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Robert Wesley Rackstraw is not DB Cooper

Everyone knows “that guy.” That guy who always tells a big whopper of a story. That guy who’s always bragging about what he’s done. That guy who HAS to be lying about winning the four gold medals at the Sarajevo Olympics. However, part of you believes That Guy, because some of his stories are true, he really does have an old picture of himself and Richard Nixon. He really does have a scar from a bear attack. Rackstraw is That Guy. Thomas Colbert (TJC) believes Rackstraw is DB Cooper. (Most of the information found here is from TJC’s website and book.) Rackstraw is a living person, but after his love affair with the media in the late 1970’s during his murder trial, and the subsequent History Channel special about him 2016, make him a public figure in my estimation.

Rackstraw went into the army in the 1960’s, attending the infantry jump school at Fort Benning in 1967. In 1969, he becomes both a fixed-wing and helicopter pilot. Rackstraw serves in Vietnam. According to crime television guru and author Thomas Colbert (TJC), Rackstraw does some freelance work for the CIA while there. When Rackstraw returns stateside, he gets embroiled in a messy divorce. The Army decides to look into Rackstraw’s background after he’s accused of domestic assault. They find that Lt. Rackstraw lied about his college credentials, and lied about his rank and military decorations. He is forced to resign from the military.

From Alabama, Rackstraw heads to the Pacific Northwest where he works as a charter pilot for realtors who need aerial photographs. He spends a lot of time in the area, up to and after the Cooper hijacking. He eventually ends up working for a floor and deck laying company in San Francisco. Rackstraw’s career in crime begins in earnest at this time. He will often wear a suit and tie around shipyards, looking like a supervisor or office worker. This allows him to steal valuables with impunity. Sometime during this period, Rackstraw meets longtime confidant Dick Briggs (who later became a drug dealer in the late 70s). By the mid-1970’s, Rackstraw was on law enforcement’s radar. He was implicated in the theft of military weapons and explosives; check-kiting, ramming his vehicle through a business competitor’s building, stealing goods, stealing dynamite and murdering his stepfather… Among other crimes. He goes on trial for murder in July of 1978. Rackstraw shows up in a wheelchair, claiming to be a disabled veteran of five Vietnam campaigns as a Green Beret captain. His actual service record doesn’t show up until after the trial. He is found “Not Guilty.”

In October of 1978, still looking at criminal charges for his other hobbies, Rackstraw fakes his own death. He is heard sending a “Mayday” call over the radio, claiming to ditch into the sea near Monterey Bay. Rackstraw is eventually found and arrested by police in January of 1979. He spends the next year in jail before being released. Law enforcement clears him of being DB Cooper at this time. He stays out of trouble, and out of the media spotlight, for the next seventeen years. He becomes a college instructor with degrees in economics and law, before getting into trouble again. This time around the charges are mundane, DUI and resisting arrest. The public becomes familiar with Rackstraw again in 2016, when he is prominently featured as a Cooper suspect in a History Channel special on Norjak.

Why is Rackstraw a Cooper suspect? For one thing, he claimed to be our mysterious hijacker on at least one occasion while he was in jail. He abandoned his confession almost immediately, probably when he found out he could still be charged with the hijacking. There are other reasons too, Rackstraw lived in the Pacific Northwest, knew the area from his job as a pilot, and his whereabouts during the hijacking are unknown. Rackstraw has the skills Cooper needed. He went through jump school and would have been quite comfortable with parachuting gear. He may have learned in Vietnam that the 727 was being used as jump platform for secret missions being done by the CIA. He has the criminal background Ralph Himmelsbach was looking for. (Though Rackstraw’s career would be the reverse of what we expect: he would have started with the big heist, then moved on to smaller thefts and cons before working his way back up to murder.) Rackstraw even has a relative named “Ed Cooper” who might have inspired the Dan Cooper alias.

There’s always a catch, however. Rackstraw would have been in his late 20’s at the time of the hijacking. Some reports on Cooper put him as old as 60, but most witnesses put the hijacker in his mid to late forties. Rackstraw doesn’t have the swarthy complexion Cooper is reported to have. Tina Mucklow, the stewardess who spent the most time with Cooper, did not think Rackstraw was the hijacker when she was shown his picture and video on the History Channel special.

The biggest hurdle in connecting Rackstraw with Cooper remains the Tena Bar money find. TJC claims Rackstraw had his friend Briggs give the money to Dwayne Ingram to “find” on Tena Bar, thus throwing the feds off his trail. There are a number of problems with this theory, chief among them the fact the money had obviously been exposed to the elements long enough to alter the bills substantially. They had clumped together into a single, solid mass. The rubber bands attached to the bills crumbled away when touched. There was a field of money shards found up and down the bar, and there is video of FBI agents unearthing fragments of money at least a foot deep into the sand. There is simply no possibility the money was planted there in the late 1970’s as Colbert claims.

