by Bruce A. Smith
Editor’s Note: Iconic DB Cooper researcher Jo Weber has died. Full details of her passing are unknown at this time, but she had entered a long-term healthcare facility in Pensacola, Florida in 2020. Nevertheless, Jo was a featured participant in the 2020 HBO broadcast titled, “The Mysteries of DB Cooper.”
Jo Weber drove me crazy. She’d call me at all hours of the day or night and talk incessantly. I learned to put her on a time-limit, and in the last year of our relationship – two years before she passed away in February 2021 – I would tell her I “had to go in five minutes,” and when that mark was exceeded, I’d say, “Jo, I really have got to go,” and just hang up the phone.
But now she’s gone, and I feel like I’ve lost a member of the family, a sister even. She was part of our little family of Cooper researchers, and I had known Jo as long as I had known anyone in the Cooper firmament. I first encountered her at the DZ in 2008, where I first met all of the other notables of Cooper World – Snowmman, 377, Ckret, Georger, Sluggo, JT, Galen. From 2008 until the DZ’s close in 2014, Jo and I traded barbs daily, often many times a day.
But tonight, I feel sad. Teary even, and I’m surprised. Jo’s specialty was getting under your skin, and I guess she got under mine in ways I never knew until now.
For those who might have known the “old Jo” – for she faded in the past few years as her health declined and she ended up in a memory care facility in Pensacola in 2020 – the old gal was a fire ball. At the DZ she posted 2-3,000 words a day on why her husband Duane Weber was DB Cooper, or how the FBI was impeding her latest evidentiary quest, or telling us all about a newly remembered tidbit of Duane’s life that just happened to fit neatly into the latest finding or hypothesis in the Norjak case. Ever the saint, 377 would kindly explain to Jo why her latest gambit was flawed. The rest of us just smirked at the two of them because we knew it was all a grand dance.
When the DZ reopened in 2017, Jo went back at it, although I never visited due to the ugliness of the site. Jo was eventually banned at the new and improved chat room – The DB Cooper Forum – by its moderator Shutter, for reasons that I can’t remember at the moment. But Jo was always contentious and accusative, insane at times and silly at others, but always real – like bad weather or a flat tire. As a result, Shutter probably didn’t have the patience for Jo’s daily assaults and whining. Her laments about her computers and Internet service were constant, yet she never seemed to find a technician who could get her back in the saddle. Of note, Jo was never able to post a single photo in all of her time on the Internet.
But she was utterly intriguing, as well. She was smart and well informed. She knew everyone in the Cooper story, and developed access to folks that I didn’t have, even with Snowmman’s assistance, like Jane Mucklow Dormuth. Jo was one of the first to find Tina at the end of her 30-year silence, and she talked with super-warrior and SOG vet Billy Waugh before I even knew about him or his elite commandos. When I finally spoke with Sgt Billy, he told me that he hoped I “wasn’t like that Jo Weber person – she’s totally crazy.” Sgt Waugh has seven Purple Hearts from Korea and Vietnam, so he should know crazy when he sees it.
In addition, Jo knew much about the dark shadows of Norjak, such as MK-Ultra. She even knew about JM Wave, which was a CIA command center that I didn’t even know existed even though it is reportedly the largest intelligence installation in the United States. Of course, she knew about it because Duane had worked there, or so she said.
Or someone had told her, for I often felt that Jo Weber was someone else’s eyes and ears – feeding Jo juicy facts about Norjak and secret government activities to keep track of what the rest of us were doing in our Cooper investigations.
Along those lines, Jo could weasel her way into any conversation about anything. Half of what she said was bull, but half wasn’t, and that’s what made her so attractive – ya just had to find out what was true.
She was persuasive, and after she gave Ralph Himmelsbach the full Jo Weber treatment, the venerable old FBI agent claimed Duane Weber was one of the best DB Cooper suspects he had ever encountered. Jo even charmed the pants off Brian Pasternak of US News and World Report, who similarly touted Duane as Cooper in his internationally acclaimed magazine. When I called Pasternak to discuss Jo, he declined, saying that he didn’t want to jeopardize his new position as communications director for the US Senate Committee on Science and Technology. DBC and Jo had some powerful influences in unexpected places.
On a personal level, Jo was amusing and annoying. I traveled with her through Cooper Country for a couple of days, exploring her most recent memories of Duane and their travels through Oregon and southwestern Washington in 1979. Our day started by my waiting for twenty minutes in her hotel room as she put on make-up, and then she almost got us killed driving her rental SUV three blocks to a diner on Mill Plain Road in Vancouver. After that, I did all the driving. Jo did most of the talking. Sigh.
Physically, Jo was diminutive – about 5’2” and skinny as hell. Maybe 90 pounds. She ate like a picky bird and had numerous digestive disorders, such as Crone’s disease. She gave waitresses fits with her food orders – can’t have this and put that on the side, etc. At the Red Lion in Vancouver, I almost reached across the table to give her a royal head slap and ensure she apologized to the waiter for her incessantly rude requests. At moments like that, she as the worst kind of entitled bitch.
But she always had something to say, and there was never really a dull moment when one was around Jo Weber. That said, I’m glad that no one took her loud rantings seriously in 2013 when she accused me of murdering Earl Cossey. Knowing the King Country Sheriff’s Office, I’m glad I never got arrested, but I sure miss the hell out of Jo tonight now that she’s gone.
Rest in Peace, Jo, and I probably don’t have to tell ya to keep kicking ass, wherever you are.