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Richard McCoy is not DB Cooper

McCoy is complicated, both as a person and as a suspect in Norjak. A Mormon Sunday school teacher, a family man with a wife and two kids, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, and he was studying to be a police office at Brigham Young University. Four months after the Cooper hijacking, McCoy used a fake grenade and a handgun to hijack a United Airlines 727 and hold it for a $500,000 ransom. Sentenced to 45 years for the crime, McCoy escaped from a federal prison and died a few months later in a shootout with FBI agents.

You can get the entire rundown on Richard McCoy’s life before and after his hijacking in the book “DB Cooper; The Real McCoy” by Bernie Rhodes. Be forewarned, it is one the more difficult-to-read books related to this case. It has long passages of boring, sometimes incomprehensible prose interrupted by short spurts of interesting details of FBI and law enforcement processes and politics. Nothing is presented in a logical order and I personally found much of the book a struggle to read. Rhodes also exaggerates his claims to make the connection between Cooper and McCoy. Most of the connections they find between Cooper and McCoy are more coincidence than MO. Rhodes presents a very tenuous case.

With that resounding endorsement, let’s look at the connections the book makes between the two hijackings. McCoy and Cooper both used pre-written notes (Cooper used one, McCoy used many), they both sat in the back row of their 727s on the same side of the aircraft. They both directed refueling trucks to nearly the same position. They both left a clip-on tie (!) on the aircraft after exiting. Rhodes lists over twenty circumstances he believes connect McCoy to Cooper. However, most of these connections are very weak. Cooper and McCoy committed the same crime, hijacking a 727 with the intention of jumping out the back, so of course many of their methods would be similar.

It’s not necessary to go in and examine every connection between Cooper and McCoy. The reality is McCoy was a copycat and there are enough differences to prove McCoy and Cooper are not the same person. Firstly, when McCoy was originally apprehended, we know his picture was shown to several of the Norjak eyewitnesses and they did not identify him as Cooper. McCoy was also much different in personality. He was forceful and rude when dealing the crew, he was much quicker to anger. He also wore a disguise, which Cooper did not do. Finally, he used a fake grenade and a handgun to hijack his aircraft, while Cooper used a homemade bomb-looking device; more, Cooper spun a yarn about the device being electronic and even told the cockpit to be judicious with their radio communications because it might cause a misfire and destroy the airplane.

McCoy and Cooper were simply very different people. McCoy was uncomfortable in his own skin, using heavy makeup and a wig to disguise his appearance. He dressed in loud colors, a blue tie, a red and blue striped jacket, and a green shirt with flowers on it. Cooper dressed in much more subdued colors. McCoy’s notes were verbose compared to the concise orders Cooper gave his cockpit crew. Cooper was quite calm, even charming, throughout the hijacking. No one would describe McCoy’s crime in such a way. McCoy brought skydiver gear, including a jumpsuit and helmet.

The tie is the final piece of evidence that absolutely eliminates McCoy. Bernie Rhodes believes the tie belonged to McCoy and that members of McCoy’s family recognized the tie as belonging to him. This can not be true. Firstly, we know McCoy didn’t work with titanium, like most of the suspects we’ve looked at. However, McCoy also didn’t smoke. Tom Kaye found that Cooper’s tie was saturated with particles associated with smoking. It had more material on it than a similar tie Kaye tested, meaning the tie was worn often by a smoker. I inherited my grandfather’s extensive collection of ties, and a quick look under a blacklight showed none of the particle density found by Kaye using the same method on Cooper’s tie. My grandfather was a non-smoker like McCoy, who also had to wear a tie every day to work for his entire life. The lack of visible particles is, to me, quite telling. If the tie belonged to Dan Cooper, then Richard McCoy can’t be our mysterious hijacker.


4 Responses

  1. To bring up a different issue, was the “Dan Cooper” comic book series aimed primarily at children, or was it something that appealed to adults too? If it were mostly for children it’s relatively unlikely that Cooper would have been familiar with it, given that he would have been in his late 20’s or older when it came out in 1957. And it turn that would make it less likely that he had been from a French-speaking background.


    • Not sure, they haven’t made an English compendium (that I know of).

      I like the Dan Cooper comic connection, as it aligns nicely with the Gunther book. However, it is only speculation.

  2. Jo Weber has several letters from Max Gunther and he went to CA to see the ex-wife for himself…when he got back he told me to have his book out and have markers and stickys and that it would be our last communication. I did and everything that is in that book that came from the 6 – one hour conversations he had with the mystery woman are all marked…she was usually 3 sheets in the wind. When she was contacting Max – she thought Duane was already deceased – but medical science gave him the yrs he did not expect.

  3. James Earl Ray was at Jefferson State prison while Duane Weber resided there. Per the ex-wife of Weber….Ray’s girl friend lived with her for a few months – but, Duane’s ex could not stand the smell of her cooking…I do not remember her nationality, but she provided JER with comics he sold in the court yard or exchanged for other things….supposedly smokes or whatever. When Ray was sick I was in touch with his attorney – I didn’t have a computer, but we did speak on the phone and he asked Ray if he would like to meet me… RAY was very ill at the time and passed away. That attorney who is now also deceased – told me about Jower’s and also that the name of a man who contacted Ray at the bar he was at after he escaped – was only indentified as John Collins….an alias Weber had used in the past. Now the writings on this deny the identity of the unknown contact for Ray.

    Ray was ill and the Attorney was not doing well…I do not believe that 2 men knowing that they did not have much longer on this earth lied. Ray was hospitalized not far from me in the penal system and the Attorney was not too far away….but, it was not to be….

    Later the name of the man who contacted Ray at the bar – was given another name…that puzzled me.

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