By Bruce A. Smith
Larry Carr was the DB Cooper case agent from 2007-2010, and is perhaps the best-known case agent in the history of Norjak – the FBI’s designation for the Cooper investigation.
During his tenure, Carr was instrumental in advancing the case in many ways, such as establishing the Citizen Sleuths Team in 2009 and joining a chat room on Cooper, known as the DropZone, to publicize the FBI’s findings. In addition, he released information about the evidence that had been unknown to the public prior, such as revealing the existence of a clip-on tie and clasp thought to be left behind by the skyjacker.
Carr was also media savvy, and relished his many appearances before TV news cameras, most famously touting that DB Cooper was a tumbling, bumbling fool who nearly froze to death on the aft stairs as he exited his 727 jetliner, and was too immobilized or too incompetent to successfully skydive to safety.
After his promotion to FBI HQ in Washington, D.C. in 2010, Carr was mostly absent from Norjak. But he returned to the FBI’s Seattle division recently, and tip-toed back into Cooper conversation, most notably on the Facebook Group page on DB Cooper, and in 2022 appearing on Darren Schaefer’s podcast: The Cooper Vortex.
On the Vortex broadcast, Larry mentioned that I had unfairly characterized the FBI in my work on Cooper, and I reached out to him to seek an interview and learn what I had gotten wrong about the Bureau’s treatment of Norjak. Carr replied favorably and informed me that he would be happy to chat with me once his retirement from the FBI was finalized in May, 2022. Hence, we spoke several weeks later.
Note: some of the exact dialogue or wording has been changed for the sake of clarity.
BAS – So, what did I get wrong about the FBI, Larry? Can you tell me what I’ve written that is incorrect or misleading?
LC – It’s not your writing, so much. In fact, I haven’t read your book. It’s your videos and what you say in your public addresses. You’re anti-FBI and anti-law enforcement.
BAS – I’m not anti-FBI, Larry. I’ve publicly stated that we need the cops to keep us safe. What I am “anti” about is lousy police work, and the FBI has lost much of the critical evidence in the Cooper case, such as the cigarette butts.
LC – But you’re highly critical of the FBI in your videos, and the FBI was extremely thorough in its Norjak investigation. Remember, the FBI has solved 99% of the other skyjackings that have occurred in this country.
Larry and I bantered over my portrayal of the FBI without resolve. Eventually Larry spoke with finality:
LC – DB Cooper died the night he jumped. The trail of clues end when he leaves the plane.
With that kind of pronouncement, I decided to move the discussion in a new direction.
BAS – Can you tell me how Geoffrey Gray got his unprecedented access to you and the Norjak files?
LC – He asked. He wrote to me asking for access, and described that he wanted to write a book that was based on facts and wouldn’t tout a suspect or any theory. He convinced me that he would do a worthy job.
BAS – Why not me, though? Why did Geoffrey get access that others like me were denied?
LC – I didn’t believe your motives were legit. I thought you were only out to trash the FBI.
Sensing I was hitting a familiar roadblock, I opted to change the conversation.
BAS – Can you tell me how the Citizen Sleuths came into being?
LC – Well, I didn’t want to tax the lab, (The FBI’s National Crime Lab in DC.) I talked to Tom Kaye, and I thought it was a good way to go.
BAS – What role did Jerry Warner play in the development of the Citizen Sleuths?
LC – Who?
BAS – Jerry Warner. Jerry has told me that you reached out to him, before Tom Kaye, and in fact he says that he recommended that you ask Tom to head up the Citizen Sleuths.”
LC – Who’s this guy, Jerry…?
BAS – Jerry Warner. You might know him as “Georger” on the DropZone or the DB Cooper Forum.
LC – Nope. Don’t know him.
BAS – Okay. How about Jeremy Blauser? Can you tell me how he got involved in the Cooper investigation?
LC – Who?
BAS – Jeremy Blauser. He was an agent out of the Los Angeles office who interviewed Pat Forman about her writings on Barb Dayton. When I talked with you in 2008 you told me that Jeremy Blauser was assisting you in your Cooper investigation.
LC – Well, he must have been a Seattle agent if he was working on Cooper.
BAS – I called the LA office at the number listed on the business card that Blauser gave to Pat Forman, and the LA people said Blauser was based in their office, but was currently on assignment elsewhere and they couldn’t reveal where.
LC – He must have been assigned to the Seattle Division. That’s all I can say.
BAS – How about Charlie Farrell? Did you ever read his 300-page manuscript that he wrote about his work on Norjak?
LC – I don’t know anything about him, and no, I haven’t read his manuscript.
BAS – Ever talk to him?
LC – No. I never talked with him.
Note: Charlie Farrell was the initial case agent in Norjak, leading the investigation from 1971 until his retirement in 1977. Geoffrey Gray discussed Farrell and his manuscript in detail at the Cooper Symposium in Portland in 2011.
BAS – How about other case agents? Have you consulted with any of them?
LC – Yes, I’ve spoken with Ralph Hope at length. Ralph Hope tried to find the cigarette butts in about 2002 or 2003. He sent formal queries down to Las Vegas, as I did later, informally.
BAS – Is this what you were talking about on the DropZone when you mentioned that the butts had been processed in 2003?
LC – No. The cigarette butts had been processed, but that was back in early 1972. Whatever you read at the DropZone was some kind of mis-communication there.
BAS – What can you tell me about the fingerprints? Galen Cook has told me that you’ve told him that the Bureau has a good print of Cooper’s – a thumb print – and it was recovered by a Seattle team the day after the Reno crew did their work.
LC – Well… I … umm. As far as I know the Bureau got 41 prints down in Reno. I may be wrong on that exact number, and there are no good prints of DB Cooper that I am aware of.
