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DB Cooper: FBI Vault

TJC continues to get hundreds and hundreds of pages of FBI documents on the DB Cooper case released through a tenacious use of FOIA requests, all can be found here:

https://dbcooper.com/fbi-vault/

DB Cooper Podcast

I made an appearance on the GravityBeard podcast talking about DB Cooper (and a brief peak at my political eccentricities).

Part of the interview was my response to D. Godsey’s appearance on the same podcast a few months ago.

D.B Cooper’s Tie (Again)

I got a great comment on the last post and wanted to dedicate a post to answering it as it covers a lot of topics pertinent to the Cooper case.

*I finally read your book a (couple of months ago) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would strongly recommend it to anyone. By the way, it is an excellent value at only $9.99.

Shameless book plug

*The biggest takeaway I get from your work is your optimism that we are closer to solving NORJAK than ever before. With the digitization and databasing of Census, dead S.S. #’s and military/enlistment records this is entirely possible and gives all Cooperites hope.

You made a very good case that Dan LeClair was Cooper but I must ask for some clarification.

You give many good reasons why this is so but it seems that your main and most compelling reason is LeClair’s job description as described by Clara. Now I know the raw titanium on Cooper’s had to come from someplace but is industrial chemical salesman/manager synonymous with titanium? Especially in 1971? Ashford’s Dictionary of Industrial Chemicals lists over 9,000 such chemicals. Marty, you seem to like probability theory. What do think would be the probability that a industrial chemical salesman in 1971 would be selling product that contains titanium? My guess is pretty low, I am not trying to be critical, but I think Clara’s description is too vague to make a strong connection.*

In Max Gunther’s book, “Clara” gives a description of Dan LeClair (who she claims is DB Cooper) as working in the chemical industry. LeClair started as a salesman, and over a career spanning nearly two decades, he moved up from sales to middle management and finally landed a lower level executive position (probably an account manager). So you’re presenting me with a strawman.

Here is what Tom Kaye has to say about the titanium: “Chemical plants used pure titanium and other corrosion resistant metals. Pure titanium and 5000 series aluminum found on the tie have high anti-corrosive properties. In 1971 the most common place these two metals were found together would be chemical plants or the metal fabrication facility that built the components for the plant.” Thus, it’s perfectly plausible a middle manager in a chemical plant would encounter these anti-corrosive metals at some point while walking the shop floor. In all likelihood, a chemical factory would machine parts and do simple repairs to their equipment and this would be the source for the titanium and the 5000 series aluminum. The tie was sold sometime in the late 1960’s, and was worn very often. It had ample opportunity to be exposed to all sorts of stuff, including some of the unusual chemicals found by the McCrone group (which we’ll get to in a bit).

*I recently discussed your book with my son-In-law who has a PhD in Medical Physics from Duke. At one point, I asked him what industries were using titanium (besides aerospace, metallurgy and industrial chemicals) in 1971. His immediate response was “prosthetics” I don’t know if the Kaye group explored the prosthetics industry but I did find a business that may be of interest to some. T. I. Medical is a medical/prosthetics company headquartered in Rockaway N.J. The first line on their home page proudly proclaims them to be “providing the world with titanium products since 1972”. This is pretty close to the Cooper timeline don’t you think? In 1971, they could be conducting product testing & development. Also of interest is the fact that they have a service/sales office in St. Laurent, Quebec (Cooper was French-Canadian). Just saying.*

It would be very unlikely that unalloyed titanium was being used for this application (anyone who knows for sure, please comment), and some of the other chemicals like yttrium and the CRT phosphors would not be found in a prosthetics lab.

