DB Cooper – A retrospective on the development of the sketches

By Bruce A. Smith

Note: The following is an excerpt from my upcoming 3rd Edition of DB Cooper and the FBI – A Case Study of America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking

Sketches of DB Cooper

The first drawing of DB Cooper, known as “Composite A,” was developed by the FBI immediately after the skyjacking and was created by one of their top-notch sketch artists, Roy Rose.

Composite A is commonly described as the “Bing Crosby” sketch, as it bears a resemblance to the famous crooner, and was drawn from the accounts of the three flight attendants. Because Florence Schaffner was the only crew member to see DB Cooper before he donned his sunglasses, her input had strong influence. However, since Tina Mucklow and Alice Hancock did not see Cooper’s eyes, the initial versions of Composite A didn’t include eyes. That made the early versions of Composite A difficult to sense the “likeness” of the sketch.

Nonetheless, we now know that the problem with the eyes was resolved by including “other witnesses,” presumably the two NWO agents – ticket agent Dennis Lysne and gate agent Hal Williams – and the five passengers who self-identified themselves as having gotten a good look at the skyjacker. The latter would be Bill Mitchell, Robert Gregory, George Labissoniere, Nancy House, and Cord Harms Spreckel. Some of these individuals were able to give meaningful input for the eyes, and eventually a full facial sketch was developed.

As Cooper wore dark wrap-around sunglasses for most of the skyjacking, they were added to Composite A as well.

Composite A, no glasses, Sluggo, Book     Composite A, w glasses, B wo glasses, FBI, 2nd tryComposite A, with and without sunglasses. Courtesy of the FBI

However, Composite A was done in black and white, minimizing the swarthy complexion of Cooper’s skin. As a result of this dynamic, and on-going concerns about Cooper’s age, the shape and width of his face, and Cooper’s hair line, the FBI decided in August 1972 to commission a second drawing, now known as Composite B.

“I didn’t agree with that first sketch. It was missing the jugular thing,” claims Bill Mitchell, the passenger who sat nearest to the skyjacker, describing a loose fold of skin under Cooper’s chin.

DB Cooper researcher Galen Cook says the FBI told him that Mitchell’s input carried significant weight in the development of Composite B because he was considered an “emotionally neutral” observer, while Florence Schaffner’s views were discounted because the Bureau thought her residual anxieties from the hijacking would color her recollections.

Regardless, Composite B has more detail and DB Cooper appears older, with a more mature look. In addition, color was added, making his olive-toned skin more obvious. Also, most witnesses commented on Cooper’s protruding lower lip, and that feature is presented in Composite B.

Nat Loufoque, a DB Cooper researcher and author of DB Cooper – Examined, Identified, and Exposed, has perhaps the best grasp of how the two sketches were developed and why they differ. In 2019, Nat sent me an email that stated the following:

“As far as how the two sets of sketches were done, Rose’s communication to me matches exactly what I later found in the FBI files. The day after the Cooper heist, Rose met with   Mucklow, Schaffner, and Hancock and made the Bing Crosby sketches from their     memories–except for the description of the eyes, which came from two of the           passengers. Apparently, both the passengers and the stewardesses also used identikits to pull out key features of Cooper’s face, but the important thing here is that Rose actually    met with the stewardesses. …That process was not followed nine months later when the B sketches were made. Instead, the identikit features were sent to Rose via teletype, and he produced a sketch, which was then shown to the witnesses to get their feedback. …But there was never any give and take between Rose and the witnesses, and both Rose and the FBI reports are consistent on this detail.”

Despite its fragmented development, multiple versions of Composite B were created and sent to the seven other witnesses for their input. The final, “consensus” Composite B sketch was not agreed upon until early 1973, but is now generally considered to be the more accurate description of DB Cooper. As for the FBI, their internal documents state that Composite B is the best likeness of the skyjacker.

A few years ago, Rose discussed the sketches in a YouTube clip. Despite FBI documents to the contrary, Rose said he only met with two flight attendants to create Composite A.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rS68OepZ1A

Composite B, No Glasses, FBI, COVER        Composite B w sunglasses, FBI, poor, book

Composite B, also drawn by FBI sketch artist Roy Rose, with sunglasses added.

Photos courtesy of the FBI.

