By Bruce A. Smith
The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming 3rd Edition of DB Cooper and the FBI – A Case Study of America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking:
Tina Mucklow is the most enigmatic figure in the DB Cooper saga. Even though she is the prime witness to the skyjacking, she hid from public view for thirty years until a bevy of journalists and private investigators discovered her whereabouts in 2010.
When I and other researchers, particularly Galen Cook, located Tina, we also discovered that she had undergone a personality change. Once a competent and compassionate flight attendant, Tina, as we found her, was a social isolate quick to anger. Galen and I felt that if we could understand why, or how, Tina changed we might know more about Norjak.
However, our initial assessment of Tina was challenged greatly in 2016 when she agreed to participate in the History Channel (HC) documentary on DB Cooper. By all measure, Tina appeared calm, alert and centered. One of her HC interviewers, Tom Fuentes, later characterized her as “very articulate” with a “great memory,” which contradicts accounts gathered during the years of her silence from author Richard Tosaw and FBI agent Russ Calame. In fact, Calame writes in his book that Tina’s memory is so woeful that if DB Cooper is ever apprehended and taken to trial, Tina would never be called as a witness.
Nevertheless, Tina appeared before the cameras in the company of Bill Rataczak, and together they gave riveting testimony about their experiences. Rataczak wept as he recalled Tina entering the cockpit safely, and I, too, shed tears watching them retell their story.
But this is in stark contrast to the Tina Mucklow Galen and I had come to know during our years of research. So, why is Tina so different now? Did Galen and I miss something? Or is Tina simply a normally complex person who has lived through an extraordinary trauma long ago?
Seeking answers, Galen and I searched throughout 2009-2015. As we gathered nuggets of information, we discussed our findings at the Mountain News, in radio interviews, and Internet chat rooms. The general feeling expressed by the public in response, and certainly at the DropZone forum, was that Tina had suffered PTSD from the hijacking. Supporting this notion is an FBI report found by Geoffrey Gray that describes her as verbally unresponsive to Al Lee at the bottom of the airstairs during the money exchange, and Lee deduced that Tina was in emotional turmoil. However, in the HC telecast, Tina directly refuted this occurrence, saying that she had told this individual she was fine.
Besides the HC docu, the video clips of Tina shortly after the skyjacking showed her to be a confident and articulate woman. In media interviews in 1972, she discussed the skyjacking with composure, and clearly showed her concern for her passengers. Further, Tina seemed comfortable in front of the cameras.
Compared with video archives of Florence Schaffner, the contrast is striking. YouTube clips reveal that Florence was still anxious years after the hijacking, steadfastly proclaiming her fear she was going to die that night in a mid-air explosion. If one had to project who would suffer long-term impacts from the skyjacking, Florence would be the choice, not Tina. Yet, Tina was the flight attendant seemingly most affected.
Additionally, many followers of the case, especially members of Tina’s circle of family and friends, vociferously claim that Tina’s behavioral changes were a response to the media hordes hounding her for a juicy skyjacking story, compounded by residual trauma from the hijacking.
For herself, in the HC documentary Tina declared herself to be “just a normal person,” and dismissed the speculations of others – such as from Galen and myself – that she was “fragile.”
However, both Galen and I feel that something had occurred that impacted Tina in the mid-1970s, possibly fueling her thirty-year silence. Perhaps another event or a series of circumstances cascaded into a psychological tidal wave that pushed Tina into a troubled state of mind. This scenario may be connected to the money find or not, as Tina disappeared into a cloistered convent shortly after the money was found on her namesake beach, where she lived for twelve years. Most troubling, though, are those reports from Tosaw and Calame that Tina was having significant cognitive impairments and memory loss when they interviewed her at the convent in the 1980s.
So, what happened? Tina clearly demonstrated that she was the right person in the right place at the right time during the hijacking. She handled Cooper with aplomb, and dealt effectively with a man who had threatened to kill her and her passengers. Bill Rataczak clearly recognized these capabilities and has called Tina, “one in a million.” So, how could a woman as capable as Tina get derailed by pesky journalists?