*On another matter, I am confused by the McCrone Group findings. Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t they initially say that the tie contained particles synonymous with the production of CRT tubes? I seem to remember that they found 23 out of 26 materials found in CRT production on the tie. Recently, the tie emphasis is with the raw titanium and other rare metals. What am I missing? Did Cooper work in both industries? Could he have worked at one place and been exposed to both groups of particles at the same time or did he work in each industry at separate times but still wore the same tie?*

Tom Kaye appeared on the DB Cooper forum and responded to a similar reaction I had to the sudden shift in his thinking by saying both findings are valid, there was titanium and other metallic particles, and there were chemicals from CRT production on the tie. So did Cooper work in both industries? Did he move from one company to another? We can’t be sure.

Here is my opinion: CRT production is where a person could be exposed to yttrium and some of the phosphors the McCrone lab found. However, there are videos showing how these chemicals were used in CRT production, and the people most likely to be exposed to them would be in full coveralls with masks. Not a likely source for yttrium on a tie. Thanks to the number and variety of chemicals found on the tie, there are more than a few places where families of chemicals could have been picked up. The problem seems to be the number of chemicals found, there are a large variety of chemicals. Steel production has also be mentioned as a vector, as has dentistry. In my mind, the most likely place to be exposed to a wide variety of industrial chemicals AND the anti-corrosive metallic particles is in the chemical industry. A long career with several different companies and different jobs within those companies helps a lot.

Clara’s description of “Dan LeClair” background fits. He started in a sales position for a chemical company on the East Coast (at some point moving away until returning to New York area before absconding). Starting in sales, LeClair worked his way into middle management before ending up in an executive spot (again, guessing an account executive). He was then laid off, and was hired at another chemical company before also getting laid off and finding himself at a third, much smaller company. If LeClair had worn the same tie for the last five or so years of his career, it seems to me ample opportunity to be exposed to the wide swath of chemicals and metals found on the tie. This is just my opinion. As I’ve presented my research it seems like everyone disagrees with me so I have to accept the possibility that I’m wrong.

Something I talked about in my book, I believe a suspect should emerge from the evidence, not the other way around. We should not focus on one aspect of the evidence, search for a suspect that is a best fit, then suggest that individual was D.B. Cooper. You will get a lot of false positives. It is likely that every place where a person could have been exposed to CRT phosphors or unalloyed titanium or stainless steel or spiral aluminum will have someone of the right age and look to match D.B. Cooper, and a background that includes military service or skydiving. This is “suspect mining” and it does more harm than good.

The tie analysis is good because it happened only recently, so it can be retroactively used against previous stories and suspects. Which is what I have done over the last few years, and the Gunther story emerged as a possibility and I pursued it from there.

What if I’m wrong about Gunther? Doesn’t that mean I have to go “suspect mining”? The short answer is “no.” There has to be some kind of story or rational suspicion relating to any suspect before an investigation. This is why media coverage will be very valuable and why the Kaye/McCrone findings need to be broadcast to the world at large. In all likelihood, the family of the real D.B. Cooper has no idea their relative was the hijacker, but if they hear that Cooper was a manager or engineer in a certain field, be it CRT or industrial chemical or whatever, and they remember their relative having an injury during Thanksgiving of 1971 (or some other “hit” with the case is realized), they will hopefully be compelled to share their story. That will be the key to solving the case.

*One last thing. Could you give some clarification about the paper bag Cooper carried onto the plane. The FOIA information gives the dimensions of this bag as being 4″X12″x14″ (this would be too big to be the green bag you described in your book). These dimensions are very close to the size of your standard paper bag you get at the grocery store. One of the biggest paradox of this case Is why Cooper make the jump wearing loafers. Hiking boots could easily have been concealed in a grocery bag. Again, just saying. Thanks to everyone who has read this! The answers to my questions are probably easy to answer. I just don’t know what they are.*

There are several different descriptions of this mysterious bag. One of the passengers described it as a yellowish burlap about the size of the briefcase. Tina thought it was a green paper bag. The size varies. I believe SA Larry Carr suggested it was just a small bag from a bakery while on the DropZone forum. Regardless, the bag must have been inside Cooper’s jacket or inside his briefcase since he wasn’t seen with it until he was on the plane. It is very unlikely he had a spare set of shoes with him since those couldn’t fit inside the briefcase with the bomb. I know Clara from Gunther’s book believes LeClair brought the bag specifically for carrying the money, we can’t be sure of her story. I do speculate on this topic in my book but all the conflicting information that has come to light since the recent dump of FBI files from the case makes me hesitant to come to any solid conclusions about the bag.