Although, all three flight attendants said they thought “B” was a good likeness, they were not in complete agreement. Tina Mucklow thought “A” was a truer portrayal, while Florence didn’t think either displayed Cooper’s “nastiness.” In response, Florence developed her own sketch in the 1980s, at the behest of a documentary film crew.

Composite C, Schaffner sketch, Sluggo, Book

Florence Schaffner’s Composite “C,” as presented on “Sluggo’s”
DB Cooper website. Used with permission

In an attempt to reconcile the dispute for Norjak aficionados, long-time Norjak investigator Wayne Walker, aka Sluggo—the host of an incomparable online trove of DB Cooper facts—commissioned a “composite of the composites” by freelance artist Joshua Ryals. His version includes all of the previous renditions.

Composite, Josh, A,B,C, Sluggo

A, B and C, “super” composite. Picture courtesy of “Sluggo.”
Used with permission.

In addition, Sluggo commissioned a Composite B “age-regressed” drawing that he posts on his website.

Composite, aged regressed, Sluggo

Age-regressed Composite B by Sluggo. Used with permission

In 2011, author Geoffrey Gray commissioned another version of Composite B, this time incorporating the “marcelled” hair and russet suit jacket touted by passenger Robert Gregory. Although Gray gives Gregory’s characterizations great weight because of the passenger’s career as a paint salesman—thus possessing a sharp eye for color and detail—Gregory reportedly told the Seattle Times that he only saw the skyjacker for a brief period of time while exiting.

Nevertheless, flight attendant Alice Hancock gives some credence to Gregory’s description because she also reports DB Cooper’s hair was “wavy.”

However, Gregory’s portrayal of the skyjacker is viewed skeptically by many researchers because most of his other characterizations are strongly at odds with other depictions, such as pegging Cooper to be in his 30s and only standing 5’9”.

Further, Gray describes Cooper persistently as a “schlub,” a messy and untidy fellow. Such characterization, combined with his championing of Gregory’s perspectives, gives heft to the argument that the FBI is using Gray to shift the public’s’ perception away from DB Cooper being a cultural hero, “The Man who beat Da Man,” to one of mundane incompetence.

composite, marcelled hair, NY Mag, 8.9.11

Geoffrey Gray’s composite B, developed in 2011.
Used with permission.

The Citizen Sleuths, led by Tom Kaye, issued a grand montage of all the composites in 2016, including an early “Pre-A” sketch, known as #1.  Composite A, with and without sunglasses,is shown below as 2. Sketches #3 and #4 are variations of Composite B, while #5 is an age-regressed version of Composite B.

composites, CS, practice for B w sunglasses

Photos provided through the kind courtesy of Tom Kaye and the Citizen Sleuths.

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8 Responses to DB Cooper – A retrospective on the development of the sketches

  1. Marla says:

    Bruce, you are a really superb writer and journalist. Thank you for this article. Very well investigated. Your nemesis, Mr. Robert Blevins, is attacking you at the other site where two or three people talk to each other. I don’t think anybody cares a hoot about anything Mr. Blevins does or says. He’s just a jealous old man who works occasionally as a janitor. His writing is atrocious. What a loser! Probably a loser his entire life. Anyway, keep up the great work, Bruce.

  2. Rita says:

    The rumors spread by EU and R99 are untrue, Sluggo is alive and ok. Just talked to him. He is pissed about Nicholson’s latest rumor mongering post at Slopzone. In fact Sluggo asks that people leave him alone. He wants nothing to do with Cooper trash. For those who must know, it was his wife that passed away in April. Not Sluggo himself. Now please mind your own damned business and leave Sluggo alone! Good bye morons.

  3. Johnnie Greene says:

    Good post, Rita. It’s quacks like Roberto Blevins who have caused all the problems at DroopZone, and for gentlemen like Sluggo. Blevins can now go out camping with his new partner, Dookie.

    • Gypsy23 says:

      Robert Blevins still scratching his head trying to figure out how he got so lucky to be alone with Dookie. Blevins still posting at DZ …..and in love. Heading out camping together. We are happy that you finally found someone….Robert.

      • Johnnie Greene says:

        They met at one of Blevin’s advertised campouts. She/he was the only one who showed up. Both cruising, looking for a hook-up. Blevins is in paradise with all of that ……..
        No more DB Cooper Matters.

      • Marla says:

        Bye-Bye, Blevins. Don’t come back to the DZ ever again. Derek Godsey will be lying in wait for you.

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