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.