• Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 74 other followers
  • April 2019
    S M T W T F S
  • Recent Bookmarks:

  • Archives

  • Categories

DB Cooper: New Suspects

The last year has seen numerous new DB Cooper Suspects, needless to say I don’t think any of them are Cooper, here are my profiles:

“The Tektronix Lead”—When Tom Kaye announced that he was looking at sources for the particles on Cooper’s tie, and that among the possible manufacturing environments was the electronics manufacturer Tektronix (Tek) it didn’t take long for the internet sleuths to swarm Tek’s digital footprint to find a Cooper suspect. The end result, for me at least, was spending a couple of weeks going through the Tek company photo album. Twelve thousand pictures of Tek employees, nearly every employee from the early 1960’s to May of 1970. I found no one of interest. I did share the photo album with others, and a few suspects were fingered. Chief among them was Harold Fritzler. He was ex-military, managed the waste disposal units (or something like that), and looked absolutely nothing like the Cooper sketch. I know almost nothing about him, other researchers are looking into him. However, I have emailed many Tek alumni from this era and every single one of them is adamant that there was no way DB Cooper could have worked at Tek. At the time, Cooper was a major story, the source of endless gossip and intrigue, and anyone who was a good fit for Cooper would have been reported on immediately for the reward money. There is no reason not to believe these recollections, as nearly everyone I contacted said the same thing. In fact, based on these testimonies, I believe it would be impossible for DB Cooper to return to work anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Walter Reca–I have written briefly on Reca before. It took about five minutes for Reca to be ruled out as a suspect based on the press conference announcing him as a suspect. I guess parts of his story are entertaining, like many other Cooper suspects he’s a notable character with a big personality, however he’s definitely not Cooper. His background does not match the particles found on the tie. His flight path and LZ are too far away from where we know the plane was. His story does not include an explanation for the Tena Bar money find. Unfortunately, in the Cooper world it is the loudest and best financed who get media attention. This episode of the Cooper drama teaches the wrong lesson.

Ron Terry–A Korean War-era Paratrooper who became an early pioneer in sport skydiving, Terry made claims about being DB Cooper during his life, and in the months before his death, even getting interviewed by the FBI. Terry actually has a few things going for him as a suspect. He has the background in skydiving and the military. He had the motive and a criminal mindset. Terry would become a drug smuggler in the 70’s and later serve time in prison for his activities. He was also a pilot who would have been familiar with some of the aviation protocols Cooper seemed to know. I would reject Terry on several grounds: First, the story doesn’t explain the Tena Bar find (shocking, I know). There is a comment in the linked article about how Terry buried the money “on his property in Saratoga”—but this would not be upstream from Tena Bar. He also claimed to know where Cooper jumped, which is something Cooper certainly couldn’t know. I’m sure there are other contraindications, and this story is definitely at odds with the Tie Analysis (Shocking, I know). The fact the FBI didn’t seem to have any interest in him after the last interview before his death tells me they also eliminated him as a suspect.

James Klansnick--A Boeing engineer who worked on the 727 and WWII vet who parachuted from a B17, Klansnick was another larger than life figure. However, he almost certainly wasn’t Cooper. He had a good job at Boeing so he had no motive, and he was a family man who would have had plenty of obligations over the Thanksgiving holiday. There are other problems too, Kaye’s research shows the particles on the tie were likely “upstream” from Boeing; it’s very unlikely the tie came from someone working at that company. Finally, the piece of evidence we would absolutely expect from any owner of the Cooper tie is a photograph of the suspect wearing the tie. Based on every photo I’ve seen, Klansnick wore regular ties, not clip-ons.