One of my concerns is that Tina may have been subjected to official pressures after the skyjacking, perhaps to maintain company secrets or to preserve the public image that flying NWO was safe. Or she may have been forced to refrain from answering troubling questions concerning the FBI’s failed investigation. Further, I am worried that something sinister may have befallen Tina, such as a Manchurian candidate-like scenario, as attributed to governmental MK-ULTRA mind-control programs. However, I have no solid evidence indicating what those circumstances might have been. Maybe something as simple as telling “white lies” about the money exchange at the behest of the FBI might have triggered a deep anxiety that has lingered for decades. After all, she is an exceptionally religious woman.
Regardless, something seems to have happened to her, and it may be connected to Norjak. Hence, it challenges the mantra uttered by many that the DB Cooper skyjacking was a victimless crime and that no one was injured.
Galen shares my concerns, and in 2009 we began exploring these issues in earnest. Our quest had two components: First we had to find Tina, and then we had to determine why she had changed.
To start, we backtracked through her life to see if we could discern what had transformed a confident flight attendant into such a bitter person, notwithstanding her gracious presentation later on the History Chanel. As a result, the following timeline has been comprised through bits and pieces of information gathered from newspaper clippings and interviews with people who have known Tina.
It appears that Tina continued working as a flight attendant at Northwest Orient for about a year or so after the skyjacking. She then met and married a colleague at NWO, a flight dispatcher who worked out of Northwest’s Chicago facilities. In about 1974, the couple left NWO and moved to California. However, they divorced less than two years later. Afterward, we believe Tina moved in with her sister Jane and brother-in-law in San Diego, where he was an active field agent in the local FBI office.
The timeline gets a little hazy after that, but Galen ascertained that by 1979, Tina had some kind of association with the Lutheran Health and Home facility in Gresham, Oregon. Galen and I assumed Tina had worked there, and probably lived nearby. Intriguingly, Gresham is only a few miles from PDX where she had been hijacked eight years earlier. Also, Gresham was part of Ralph Himmelsbach’s bailiwick, but he claims that he never spoke with Tina even though she was his primary witness in his biggest case.
Nevertheless, Gresham is just upriver from Tina Bar, and what possible connection may exist between Tina Mucklow and the money find is unknown. It could possibly be just a fantastic coincidence. Therefore, I sought more information and traveled to Gresham and the Lutheran Health and Home Center in 2013. The LHHC is an assisted-living type of facility, once managed by the religious group that ran Tina’s school in Philadelphia, but is now called the Good Samaritan Society Health Center. When I asked the folks at the center for confirmation that Tina had worked there in the 1970s, I was shocked when they told me Tina had never been employed there, but rather, had been a patient. Of course, the facility did not say why she was a resident.
Earlier, Galen had told me of a compelling rumor from flight attendants that Tina had a “nervous breakdown” in 1979 or before. I have not been able to confirm this possibility, but if true, I wonder if Tina recovered in Gresham.
In addition, we know from the nuns that Jane and Lee brought Tina to the Maria Regina convent in Eugene, Oregon sometime in the spring of 1980. We have not been able to learn if the convent was a continuation of her recovery, though. Perhaps the nuns run a pastoral psychiatric facility, or they might operate some kind of witness protection program. Or maybe the convent was just a place for Tina to pray for a while. Nevertheless, she spent twelve years there regardless of whether she “fit in” or not, as reported by the Mother Superior to Galen.
Further, her state of mind is characterized as being uneven while she was there. Galen says that Richard Tosaw had told him that Tina’s memory was fuzzy when he interviewed her in the early 1980s, and that she answered most of his questions with some version of “I don’t remember.” Nevertheless, Tosaw quotes her extensively in his book, detailing many specifics of the skyjacking. But much of that may be additions he gathered from his brother Mike, an FBI agent in Seattle, and perhaps Richard utilized them via “poetic license.”
