*I did a shorter profile of LD Cooper based on what I could learn about him from the popular press. More information is now available to us since Marla Cooper published a “raw” and “unedited” version of her book about her uncle’s possible connection to the DB Cooper hijacking. She did this to coincide with the History Channel’s documentary on the case.*
The story of LD Cooper exploded on the media like a fireworks show and disappeared just as quickly. Media fawned over Marla Cooper, a photogenic forty-something, when she announced that her uncle Lynn Doyle Cooper was the real DB Cooper. Rumors persisted that her story was so convincing the FBI might even close the book on Dan Cooper. LD was the “most promising” suspect ever in the case. Details were difficult to come by until recently when Marla published a book about her uncle’s connections to Norjak.
Lynn Doyle Cooper was a surveyor in Washington state who served in the Korean War. His brother once worked for Boeing and might have picked up knowledge about the 727 there. Marla claimed the two conspired to commit the hijacking, using handheld radios to meet up after LD jumped out of N467US. Marla further remembers seeing her two uncles on Thanksgiving Day in 1971. The two arrived in a car; LD was badly hurt and covered in blood. Marla stated her two uncles later went to the home of a fourth brother who took the two in. One of Marla’s cousins later confirmed LD was badly hurt. In the days and weeks after the hijacking, her uncles scoured the woods searching for the lost money, but never found a single twenty. The Radio ended up in the junk drawer, and the whole episode was lost to time. At least until Marla’s father talked about the events just before he died, rekindling the whole affair.
Marla brought her story to the attention to the FBI and SA Curtis Eng. This is where the story gets interesting. Eng is infamous for being an unemotive and impatient statue when dealing with people and their crazy DB Cooper theories. Something about Marla’s story caught his attention. When Marla talked about how her uncle had lost the money in the jump, Eng got very excited. Apparently Eng was sick of hearing stories about genius Cooper suspects planting money on Tena Bar to fool those meatheads at the FBI. So Eng pursued the matter, giving Marla an extensive polygraph exam, which she passed. The FBI later tested DNA and looked for LD’s fingerprints to check against the evidence collected from the airplane at Reno. The DNA produced no match, the fingerprint analysis came up with nothing, and no physical link was ever made between LD and Norjak.
Taken at face value, the story is interesting but it’s no more compelling than any of the other stories about Cooper suspects from people like Jo Weber. The forty-year-old memories of a then eight-year-old girl about her uncle being hurt on Thanksgiving day ain’t exactly what I’d call… promising… It’s actually pretty thin. We can take all of Marla’s memories as Gospel truth, and it still doesn’t warrant the investment Eng made. Other than Marla’s recollections of the night she saw her uncle LD badly injured, she makes zero connections to Norjak.
Why isn’t LD Cooper DB Cooper? First, LD Cooper’s military record did not include any parachute training that we know of, and LD Cooper otherwise had no experience parachuting or skydiving. Marla suggests LD’s military records are incomplete, or fabricated. Regardless, no one can put LD in a parachute harness.
Some of LD’s DNA was tested against the tie, and no match was found (from Marla’s book, it sounds like they tested LD’s daughter and mother; having the mother tested would allow them to look only at LD’s DNA). At least one fingerprint of LD’s was tested against the samples taken from the aircraft, again to no success.
And of course, LD did not work with titanium. Nor did his brother, who Marla claims loaned the tie to LD. Marla even produced a photograph of her uncle wearing a skinny black tie with a tie tack that looks like the tie tack from DB Cooper’s tie. But, the tie tack looks like it was inserted from the right (opposite of DB Cooper) and the photo is from 1964. The tie was available in 1964, but according to Marla her uncles were all blue collar guys who didn’t wear ties very often. Funerals and weddings, basically. None of them would have been wearing the tie often enough (or any tie often enough) to put the density of particles Kaye found on DB Cooper’s tie.
Once again, for the story to work the tie must have been purchased at a thrift store, sometime very soon before the hijacking. Just like all the other suspects. There are more problems. The Cooper brothers were all hard-drinking men, borderline alcoholics. I doubt, based on Marla’s description of their behavior, that any of them could hijack an aircraft and not drink. DB Cooper ordered one drink, and spilled about half of it. One drink, over six hours. Not the behavior one would expect from a heavy drinker.
Eng is quoted by Marla as saying LD had “the background for this hijacking.” Which is odd, since LD didn’t have any first-hand knowledge of aviation. It’s possible his brother Dewey, who worked at Boeing on the 727s, might have known about the rear-stairs being a good skydiving platform, or about the indent-flap settings. But overall, the stuff DB Cooper knew about the 727 exceeded what we’d expect LD Cooper to know.
Marla is adamant about her recollections, but they are the recollections of an eight-year-old girl. I’m sure her uncle LD was hurt at some point (my guess would be a DUI-related car accident) and at some point was being driven around by her other uncle. I wouldn’t be shocked if they did search for Cooper and his money. But nothing about her story matches the description of DB Cooper as an “executive type” patiently waiting for hours to jump out of an airplane, sipping a single order of bourbon.