As for the Loafers, this tidbit comes from the second Tina Mucklow debrief done about a week after the hijacking. We have no reason not to believe her, but several other Cooper investigators on the Cooper forum recalled there were other descriptions of Cooper’s footwear. I went looking, but couldn’t find them from the FBI witness documents I have. I’ll do some more digging, but in the end I’m not overly concerned with Cooper’s footwear. If he lost his shoes, he lost his shoes. It would have very little impact on his survival.

Thanks for the great comment.

DB Cooper: Things We Know Didn’t Happen

The Cooper Caper breeds a lot of idle speculation, some of it is interesting but most of these theories end up being a real drag on those of us who know the case. So here are three theories regarding DB Cooper that need to die.

  • ”There Was No DB Cooper”  –This particular theory suggests the flight crew invented the entire story, stealing $200,000 from their own company (technically, the company was on the hook for only 20% of the ransom). Cooper was invented, and after the flight left Seattle, the crew divided the money and kept it for themselves. I’ve heard this dreck more than once now on various forums, and it deserves to die. The flight crew weren’t the only people to encounter Cooper. A ticket agent, and boarding gate agent, and several passengers all saw Cooper. The flight recorder showed a pressure bump when Cooper jumped, which could not be faked. The hijacking really happened.
  • ”Cooper Hid Inside the Plane” –When N567US landed in Las Vegas, no sign of Cooper was found on the aircraft. Some believe there are spaces on the plane Cooper could have accessed to hide himself from the FBI. And perhaps there were a few places the FBI and the maintenance crews missed… this is conceivable. However, the pressure bump was confirmed with instruments on the aircraft. Those could not be faked. Cooper jumped. This also means Cooper jumped somewhere near where the FBI believes he jumped, so you can also throw out theories involving Cooper jumping near Las Vegas.
  • ”The Money Was Planted at Tina Bar” –This theory will persist forever, or at least until the case is solved. In fact, I once believed it was impossible for three bundles to end up together on a random sandbar along the Columbia River. However, after years of examining the evidence, it is clear the money arrived at Tina Bar by natural means. The bills were exposed to the elements for a very long period of time. There is no way the money was buried on Tina Bar in late 1979 in order to fool the FBI into believing Cooper died in the jump.

DB Cooper Podcast

Busy with real life, but I thought I’d share this podcast on DB Cooper from the guys at Confluence of Events. Unfortunately, the guys make several factual errors about the case and don’t go into a lot of depth, but they’re entertaining.

D.B. Cooper Notes: March 2017

Slow month in the Cooper world. Nothing earth-shattering.

  • For those interested, TJC (Co-author of The Last Master Outlaw) has been releasing hundreds of pages of FBI documents received through FOIA requests. According to rumors, there may be many hundreds of pages more coming soon.
  • It looks like there is a small chance some of the CRT-related particles found by the McCrone group analysis could be linked to specific CRT tubes.
  • The DB Cooper Forum has been pretty quiet, a lot of focus lately has been on the Dan Cooper comic books. The comic was translated into several other languages from the original French. The problem still remains: finding a group of people who are bilingual and have no accent. French-Canadian is still the big favorite. What’s being ignored is the fact the Dan Cooper connection is tenuous. Dan Cooper is such a common name, it’s very possible it was just an alias picked at random for being remarkably unmemorable.
  • I’ll be going through the FBI files for some time, and I’ll be sending in my own FOIA request for FBI files relating to Max Gunther’s role in the Cooper case. I’ll keep everyone posted.