Similarly, Bill Rataczak told me in 2009 that he worked extensively with Richard Tosaw on the latter’s book, and said that Tosaw had told him that Tina had lost the ability to remember the events of November 24th. “It was like Tina took a white board and wiped it clean,” Bill told me.
Oddly, Tina’s ex-husband seems to have been in the same state of mind. Rataczak told me that he tried to make contact with Tina years after the skyjacking, and when he couldn’t find her he successfully sought her “ex” through NWO channels. But in a kind of folie a deux, Tina’s ex-husband did not know who Bill was when he introduced himself, and the “ex” could not remember the name of Tina’s sister or her brother-in-law, Lee Dormuth, nor did he have their contact information, nor Tina’s.
Adding to the possibility that Tina suffered some kind of neurological or psychological trauma is FBI agent Russ Calame’s account of his phone interview with her while she was in the convent. In his book, DB Cooper—The Real McCoy, Calame states that at the beginning Tina’s voice was “crystal clear” and her grammar “immaculate.” But then something happened and her affect changed. Calame says that Tina giggled a couple of times about the spelling of her address. “Is Green Hill, one word or two?” Tina said. “I write so infrequently anymore I can’t seem to remember,” Calame reported.
More troubling, Calame also claims that Tina was unable to remember much about the skyjacking. Additionally, she was unable to remember the clip-on tie at all. These memory lapses thoroughly dismayed Calame. He became convinced that Tina would not be able to give credible testimony at trial if the skyjacker was ever adjudicated. In fact, Calame states specifically that Tina’s testimony “wouldn’t be necessary.”
Along those lines, in 2011 I asked Lee Dormuth if Tina was fragile. “Yeah,” he replied.
I continued. “Would she have another nervous breakdown if I talked with her?”
“Well, I don’t know,” he replied. “I really couldn’t say. We really have very little contact with her. I try to be very isolated from her.”
But Tina certainly has friends rallying to her defense, protecting her from the fearsome media stampede. In 2012, a woman named Leslie contacted Galen and identified herself as a friend of Tina from flight attendant school. Galen passed her phone number on to me and I called Leslie, too. “I knew Tina as a wonderful, sweet person,” Leslie told me. “That’s all I want to say.”
Leslie was a strange mix. On one hand she was courageous enough to speak with Galen and me, but after delivering her declaration of support she wanted to go. She clearly did not relish chatting with a newspaper reporter about an old friend. But I was able to get Leslie to answer one question before she hung up: why is Tina such an angry recluse?
“Maybe because people are constantly going after her for interviews,” she replied. “All I want to say is that people should respect her privacy, and I’m not going to say anything more.” She didn’t.
Even fellow Cooper sleuths were reluctant to talk. Jerry Thomas emailed me in 2011 to tell me that Tina was fine. In turn, I asked how he knew. He phoned to say that he had promised not to divulge how he knew—he just wanted me to know that Tina was okay. “Ya know, Jerry,” I chided, “evasive comments like that make you part of the mystery.”
“Well, then I guess I’m going to have to be part of the mystery.”
But Jerry is joined by Geoffrey Gray, who also emailed me at the same time to assure me that Tina was “okay.”
I asked him how he knew that, but he didn’t reply.
Nevertheless, Tina partially broke her thirty-year silence in 2012 and participated in a short interview for the “Happening People” column of the Eugene (Oregon) Weekly. Although she refused to discuss the skyjacking in any manner, freelancer Paul Neevel reported that Tina continued to fly for Northwest until her retirement in 1981, working primarily on flights to the Orient.
Paul told me that Tina seemed “put together” and gave him an excellent interview, discussing in detail her work at a mental health facility, the Laurel Hill Center in Eugene.
But Tina’s claims are in stark contrast with the information Galen and I have been able to gather, such as the reports that she left NWO to get married, then sought refuge in San Diego with her sister and brother-in-law when the marriage went south. Or even that she recuperated in a long-term health care facility in 1979, and then spent twelve years in a cloistered monastery.
