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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Not DB Cooper: Coffelt, Dayton, and Lake

Jack Coffelt

A conman who spent most of his life in prison, Coffelt claimed he was Cooper in 1972. Apparently the goal was to make money out of a movie deal, Coffelt himself died in 1975. The FBI interviewed him, but his story was wrong on several important details (which they have never released). Regardless, the details of Coffelt’s story we do know about are completely wrong. He claimed to land near Mt. Hood, which was too far south and too far west. He also claimed to have an accomplice and that, even though he landed very far from the Victor 23 corridor, they somehow met up and made their escape. Story is still being sold to the public by one of Coffelt’s former cellmates.

Barb Dayton

This is perhaps the most interesting story in the Cooper Saga. Barbara Dayton was a middle-aged woman who worked as a university librarian. She was also a pilot and mechanic who owned and worked on small aircraft at Thun Airfield in Washington. Originally born Robert Dayton, she received Washington State’s first sex-change operation in the late 1960’s. A natural storyteller, she spun a complex yarn to her small circle of friends about switching back to her male persona, using the lights of Portland to time her jump landing well south of the Columbia River, hiding the money in a cistern, then moving it to Tena Bar in time for Brian Ingram to find some of the money in 1980. While Bobby Dayton does bear a resemblance to DB Cooper, Barb was too short, her landing zone was too far south of Portland and her explanation for the Tena Bar find is at odds with the available science. Ron and Pat Forman’s book “The Legend of DB Cooper: Death by Natural Causes” presents Barbara’s story.

John Lake

Sports Editor at Newsweek, he disappeared on December 10, 1967, somewhere between Midtown and Greenwich Village and has never been seen again. The only reason I’m writing about him here is because a Cooper forum member mentioned him while listing all the possible Cooper suspects from the NamUs missing person database. Lake is about the right age, and bears a passing resemblance to the sketch. (Something that becomes annoyingly clear to anyone investigating the Cooper case is just how many people there are who bear a likeness to one of the FBI sketches.) Lake can be immediately eliminated because he had no knowledge of parachuting, aviation, the Pacific Northwest, nor would we expect to find unalloyed titanium on his tie. In all likelihood, Lake met with foul play on his walk home and his body was never recovered from the Hudson River. His disappearance is an interesting mystery itself and more information can be found at johnlake.com. I use Lake as a control for other suspects, if a candidate is not a better fit for Cooper than he, I disregard their story straightaway.

Duane Weber is not DB Cooper

One of the most prolific posters in the original DropZone forum on the DB Cooper case, and otherwise consummate Cooper gadfly, is Jo Weber. Well known to most of the independent sleuths of the case, she claims her deceased husband, Duane Weber, gave a deathbed confession to the crime. He told her he was “Dan Cooper” and this led Jo on the road to spending the next two decades investigating the case.

While her story changes as needed, her primary introduction to the Cooper case came when she read Max Gunther’s book. She even claims to have contacted Gunther, convinced “Clara” (the woman who gave the story to Gunther) was an ex-girlfriend of Duane’s. She also contacted Ralph Himmelsbach, who either encouraged her or at least humored her enough for her to continue to claim Duane as Cooper. She was the catalyst to starting the Cooper thread on the DropZone forum, and posted nearly every day for seven years.

As interesting as her stories are, Duane Weber is not Dan Cooper. While he does roughly match the physical description, he’s not particularly reminiscent of the FBI sketch. Passenger Bill Mitchell, who sat in a row across from Cooper, didn’t believe Duane was Cooper because he had comically large ears, something Mitchell would have noticed and remembered. Duane could not be put anywhere near the Pacific Northwest at the time of the hijacking, and there’s no evidence he had any knowledge of the 727 or of the airline business in general.

The tie evidence also contraindicates Weber, since Weber never worked in any industry that used the spectrum of metallic particles found on Cooper’s tie. (Jo disputes this by saying Duane worked in dentistry and would have had some exposure to titanium and other metals, but this explanation is specious for a variety of reasons.) Finally, some of Duane’s DNA was submitted for testing to compare it with samples taken from Cooper’s tie. Those tests came up negative. The FBI spent considerable resources looking at Duane, and do not consider him a suspect.

I created a spreadsheet with all the Cooper suspects and all the clues in the case, giving points when a suspect matched the evidence and taking points away when they don’t. Pretty simple, somewhat subjective, but it really helps separate good candidates from bad. Duane Weber scores lower than every other suspect I’ve profiled. Duane Weber is not D.B. Cooper.

In all likelihood, Jo internalized the Gunther story and used it as a platform to build up her own stories about Duane. It appears as though she really did have significant contact with Max Gunther, and as such she could be an important source in helping clarify Gunther’s actual contact with Clara, what research he did, and other important details that would help us better solve the case. Unfortunately, she would have to drop her delusion that Duane is a viable Cooper suspect, which will likely never happen.

*The original draft of this post erroneously stated Duane was too short to be DB Cooper.