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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.

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2 Responses

  1. For the book, lake should be the first name you drop. Spend whole chapter on him and his mystery, then conclude with your baseline standard and flesh that out.

    From there better suspects, but less interesting people, can be bunched and compared to lake without dragging down the story.

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