Based with this background information I went looking for Tina and her people to obtain first-hand information.
Knowing that Tina’s religiosity is acute the logical first step was to contact the nuns. My initial phone call to the Carmel of Maria Regina Monastery in Eugene was met with a civil, but terse response. The woman I spoke with referred me to Sister Elizabeth Mary Saint Onge, who confirmed she was the “Mother Superior” and had been at the convent when Tina was a member.
Sister Elizabeth Mary was initially resistant to speaking with me. “I really don’t want to get involved,” she told me. But when I said I was calling because I was concerned about Tina’s well-being, Sister Elizabeth Mary relented. She confirmed that Tina had arrived at the convent in the spring of 1980 or possibly in 1979, and she stayed there until about 1991. Sister Elizabeth Mary said she was a little hazy on the exact dates, and declined to say where Tina went when she left the convent. Sister Elizabeth Mary also refused to discuss Tina’s mental state or any other specifics of Tina’s life at the convent. When I pushed, she cut me off.
Seeking more information, I traveled to the convent in January 2011. The monastery is an ecclesiastical retreat nestled in the woods overlooking Eugene, and it reminded me of a stylish mix of mountaineering cabin and sorority house. As members of the Discalced Carmelite tradition, the nuns live a monastic life and have no regular interaction with the outside world. Not surprisingly, the living quarters and grounds are surrounded by a tall wooden fence. However, the chapel is open to the public, and small rooms are located nearby where families can visit in private with their cloistered relatives.
When I arrived, I was nervous about encountering Mother Saint Onge in person, as I consider her to be One Tough Cookie. Nevertheless, I walked up a steep hill towards the convent and rang a buzzer outside the chapel entrance. I spoke with an older-sounding woman who said she would meet me in the tiny gift shop adjacent to the speaker box. Within a few moments the door opened, and I was invited inside by a diminutive woman about 70 years-old. She was dressed in typical nun garb—a blue and white habit, and a light blue dress with white trim. Despite the habit’s rim her face was unobstructed. “I’m Sister Teresa,” she said warmly, extending her hand in greeting.
We shook hands and I gave her my business card. She asked about the nature of my visit, and I told her I was investigating the DB Cooper story and was concerned about Tina.
“We don’t want to get involved with that,” she told me.
“Why not?” I replied.
“We’ve been stung too many times by the newspapers,” Sister Teresa said.
“Really? Which papers? I’ve never heard or read anything uncomplimentary about the convent. What did they say?”
“I don’t want to discuss any of that,” Sister Teresa countered.
In response, I launched into a soliloquy about Tina and her retreat from mainstream life. I told Sister Teresa I was concerned about Tina’s health, and added that I thought she had important information to share about Cooper. Silently, Sister Teresa thrust back my business card and began to move away. Passing beside me I could see a grimace on her face, as if she had a smoldering rage inside.
“Why are you so angry at me?” I asked her.
“I’m not angry,” Sister Teresa replied.
“Well, you look angry,” I countered.
“Well, you’re just seeing the face that God has given me.”
“But why are you angry at me?” I continued.
“I’m not angry,” she stated again, but with more emphasis.
“But you look angry,” I said, with my own elevated enunciation.
“That’s just the face God has giving me,” Sister Teresa insisted.
“Look, Sister Teresa,” I replied, “There is very little I know about the Bible, but one line I do know—and the one that I truly believe in is— ‘The truth shall make us free.’ I would add that the truth can make us whole, and in doing so will make us healthy, too. There are a lot of people in pain because of the DB Cooper case, in my judgment. A lot of people are afraid to talk. They’re anxious and appear intimidated. I’m not looking to ‘get’ anyone or make their lives more difficult. I’m just seeking the truth. I just want to know what’s going on.”
After a pause, I continued. “I came here looking for justice,” I said. “In fact, I came here seeking a partner in my effort to find justice.”