BAS – Didn’t a team from Seattle get a good print on Thanksgiving Day, when the plane came into Boeing Field for repairs? I thought I ‘ve read about that recovery in a 302.
LC – A Seattle-based search? I’m not aware of any. That would’ve been highly unusual. I don’t think it happened, but if it’s in a 302, then it probably happened.
BAS – How about the shards from Tina Bar that were recovered by Himmelsbach’s team in 1980. The PIO for the dig, Dorwin Schroeder, told me they retrieved about 6-8 large shards – big enough to read the serial numbers – underneath the area where the three bundles had been found earlier by the kid. Have you seen those shards? A TV film crew videoed Schroeder and his team placing those fragments into Plasticine evidence envelopes, but no one has seen them since, apparently. Certainly not the Citizen Sleuths when they went through the evidence back in 2009 and 2010.
LC – I never saw those shards. There were plenty of smaller pieces, and they were stored in small plastic boxes. But these larger shards – not only have I not seen them, there is no documentation of them existing. But you say there is video of them being bagged, I’d love to see it. Can you send me a link?
BAS – How about the hair follicles? I understand they are missing, too, along with the cigarette butts.
LC – Yes, they were sent to the lab, and the lab claimed they were sent back to Las Vegas. Ralph Hope chased them down, and he thought it might have been mis-directed to the Los Angeles Division, but that was not the case. I don’t see Las Vegas getting rid of them, though. Nor the cigarette butts. I see the possibility of Las Vegas destroying the hair samples as being very far-fetched. Maybe not the butts so much, but definitely the hair samples. Instead, I think the hair – and possibly the cigarette butts – came back from the lab and were placed into “1-A Evidence.” It’s how all evidence is tagged when it comes into an office. I think the hair came in and got designated at 1-A, but was not attached to any outstanding DB Cooper case file. So, I think the hair is still down in Las Vegas. I went through every 1-A file here in the Seattle Division basement and didn’t find anything. But I think the hair – and maybe the butts – are down in a Las Vegas Division basement, somewhere.”
BAS – How about Al Di? Any idea who he might be?
LC – Who?”
BAS – Al Di, the guy who decoded the letter signed by DB Cooper that is generally called ‘Letter Number 3.’ Al DI made a stir in August 2011 by conclusively showing that this letter was a cut and paste job using pages from two different 1970 Playboy magazines. Some people say that Al Di was Norjak agent Curtis Eng doing an end-around the Bureau for unknown reasons.
LC – Eng? That’s ridiculous. I know Curtis Eng and he would never do anything like that. As for the letters, I think it’s simply the work of trolls – remember there were a lot of letters sent to the FBI signed by DB Cooper – but I think it’s really a statement about the collectors of this kind of trivia.
BAS – What about Lynn Doyle Cooper? Curtis Eng thought it was the Bureau’s ‘most promising suspect’ as of 2011.
LC – I talked with Curtis about this after I had gotten to DC. There was nothing there, and it wasn’t any more legitimate than Duane Weber.
BAS – How about the Amboy chute? Can you tell me where it was found, exactly, and by whom?
LC – I’ve long-forgotten the name of the guy who found it, but I can tell you that his house is located exactly on the line of the most probable landing zone for DB Cooper. The guy who found it doesn’t want to be known, and the chute was found in a trash pile. It wasn’t buried; it was just mixed-in with years’ worth of garbage the previous owner had thrown out, and this guy was trying to clean up his property.
BAS – Speaking of chutes, what can you tell me about the true role of Earl Cossey in the Norjak investigation?
LC – DB Cooper was 100% a no-pull. As for Cossey, he was not a major player in the Cooper case…. I never got involved in his murder, and I can’t imagine how it could be connected to the Cooper investigation. Frankly, I can’t give you any insight into the matter.
BAS – Regarding the chutes, what do you make of the recent release of a 302 conclusively showing that a second Pioneer/Steinthal back chute packing card was found in Reno the night of. Doesn’t prove that Cossey was wrong about the NB-6, and that Norman Hayden was correct in claiming that he gave Northwest Orient two identical back chutes since we have proof of the second Pioneer/Steinthal packing card?
LC – I haven’t seen that particular 302; can you send me a link to it? But what you are saying runs counter to the previously released 302s, which support the idea of two different back chutes – one tan and one sage-green. Remember, Earl played with journalists. He was a very interesting, um, character.
BAS – Did you ever talk to any of the old hands – the guys who worked the case since the beginning and are still around – like John Detlor and Bob Fuhriman?
LC – I’ve gone to a couple of retired-agent parties, but I haven’t had any in-depth conversations with the ‘old hands’ as you say. There was nothing more they could tell me, as I had everything I needed.
BAS – Tina? Ever talk to her? She’s getting her own movie soon.
LC – No, I’ve never talked with Tina, nor have I heard anything about the movie.
BAS – What can you tell me about the money stored at SeaFirst bank? Who arranged that, and when?
LC – The money was not pre-set. The banks took it upon themselves to have a stash available for ransom demands. 100%. The banks pre-staged everything. I never saw a 302 saying the FBI pre-staged money for ransoms, so please send me a link if you have seen any documentation on other scenarios.
BAS – What do you think of the upcoming Netflix special on DB Cooper?”
LC – I’m aware of it. Eric has told me about it.
BAS – Do you follow the Cooper case?
LC – I’m certainly interested.
BAS – How’s retirement?
LC – Good. If I had the money, I’d be playing golf every day. But I’m not that rich. I coach a lot, though. Volleyball, and track and field at the high school level, or for local club teams. My girls got volleyball scholarships, of which I am proud. When I went to Florida State I was on the track and field team, competing in the pole vault, long jump and the high hurdles.
Bruce A. Smith