When you’re looking for DB Cooper suspects, a military-trained con man with the gift of gab and a long history of stunning crimes is a good place to go looking. But you can’t ignore the fact he was investigated by law enforcement and cleared of the hijacking. He never worked in an industry that used pure titanium. And none of the main witnesses in the case identify him as Dan Cooper. However much Rackstraw may be “That Guy,” he’s not our guy. He’s not our hijacker.

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9 Responses

  1. Duane Weber had a scar on his left hand…and Tina told the FBI that he had a scar…. when Duane pointed out his scar just a few months before he died…I could see no scar. He was sitting on the deck when he told me this – but, did NOT mention Cooper.

    THERE is NO WAY for me to make this shit up…I have told what I know and the things Duane told me and the places he took me to and then his confession before he died…except I had NO idea who DANnnnn Cooopper was….if he had said D.B.Cooper and told me he skyjacked a plane – I would have had someone come and record him…he did ask for a recorder, but I didn’t have the money to buy one with at that time.

    Besides asking for one in the hospital he had asked for one a couple of months before when he hurt his leg and was laid up in bed – that is also the same time I cleaned out one of his old files from the 1st yr he had his shop and that is when I saw that ticket…and then I saw the ticket a couple of days later when I was putting his laundry away. He was insisted he would do it later, but I did what I always did and I commented “there is that old ticket – you must have found it”. That was the last time I saw it..

    DAM and doubled Dam – why didn’t he explain to me who Dan Cooper was…I remembered seeing the name on the ticket – but, he made like it was an old friend.

  2. Jo,

    It is possible Duane knew Dan Cooper, or even participated in the plot (either planning the heist, helping extract him etc.), but Duane was not Dan Cooper. On 12/1/14, Bill Mitchell, who, other than Tina and Flo, was the closest witness told Bruce Smith, during a telephone conversation, you had contacted him. Mr. Mitchell told Mr. Smith, “She sent me all these pictures of Duane (Weber, her husband.) Now, remember that Duane’s ears are HUGE, and I would have made fun of them – so what I told Jo was: ‘I know for a fact that I would have remembered those huge ears.”

    Moreover, Duane’s DNA did not match Dan Cooper’s DNA. Yes, I know there are potential issues with the DNA analysis, sample, etc. There simply is no credible evidence, either witness or forensic, Duane was Dan Cooper. All we have is his confession. However, how many other individuals claim or have claimed they were Dan Cooper? Apparently, there were 50+ Dan Coopers, on Flight 305, that night.

  3. They were shown select photos – not photos I presented at a later date—- I know they were NEVER shown the Jefferson or the Canon City pics.

    A young man of 19 saw him from a side profile – not face to face….He got stuck on how the ears looked in a picture.. I assure you there are pictures of Duane out there where it looks just fine. The pictures they used showed his ears looking large – Duane did have a tac at one time – it was a skin tac and not how they do it today with cartilage – so it did NOT hold for very long. Mitchell was 19 yrs old & he really wasn’t paying much attention…he was curious why the stewardess was paying so much attention to the older man…

    As for Bruce Smith – when he writes up anything about me it is always bad…Shall I tell you what he did when I went to WA…well, that will have to be in a phone conversation. The man knows nothing about telling the truth – he fabricates his own facts…if you don’t go along with him – then he writed nothing but BAD about you. I still have my notes regarding my conversations with Mitchell & his emails. NOT what he is currently reciting….Mitchell was 19 yrs old. Now he seem set on the NO, but he really could NOT say – in emails yrs ago and I still have those emails. The definitive NO only came after he was approached by Smith & Vickie…both of who have their own agenda…to push Weber aside.

    Tina has only seen the early pictures – she has NOT seen the pictures from Jefferson or Canon City. Nor has she seen pictures found at a later date.

    As for DNA – the items I had after I remarried – many yrs later when they picked up DNA… I had remarried & the things were in a HOT attic in a suit case from 1996 until 10 yrs later when they asked for DNA. wasn’t even sure he used the things…as for their claims about a razor I had given him the XMAS before he died – I used it and so did a couple of boy friends over the yrs.. I do not remember it being in the things I provided…the tools would have had multiple prints on them if any at all – his slippers- he always used socks. I had contacted the FBI in 1996 and they did NOT collect DNA until 2008 or 2010… yrs of being handled, used by others, washed & cleaned. I refused to let them have a very valuable watch that I knew would have his DNA – thank GOD I saved it – I would never have seen it….again…there is also his old frame work from his lower particial…I didn’t know & they didn’t know about the Titanium at that time – but bet they would match what was on the tie. Duane was required to wear a tie – when he sold nuts & bolts for a company who made parts for Boeing. He was required to wear a tie when he was cleaning & working in a dental lab – the Dentist was the brother of someone he knew….. titainum was used in the bridges crafted in the lab & Duane was also being tutored in the art of making the bridge frame work…he could make anything – man of many talents.