“I’m looking for justice, too,” Sister Teresa said, “and I’m going to return to it.”
“That sounds evasive, Sister,” I said.
“I’m going to return to my prayers,” Sister Teresa declared.
I nodded but continued, “I was hoping the monastery would partner with me in my search for justice.”
“We’re not looking for partners.”
I paused, and tried a new tack.
“Is Mother Saint Onge available?” I asked.
“Mother Saint Onge is on a personal retreat for ten days,” she replied.
Sister Teresa began walking away again and I knew we were done. “Thanks for your time and for listening to what I had to say,” I told her. She smiled wanly, and after shaking hands she left. I opened the gift shop door and departed.
I was getting used to this kind of rebuff from anyone in the Mucklow clan. The month prior I had traveled to Tina’s ancestral home in Philadelphia to see what I could learn from her relatives and friends. Newspaper accounts of the skyjacking have given researchers plenty of background on Tina and her roots in Pennsylvania.
Tina and her older sister Jane had attended a Lutheran boarding school called The Lankenau School for Girls, located in Germantown, PA, a working-class neighborhood of Philadelphia. In addition, there is a woman named Arlene Mucklow listed in the phone book near Tina’s family home town.
I called on Arlene, who described herself as Tina’s cousin “or something like that.” When I approached Arlene’s house it was just getting dark on a late December afternoon. The Christmas lights were on in the neighborhood and a gate blocked Arlene’s pathway from the street. I debated about opening it, then took a breath and passed through. As I neared the house, however, all the interior lights went off, along with her outdoor Christmas decorations. It was as if a power outage was triggered by my presence. But I was only a couple steps away from the door, so I continued. I knocked, and a Voice from inside called out, “Who is it?”
“Hi. My name is Bruce Smith and I’m a newspaper reporter doing a story on DB Cooper. I’m looking for information on Tina Mucklow and I was wondering if you were related.”
“She’s not here,” said the Voice.
“Is she okay? I hear she may not be well. She’s been in hiding for thirty years,” I replied.
“Oh, yeah, she’s fine.”
“That’s great to hear… Well, thanks for your time.”
I stepped back and prepared to go. As I turned, I saw a wooden plaque on the siding next to the door. It read: “No one gets to see the wizard. Not no one, not no way.”
I smiled. I knew I was in the right place. As I passed back through the gate, though, the Voice spoke again—through another door.
The door opened, and a woman about fifty approached me.
“Do you have a business card?” she called.
“Yeah, sure,” I replied.
The woman was surrounded by a pack of yapping dogs that leapt at me from their side of the fence, but I arched my arm high over the railings and Arlene took my card. “I’d love to talk with you,” I said. “Could I call you?
“Okay. Give me a piece of paper and I’ll write down my cell phone number.”
I passed her my notebook and she gave me the number. Later, once I had located a pizza joint and sidled into a cozy, worn booth, we were speaking on the phone. We talked cordially at first, but I soon learned Arlene was very misleading. She said that Tina had gone “on lots of vacations,” but was unable to tell me where. Later, I realized that Arlene had lied to me when she told me that Tina no longer lived in Oregon. Nevertheless, Arlene reassured me repeatedly that Tina was in great shape and fully recovered from the skyjacking, even though she doesn’t want to talk about it. After a few minutes I had begun to question Arlene’s Pollyanna bromides and pushed back, saying that others, such as FBI agent Russ Calame, are reporting that Tina is not in the best of shape—that she is withdrawn and very different. Arlene acknowledged the truth of my words and said, “I guess she was traumatized that night.”
After going in circles with Arlene for another five minutes, I changed my approach and starting talking about myself. I went into detail about how I had returned to New York for a few months to take care of my elderly mother. Arlene responded saying that Tina had come Back East for a period of time to take care of her father. “She’s one of the good people,” Arlene said. “Not too many people would do that.”
