peterson. Peterson, featured in the 2016 History Channel documentary on DB Cooper, had worked as a tech writer at Boeing in the Manuals Department, adjacent to where titanium research on the Super Sonic Transport (SST) was begin conducted in the 1960s.
McCrone had been brought into the DB Cooper case by the cable TV network, Travel Channel, whose Expedition Unknown TV show funded the research. Expedition Unknown aired its own DB Cooper episode this week, which has triggered the renewed interest.
In the Expedition Unknown (EU) broadcast the findings were widely speculated upon. The Rare Earth Metals (REM), in particular the Strontium Sulfide, Yttrium, and Barium Sulfate are used in Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) that are critical components in electronic monitors and television sets, which were being introduced into the cockpits of the SST, leading the EU to speculate that the REMs found on the tie were sourced in the use of these devices. Hence, they postulated that DB Cooper may have been a Boeing employee, but in a different capacity than posed earlier by Bob Sailshaw.
Since EU funded the McCrone work, it is directly responsible for this latest development in the Cooper case. This is the first major advancement in the Cooper case since the FBI threw in the towel last July, and indicates that public interest is still substantial and will most likely lead to other private, citizen-based investigations.
Editor’s Note: Bruce A. Smith is the author of DB Cooper and the FBI – A Case Study of America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking. It is available from Amazon as an eBook or hard copy.
Below: DB Cooper and his tie: Courtesy of the FBI.