Redesigning Scientific Literature

Scientific literature has a traditional style and format, which evolved over many years and likely has its merits, but this no longer reflects how people read these papers:

“I start by reading the abstract. Then, I skim the introduction and flip through the article to look at the figures. I try to identify the most prominent one or two figures, and I really make sure I understand what’s going on in them. Then, I read the conclusion/summary. Only when I have done that will I go back into the technical details to clarify any questions I might have.”

– Jesse Shanahan, master’s candidate in astronomy at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut

Shanahan’s habit reflects nicely the theme from most of the people quoted in the story linked above. As it turns out, few people—especially the target audience of professional researchers—read a study the way it’s presented, which means the presentation is wrong. Scientists, researchers, academics and intellectuals now have to deal with a flood of papers as human knowledge expands. The outline of these papers should reflect this reality.

Here is how a standard paper is organized:

Abstract
Introduction
Materials and Methods
Results
Discussion
References
Acknowledgments

It should be an easy task to rearrange the sections of a scientific paper in such a way as to match the needs of the primary readership. The first change that’s required is very easy: Don’t bury the lede, the conclusions of the paper should not be buried somewhere in the middle of the latter third of a paper. Abstracts normally state the conclusions of the study, and I believe the abstract as it exists is pretty much perfect. A well-written abstract is one of the most wonderful experiences in a world of technical literature that is generally dreadful as the phrase “technical literature” implies. Therefore, the abstract remains at the top.

Next would be a “select” graphic, preferably just one graphic but two or three would be fine. A graphic is perhaps the most important element of a study, as it turns data into something visual, which is easier to grasp. If warranted, a select graphic should appear just below the abstract. Properly captioned, this should assist the readers in understanding the magnitude and importance of the results of a paper. Some papers won’t have graphics, and in its place we could perhaps find a table or equation.

The results of the paper, written in clear language, is perhaps the most important part of the paper. It is very important to not overstate the conclusions, and to make any issues of context clear and explicit. It should be the first thing people read, after the abstract. In all likelihood, the conclusions section will end up being the only section of the main body of the text to be read.

Following this should be the discussion section, including clear references to previous research in the topic (I would even bold those references to make them easier to find). These references are important—several researchers mentioned it—because it allows them to immediately see the study in relation to previous literature and they can even see any bias (such as avoiding an important previous study). The introduction section is eliminated, any concepts that have to be introduced to understand the problem or study can be mentioned in the discussion.

The actual methodology of the study is only useful to those trying to replicate the study or specialists in the field and we therefore put it at the end. It will contain all the nitty gritty details of how everything in the study was done, with all the excruciating minutiae and jargon and acronyms a subfield specialist would demand. Personally, I would still attempt to make everything in the paper accessible to non-specialists. Ideally, even the methodology section should be written in clear enough language that someone outside the field can understand how the research was done. However, as long as the conclusions and discussions are clear, the methodology section can be as incomprehensible as the authors feel is necessary to communicate their own expertise.

Finally, all the tables and graphics should come at the end, including a reproduction of anything used at the top of the paper.  A standard reference section should follow, with any acknowledgments coming at the very end. Here is the final outline:

Abstract
Select Graphics or Tables
Results or Conclusions
Discussion (with any introductory material and a select summary of previous research)
Methodology
All graphics and tables
References
Acknowledgements

A physicist friend of mine from college (we shared an addiction to handball) told me “If it’s not in the first or last sentence of the abstract, it didn’t happen.” So maybe this was all for naught.