But Arlene stayed protective of Tina, and wouldn’t give me any more details about her, so I threw in the towel. I thanked Arlene for her time and hung up, then ordered a pizza and beer and wrote in my notes about a very busy day.
Earlier, I had roamed the campus of the former Lankenau School for Girls (LSG), now part of Philadelphia College. I was thrilled to walk the campus knowing that Tina Mucklow had trod the same paths, and I felt closer to knowing the truth of Tina. I was stunned into some kind of quiet wonder in the administration building when I learned it had been the dormitory for both the nuns and students at LSG. Nuns? I pondered. I didn’t know that the Lutherans had nuns, but then I didn’t know Lutheran gals carried bibles when they worked as flight attendants.
Baptists maybe, but Lutherans? So many quirks to this story.
But, perhaps my most important encounter in Philly was meeting Dr. Susan Eisenhower-Turner. Several months earlier, Galen and I had spotted an Internet posting on a blog linked to a Minneapolis newspaper that was touting Bill Rataczak’s retirement from Northwest Airlines. In the commentary section that followed, a woman named Susan Eisenhower-Turner asked if anyone had information on the whereabouts of her old friend and former classmate at the Lankenau School for Girls, Tina Mucklow.
I immediately responded to Eisenhower-Turner via the blog, but heard nothing. A Google search showed that a woman by the same name was a psychiatrist in the greater Philadelphia area. I hoped that Dr. E-T, as Galen and I began to call her, would partner with us in a joint therapeutic-journalistic effort to learn what had happened to Tina.
I sent a lengthy snail mail letter to Dr. E-T describing my concerns and inviting her to join with me in a Good Samaritan partnership. Again, I received no reply. But the good doctor had responded to a similar outreach from Galen. He said that Dr. E-T had told him Tina should be left alone because she is suffering from a “permanent trauma.”
Hearing that, I called Dr. E-T again. After leaving a couple of voice messages, I received one in return. Here is Dr. E-T’s response:
Hi Mr. Smith,
This is Dr. Eisenhower-Turner returning your call. You had called me in regards to Tina Mucklow.
I have no information, and my feeling, as I explained to Galen, is that if Tina wishes to be interviewed, she’ll contact you in all likelihood, and if she doesn’t, then perhaps we all need to respect her privacy.
Thanks so much, bye-bye.
But I wanted to learn more about the “permanent trauma” that Dr. E-T had revealed, even if we shared it off-the-record. In addition, I thought I could help Tina under the auspices that the “truth shall set us free.” In fact, I felt it would be irresponsible not to act. The key issue for me was how to intervene, and I felt the best approach was to act gently, contacting as many friends and family as I could, and hoping someone could buffer my movement through Tina’s emotional hot spots.
Despite her phone call, I went to Dr. E-T’s office, located in the psychiatric unit of a suburban general hospital. However, there was no receptionist to inform her that I would like a word, so I knocked directly on her office door. She opened it, and was clearly in the midst of a session. Dr. E-T stepped into the doorway, and I explained who I was and why I was there. I asked if there might be an appropriate time for us to speak together, even if not for publication. She looked miffed and simply said, “No.” She stepped back inside and closed the door. Dr. E-T has declined all further invitations from me to discuss Tina’s well-being.
Upon my return home to Washington, I continued my search for Tina. From my sources on the DZ I received information that Tina’s sister, Jane, and her husband were living near my home of Yelm, WA. In early 2011, I traveled to their residence.
Lee answered when I rang the doorbell. Besides being Tina’s brother-in-law, he is also a 31-year veteran of the FBI, and together with Jane they traveled to Reno on the night of the skyjacking to offer comfort to Tina. But he was not very welcoming to me, so I took the initiative. I explained who I was and my concern with Tina. I was surprised by his response: “I don’t want any part of it,” he said.
But, after hearing more of my worries about her social isolation and suffering from possible “permanent trauma,” Dormuth said that Tina was “fine,” even though he admitted their contact in recent years had been minimal. He also declined to explain why his sister-in-law was not talking about the skyjacking. However, he inadvertently revealed that he did have some contact with Tina.
