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DB Cooper Podcast

I made an appearance on the GravityBeard podcast talking about DB Cooper (and a brief peak at my political eccentricities).

Part of the interview was my response to D. Godsey’s appearance on the same podcast a few months ago.

D.B Cooper’s Tie (Again)

I got a great comment on the last post and wanted to dedicate a post to answering it as it covers a lot of topics pertinent to the Cooper case.

*I finally read your book a (couple of months ago) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would strongly recommend it to anyone. By the way, it is an excellent value at only $9.99.

Shameless book plug

*The biggest takeaway I get from your work is your optimism that we are closer to solving NORJAK than ever before. With the digitization and databasing of Census, dead S.S. #’s and military/enlistment records this is entirely possible and gives all Cooperites hope.

You made a very good case that Dan LeClair was Cooper but I must ask for some clarification.

You give many good reasons why this is so but it seems that your main and most compelling reason is LeClair’s job description as described by Clara. Now I know the raw titanium on Cooper’s had to come from someplace but is industrial chemical salesman/manager synonymous with titanium? Especially in 1971? Ashford’s Dictionary of Industrial Chemicals lists over 9,000 such chemicals. Marty, you seem to like probability theory. What do think would be the probability that a industrial chemical salesman in 1971 would be selling product that contains titanium? My guess is pretty low, I am not trying to be critical, but I think Clara’s description is too vague to make a strong connection.*

In Max Gunther’s book, “Clara” gives a description of Dan LeClair (who she claims is DB Cooper) as working in the chemical industry. LeClair started as a salesman, and over a career spanning nearly two decades, he moved up from sales to middle management and finally landed a lower level executive position (probably an account manager). So you’re presenting me with a strawman.

Here is what Tom Kaye has to say about the titanium: “Chemical plants used pure titanium and other corrosion resistant metals. Pure titanium and 5000 series aluminum found on the tie have high anti-corrosive properties. In 1971 the most common place these two metals were found together would be chemical plants or the metal fabrication facility that built the components for the plant.” Thus, it’s perfectly plausible a middle manager in a chemical plant would encounter these anti-corrosive metals at some point while walking the shop floor. In all likelihood, a chemical factory would machine parts and do simple repairs to their equipment and this would be the source for the titanium and the 5000 series aluminum. The tie was sold sometime in the late 1960’s, and was worn very often. It had ample opportunity to be exposed to all sorts of stuff, including some of the unusual chemicals found by the McCrone group (which we’ll get to in a bit).

*I recently discussed your book with my son-In-law who has a PhD in Medical Physics from Duke. At one point, I asked him what industries were using titanium (besides aerospace, metallurgy and industrial chemicals) in 1971. His immediate response was “prosthetics” I don’t know if the Kaye group explored the prosthetics industry but I did find a business that may be of interest to some. T. I. Medical is a medical/prosthetics company headquartered in Rockaway N.J. The first line on their home page proudly proclaims them to be “providing the world with titanium products since 1972”. This is pretty close to the Cooper timeline don’t you think? In 1971, they could be conducting product testing & development. Also of interest is the fact that they have a service/sales office in St. Laurent, Quebec (Cooper was French-Canadian). Just saying.*

It would be very unlikely that unalloyed titanium was being used for this application (anyone who knows for sure, please comment), and some of the other chemicals like yttrium and the CRT phosphors would not be found in a prosthetics lab.

*On another matter, I am confused by the McCrone Group findings. Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t they initially say that the tie contained particles synonymous with the production of CRT tubes? I seem to remember that they found 23 out of 26 materials found in CRT production on the tie. Recently, the tie emphasis is with the raw titanium and other rare metals. What am I missing? Did Cooper work in both industries? Could he have worked at one place and been exposed to both groups of particles at the same time or did he work in each industry at separate times but still wore the same tie?*

Tom Kaye appeared on the DB Cooper forum and responded to a similar reaction I had to the sudden shift in his thinking by saying both findings are valid, there was titanium and other metallic particles, and there were chemicals from CRT production on the tie. So did Cooper work in both industries? Did he move from one company to another? We can’t be sure.