DB Cooper Notes: February

  • Obviously, the big story in the Cooper world is still the McCrone Labs Analysis of the particles pulled from Cooper’s tie. I’ve been getting emails and have been following leads. The recent focus has been on manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest, especially Tektronix, which did some electronics work for Boeing.
  • Tektronix has a nearly complete employee yearbook from 1959 to about 1971, it has pictures of nearly every employee, about 18,000 total people. I failed to get a copy, but it wouldn’t take too long to go through every picture. This is exactly the sort of thing that can solve this case. The tie should be easy to photo-match, we know what the tie clip looks like and we know there’s some kind of tie tack on it too.
  • Whether the evidence collected will ever reach the threshold necessary to prove any suspect is Cooper is an open question. It appears that most of the guys at the Cooper Forum want either a bill from the ransom, or the parachute before they’ll even consider someone a suspect. This is an unattainable evidentiary standard. The money, even if Cooper got away with some of it, would be gone now, laundered and spent. If Cooper survived, the parachute was either buried or destroyed, and in either case it can’t be linked to an individual. In my mind, absent DNA, the only way to really connect someone with the hijacking would be a photo of them wearing the tie. From there, other circumstantial evidence should appear.
  • The “Gunther Hypothesis” got a good discussion on the Cooper Forum, and it took a bruising. No criticisms were raised that I wasn’t expecting, but even if we found out who Gunther was writing about, it wouldn’t persuade anyone the individual was DB Cooper. Again, there is an unobtainable evidentiary threshold to reach.
  • There’s still plenty of actual investigation left in the Cooper case, especially concerning the Tena Bar money find. I’m hopeful some of it gets done, but it’s unlikely since the funding isn’t there.
  • Was clicking around the NamUs database, looking at the stories behind several dozen unidentified bodies in the PacNW. The running theory among those that believe Cooper died in the jump is that Cooper was a transient, and the number of unclaimed bodies belonging to transients is impressive. These were people dead to the world before they actually died. Had Cooper been one of these people, it’s believable no one would have missed him over the Thanksgiving weekend. However, it’s hard to believe Cooper was such a transient. The tie tells a story, and even if the tie was some thrift store purchase, Cooper’s behavior during the hijacking speak to someone well socialized, possibly well-educated and certainly intelligent and familiar with aviation. It’s very unlikely he was some random hobo.
  • I’ve spent over two years on this case, and it’s probably time to move on to the next project. I’ll be following the case for the rest of my life, but I’m now looking at other topics to write about. I think I’ll be sticking to true crime but let this serve as a warning to those now following my blog because I’ve been focused on DB Cooper: I’m moving away from the Cooper case.

Skyjacker

January DB Cooper Notes

  • Sales of the book have been pretty good, thank you all. However, no one has reviewed the book on Amazon.com yet, and that tends to be a really big deal when it comes to how Amazon cross-promotes products. If you’ve read the book, please give it an honest review on Amazon.com. Print Copy Here, Kindle Edition Here.
  • I purchased an NB6 container along with an old military reserve container. Playing around with the equipment, it looks like it would be an easy matter to store some of the money in the reserve container and secure everything with paracord. The Reserve container then could be easily clipped to the main harness. There’s room for about 130,000 dollars in the reserve container (not including the parachute). I’ll have to get a parachute to see how much money could be carried with the reserve parachute.
  • Geoffrey Gray recently released some of the FBI files he had which included interviews with 305 passengers. Of interest for me was Nancy House who reported seeing Cooper with a burlap or canvas bag about the size of the attache case.
  • Shutter at the DB Cooper Forum has run several flight path simulations which have shown that the FBI map is, while not perfect, pretty close. One of the controversies of the map are the timestamps, which are not spaced at regular intervals. If the timestamps are close, and the generally accepted time of 8:13pm for the jump is also close, Cooper landed around Battleground and no farther south than Orchards.
  • Important show on the Travel Channel (tonight). Tom Kaye has some new stuff, and the teaser trailer had Geoffrey Gray on it talking about some of the passenger interviews he has from the FBI files. I’ll be updating this post during and after.

Update

Kaye’s findings that Dan Cooper worked in CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) production is interesting. Anyone who has read my book will know that I make my case on Kaye’s earlier findings regarding titanium particles found on the tie. I await to hear Kaye’s interpretation. My suspect worked a sales job in Industrial Chemicals. As such, we would expect him to be exposed to a wide range of particles like the ones listed on Kaye’s website.