First, he revealed he was aware of the Cooper-related mail Tina received, such as a registered letter from Galen.
Secondly, Dormuth told me that his wife had been “camped out” on the phone with Jo Weber the night before, allegedly to discuss my impending visit. Oddly, he described Jo as being “married to him.”
“Do you mean DB Cooper?” I asked.
He nodded in the affirmative.
Overall, Dormuth’s wary demeanor and cagey responses made Galen and I suspect that he was part of some kind of informal witness protection program for Tina—that family, friends, and perhaps even the nuns—were working hard to protect her by keeping guys like me at arm’s length. But why?
Sadly, I learned in 2015 that Lee Dormuth died of pulmonary disease. He was 74.
At the time of my last conversation with Dormuth in 2011, I was also involved in a flurry of conversations with Galen and many others seeking Tina’s whereabouts – all brought on by Geoffrey Gray’s dogged search for her. Jo Weber, too, was stirring the pot and had told me that Tina was living in northern Oregon. As a result, I began scouring the Internet and the phone books of metro Portland looking for Tina. Finally, I found Tina living in central Oregon. Since I don’t know what happened to her and have little way to gauge her frailties, I’ve joined with most researchers to keep her home and contact information confidential. However, Geoffrey Gray’s book mentions Tina’s hometown in Oregon, so I was concerned that the world would descend upon her when SKYJACK was released in mid-2011. In early August 2011, I knocked on her front door.
Tina was living in a cute and immaculately landscaped home when I spoke with her. It was a magical abode in an odd way—a glistening emerald in the midst of a dirty grey, run-down neighborhood filled with junked cars and children’s toys. Through the screen door I heard Enya on the stereo and saw an opened bottle of white wine sitting on a counter. When Tina answered my knock she appeared to be a content woman in her sixties. However, her demeanor changed dramatically when I identified myself as a journalist. She closed the front door straightaway, saying, “You need to leave now.” Her voice sliced the air with an icy rage.
I pleaded to talk with her—even off the record, and through the now-closed door I called out: “Arlene says we have a lot in common. I take care of my mother in New York the same way you took care of your father.”
The door stayed closed.
I retreated to my vehicle parked at the curb. Frankly, I was angry that Tina and her family kept slamming doors in my face. In fact, as I wrote my notes, Tina came back to her front door and slammed it twice more, finally locking the deadbolt with emphasis. Nevertheless, I was the first reporter since Richard Tosaw in 1982 to speak directly to Tina, even if she only said five words.
I empathize with Tina’s plight, but I am frustrated with her. She is clearly a wounded woman who is super-quick to anger. Yet, I believe she has an obligation to discuss the skyjacking―more than just talking before the HC cameras―but participating in an earnest investigation. As the primary witness, I feel she has a duty to seek justice, and I want her to share my belief that honesty and competence are honored in society. I hope she won’t tolerate the FBI’s bungling, and that whatever the truth of DB Cooper is, we’ll summon the strength to pursue it.
Despite the scathing remarks I have received online and elsewhere about my pursuit of Tina, I believe that I am a fair-minded journalist. I wasn’t a creep sticking a microphone in her face or taking pictures of her from behind the bushes. How could I be any gentler and more respectful in my approach?
Regardless, HC’s assistant producer Allison Berg, was able to convince Tina to appear in the documentary. When I asked Allison how she accomplished this feat, she said she simply had written Tina and gave her a detailed explanation of the purpose of the documentary, namely to deliver a substantive retrospective that would be the definitive telling of the Norjak story.
Okay, so Ms. Berg’s ‘nice’ is nicer than my nice, but I think something more persuasive was at work. What that might have been is speculative, but Tina’s memory issues were never discussed nor explained in the HC telecast. Nor was anyone else invited to participate in the interview.
Perhaps one day Tina will address the issues of her memory and silence.