Here is my opinion: CRT production is where a person could be exposed to yttrium and some of the phosphors the McCrone lab found. However, there are videos showing how these chemicals were used in CRT production, and the people most likely to be exposed to them would be in full coveralls with masks. Not a likely source for yttrium on a tie. Thanks to the number and variety of chemicals found on the tie, there are more than a few places where families of chemicals could have been picked up. The problem seems to be the number of chemicals found, there are a large variety of chemicals. Steel production has also be mentioned as a vector, as has dentistry. In my mind, the most likely place to be exposed to a wide variety of industrial chemicals AND the anti-corrosive metallic particles is in the chemical industry. A long career with several different companies and different jobs within those companies helps a lot.

Clara’s description of “Dan LeClair” background fits. He started in a sales position for a chemical company on the East Coast (at some point moving away until returning to New York area before absconding). Starting in sales, LeClair worked his way into middle management before ending up in an executive spot (again, guessing an account executive). He was then laid off, and was hired at another chemical company before also getting laid off and finding himself at a third, much smaller company. If LeClair had worn the same tie for the last five or so years of his career, it seems to me ample opportunity to be exposed to the wide swath of chemicals and metals found on the tie. This is just my opinion. As I’ve presented my research it seems like everyone disagrees with me so I have to accept the possibility that I’m wrong.

Something I talked about in my book, I believe a suspect should emerge from the evidence, not the other way around. We should not focus on one aspect of the evidence, search for a suspect that is a best fit, then suggest that individual was D.B. Cooper. You will get a lot of false positives. It is likely that every place where a person could have been exposed to CRT phosphors or unalloyed titanium or stainless steel or spiral aluminum will have someone of the right age and look to match D.B. Cooper, and a background that includes military service or skydiving. This is “suspect mining” and it does more harm than good.

The tie analysis is good because it happened only recently, so it can be retroactively used against previous stories and suspects. Which is what I have done over the last few years, and the Gunther story emerged as a possibility and I pursued it from there.

What if I’m wrong about Gunther? Doesn’t that mean I have to go “suspect mining”? The short answer is “no.” There has to be some kind of story or rational suspicion relating to any suspect before an investigation. This is why media coverage will be very valuable and why the Kaye/McCrone findings need to be broadcast to the world at large. In all likelihood, the family of the real D.B. Cooper has no idea their relative was the hijacker, but if they hear that Cooper was a manager or engineer in a certain field, be it CRT or industrial chemical or whatever, and they remember their relative having an injury during Thanksgiving of 1971 (or some other “hit” with the case is realized), they will hopefully be compelled to share their story. That will be the key to solving the case.

*One last thing. Could you give some clarification about the paper bag Cooper carried onto the plane. The FOIA information gives the dimensions of this bag as being 4″X12″x14″ (this would be too big to be the green bag you described in your book). These dimensions are very close to the size of your standard paper bag you get at the grocery store. One of the biggest paradox of this case Is why Cooper make the jump wearing loafers. Hiking boots could easily have been concealed in a grocery bag. Again, just saying. Thanks to everyone who has read this! The answers to my questions are probably easy to answer. I just don’t know what they are.*

There are several different descriptions of this mysterious bag. One of the passengers described it as a yellowish burlap about the size of the briefcase. Tina thought it was a green paper bag. The size varies. I believe SA Larry Carr suggested it was just a small bag from a bakery while on the DropZone forum. Regardless, the bag must have been inside Cooper’s jacket or inside his briefcase since he wasn’t seen with it until he was on the plane. It is very unlikely he had a spare set of shoes with him since those couldn’t fit inside the briefcase with the bomb. I know Clara from Gunther’s book believes LeClair brought the bag specifically for carrying the money, we can’t be sure of her story. I do speculate on this topic in my book but all the conflicting information that has come to light since the recent dump of FBI files from the case makes me hesitant to come to any solid conclusions about the bag.

As for the Loafers, this tidbit comes from the second Tina Mucklow debrief done about a week after the hijacking. We have no reason not to believe her, but several other Cooper investigators on the Cooper forum recalled there were other descriptions of Cooper’s footwear. I went looking, but couldn’t find them from the FBI witness documents I have. I’ll do some more digging, but in the end I’m not overly concerned with Cooper’s footwear. If he lost his shoes, he lost his shoes. It would have very little impact on his survival.

Thanks for the great comment.