    Duane also knew a man who made golf clubs – he used titanium in the rods and the material was purchased from Denver. I even met that man…but do not remember his name at this time…too many yrs.

  4. Jo,

    I would love for you to solve the mystery, and prove Duane was Dan Cooper, but all you have is non-verifiable, circumstantial, evidence. This is not enough. Proving Dan Cooper’s identity will require forensic proof and eye-witness statements. I know the witnesses are getting older, and the event occurred almost 45 years ago, as well as there are issues with the forensic evidence, so proving Cooper’s identity is probably impossible at this point.

    Although many people disagree with you, we do owe you gratitude for keeping the Cooper mystery alive and at the forefront.

  5. I believe that Duane is a viable suspect. More than most actually. Unless the FBI can find the cigarette butts, then the current DNA evidence is weak and unreliable. Jo’s story makes a hell of a lot of sense. Most people if asked, would be unable to describe the person they sat next to on the train or Bus a week ago. So you have to question Billy mitchell being able to truly remember much about the guy he sat across from 45 years ago. Do you think any of the stewardess’s now would be able to remember and describe what the passenger billy mitchell or any other passenger on the flight that night looked like?

  6. Every Duane Weber photograph, at least the ones I’ve seen, clearly show he had large, protruding, ears. It was Weber’s unique feature. This is unmistakable. As far as I know, none of the key witnesses – those who: (1) saw Dan Cooper and (2) knew he was hijacking the plane – ever said Cooper had large, or funny, ears. The witnesses who satisfy these two elements are probably more reliable. The reason is because they were more alert, attentive and had a reason to remember Cooper’s physical features.

    Without the second element, the other witnesses had no reason to pay Cooper any attention, mind or to focus on his physical features. To them, he was just another passenger traveling for Thanksgiving. There are three witnesses who satisfy both elements.

    These key witnesses were: Tina Mucklow, Florence Schaffner, and Alice Hancock. Mucklow spent over 5 hours with Cooper. As far as I know, neither Mucklow, Shaffner, nor Hancock, ever said Cooper had peculiar or unique ears. They may disagree on his hair style, etc., but I have a hard time believing all three would overlook Cooper’s unique ears – if we are to believe Weber was Cooper.

    I would also consider Billy Mitchell a key witness. Although he did not know Cooper was hijacking the plane, he had reason to pay Cooper attention and mind. Mucklow was the reason. Mitchell, who was 20 years old, found Mucklow attractive. So, what did he do? He did what we would expect a 20 year old college student, who found a girl attractive, to do – constantly glance over at her. Where was she sitting? Right next to Cooper. So, in the course of glancing over, to look at Mucklow, Mitchell also saw Cooper. He repeated this process for approximately three hours.

    Cooper was on Mitchell’s right side. Thus, at minimum, Mitchell saw Cooper’s left ear. Like Mitchell said, he would have remembered if Cooper had unique ears. I’m sure the FBI asked all the key witness something to the effect, ‘Did Cooper have any unique, or distinguishing, physical, features?” I have a hard time believing every key witness overlooked the ears – assuming Weber was Cooper.

  7. […] I did a longer write-up on Rackstraw […]

  8. If it would not offend my last husband’s family I would post his military pictures and pictures of him at a later date…go look at the military picture from 1940 to 1970 – for some reason the ears ALWAYS look large…even the GROUP photo and very few of these guys had ears as large as they were made to appear in the pictures….With Duane’s hair style and his side burns – his ears looked perfectly normal. Especially from a side view…only one person saw Coopers face DEAD on and that was Florence….when he looked at her after pulling his glasses down….

    The witnesses saw Cooper with glasses on – wide sides – aviation type glasses – try it yourself and see what happens – take pictures of yourself with Aviator glasses with wide and thick stems….changes everything.

    Just try it….they do not make the stems as thick and as wide now, but the kind Cooper wore was thick and wide stems…NO one other that Florence saw his eyes….when he pulled the glasses down to show her he meant business when he told her to read the note after she put it in her pocket….

    • Jo,

      Do your excuses ever end? “If it would not offend my last husband’s family I would post his military pictures and pictures of him at a later date…” How would posting military photographs offend Mr. Weber’s family? What family members are even still alive that even personally knew Mr. Weber? The man was a convicted felon, was incarcerated for over 10 years and posting a military photograph would offend family members? Ha. I don’t want to look at random military pictures, from 1940 through 1970, I want to look at Mr. Weber’s photographs. Looking at random people’s military photographs is pointless and a waste of time. Don’t make claims and then make excuses, as to why you can’t produce “evidence.”

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