Dan Clair/ William J. Smith–Okay, this one is my fault. Let me confess that I rushed my book on Cooper into print a few months early in an attempt to secure a spot on one the TV shows being produced on DB Cooper at the time. In the book, I suggest that we can find Gunther’s Dan LeClair through forensic genealogy. Unfortunately, I also felt the need to show how this might work. According to Gunther, DB Cooper was a Canadian-borne WWII Army enlistee from New Jersey whose first name was “Dan.” Guess what? According to the 1940 Census (along with the WWII enlistee records) there is exactly one person who matches all those criteria. I named him the book, Dan Clair, born 1919. At the time I published the book, I couldn’t find any information on Clair. Later on I found an obituary which conclusively eliminated Clair as a suspect. After the book was published, several independent researchers contacted me about their pet Cooper suspects. A few offered to help me find my suspect, and I was very excited. I think I made the mistake of mentioning Clair in these email exchanges, I don’t remember. I do remember one person becoming focused on Clair, and later a person connected to him named William J. Smith And that’s fine, I’m not here to attack others who offered to help me just because I don’t like the conclusions they’ve drawn. I would be ecstatic if Clair or someone connected to him were Gunther’s DB Cooper suspect. I also wouldn’t particularly care about credit… if anything, I want out of the DB Cooper world and a solved case would make a perfect exit. My problem with the Clair/Smith hypothesis is neither person worked in Industrial Chemicals, which is the one fact that HAS to be true from Gunther’s book based on Kaye’s tie evidence. The Gunther Hypothesis is falsifiable, and no number of coincidences can change the necessary preconditions for a Gunther suspect.

In essence, Smith becomes an input/output error. The Gunther text is an input. It produces a suspect as an output. The suspect doesn’t match the other criteria from the input. But if you stick with the output and change the input, all you’re doing is invalidating the entire process. You get stuck in a loop. If the input is wrong, that invalidates the output. Period. If you have confidence in the input, you are limited to its criteria and must reject anything else. To use a bad output to “massage” the input criteria is fallacy; it allows any conclusion to follow.

The Gunther hypotheses has a few simple criteria: Cooper must be living on the East Coast in the 1940s. He HAD to work in Industrial Chemicals. He HAD to be a paratrooper. He HAD to be at the Elsinore Paracenter in August of 1971. If we could get Gunther’s original notes, we could establish more criteria but until then these are the immovable premises of the theory.

Mark Metzler on DB Cooper’s Parachute

Richard McCoy is still not DB Cooper

Re: Mission Declassified

So I watched the Mission Declassified episode on DB Cooper from the Travel Channel and decided to come out of hibernation to discuss the show, which concluded Richard McCoy was DB Cooper. Here are my notes from the episode:

  • Amboy Chute: This is not a decoy parachute sent down by Cooper to throw off investigators. It’s just a surplus parachute that had the shroud lines cut. These parachutes were widely available for about 20 dollars in the sixties and thousands of them ended up in trash heaps all over rural areas. Farmers would use them to cover firewood or hay or equipment or whatever. They were used as temporary tarps. Cooper left the plane with two parachutes, the primary in the NB harness and the altered reserve in the belly pack. Neither could be the Amboy Chute.
  • Extra chutes thrown out as decoys? This is something other hijackers actually did (Heady) so it’s a viable hypothesis. Unfortunately, it’s not likely in this case. Cooper left two parachutes ON THE PLANE. This is not mentioned in the show. One of the “back” parachutes was left on the plane, unused and unaltered. Cooper opened one of the reserve containers to scavenge cordage to assist in securing the money to his person for the jump. The second, INOPERABLE, reserve parachute has always been a bit of a mystery, since there were no D rings to attach the reserve to the harness. However, the reserve container can clip on the harness across the waist, so it’s likely Cooper did just that. If Cooper tossed out the second reserve as a ploy to throw off authorities, that container has never been found.
  • The likely reason Cooper asked for two sets of parachutes was so he could threaten to take one of his hostages on the jump with him. This would guarantee he received good equipment that hadn’t been modified to be inoperable.
  • Precision jumping from a 727: Cooper had no way of knowing where he was with any precision, he didn’t even know what air route (there were two and ATC gave 305 open skies) the flight was on. Victor 23 is eight miles wide! Cooper would not have known the speed or altitude of the flight either. Cooper jumped blind. He would have been able to see city lights, and the Portland/Vancouver area would have been the only real target for him to shoot for.
  • Did Cooper jump near Reno? This bullshit again. It has to be remembered, Cooper didn’t suggest Reno, the pilots did. This was during a discussion between Cooper and the pilots while the flight was on the ground in Seattle. Cooper asked to go south to Mexico. The pilots informed him they couldn’t make it that far on one tank of gas given the flight characteristics Rataczak suggested a few. All of Rataczak’s suggestions were along the coast (Rat wanted to dump Cooper into the ocean.) Cooper, likely wise to Rat’s inclinations, rejected all the seaside locations.Finally, Rat suggested Reno and that’s where they settled on. All evidence in the case suggests Cooper wanted to jump early in the flight, and the fact money was found along the Columbia River in Washington state all suggest he did jump in that area.
  • That’s right, this documentary fails to account for the Tena Bar money find… in any way whatsoever. If McCoy jumped near Reno with the money, when did McCoy return to Portland? Even in their book on McCoy, Calume and Rhodes believe McCoy jumped in Washington and lost the money.
  • The Reno to Vegas cab ride: This is an interesting document, however it’s one of many. The FBI noted that there were people who looked like Cooper… everywhere. There was the guy in the suit walking along the road near Lake Merwin. There was the guy in Mexico buying a yacht in cash with twenties. There was high school swimming coach. The list goes on. There are literally thousands of pages of FBI documents, most of them dealing with potential suspects.
  • McCoy’s alibi: We know McCoy was in Vegas Thanksgiving evening as he checked into a hotel on 25 Nov 71, and purchased gas the same day in Vegas. And we know McCoy was done with his BYU classes at 0930 on 23 Nov. Calume and Rhodes believe McCoy left for Vegas on 23 Nov and got a flight into Portland, arriving in time to get his ticket as Dan Cooper. By 2020 hours on 24 Nov, DB Cooper was one the ground somewhere in Washington. Calume and Rhodes believe McCoy had enough time to travel back to the airport and fly into Vegas in time to fill up on gas and check into a hotel. It’s quite the schedule, though it is barely feasible. This is not what this documentary suggests, however. Calume and Rhodes had a workable hypothesis, this show does not. Regardless, the most likely scenario is McCoy spent Thanksgiving day with his family, then left sometime in the afternoon to spend some time in Vegas, which we know he did periodically.
  • Something else this documentary ignores is the trace elements found on Cooper’s tie. In their book on McCoy, Calume and Rhodes suggests members of the McCoy family identified the tie left by Cooper on the plane as belonging to Richard. We now know this simply isn’t possible. There was nowhere Richard McCoy could have been exposed to the exotic particles found on the tie. Nor did McCoy wear his ties often enough to collect the large number of particles Tom Kaye and his team found on Cooper’s tie. The tie did not belong to Richard McCoy.
  • The reason McCoy’s hijacking is so similar to Cooper’s is because it is a copycat hijacking, McCoy had months to plan it, months to gather information. Of course they would be similar. There were newspapers in 1971, there was television in 1971. This was not some antediluvian world where information couldn’t be transmitted over long distances.
  • There are important differences between McCoy’s hijacking and Coopers’: First, the big personality differences: McCoy was abrasive; Cooper was polite and relatively soft spoken. Cooper wore a nondescript dark suit and tie, McCoy wore brightly colored clothes as a distraction. Cooper did not wear makeup, McCoy tried hard to change his appearance. This is also important:
  • None of the primary eyewitnesses thought it was McCoy. Not Mucklow, Not Schaffner, not Mitchell.
  • Problems with photo-analysis, there are EIGHT sketches of Cooper. Not just the three used in the analysis. The computer also ignores the fact that McCoy had pale skin, whereas Cooper was swarthy. Calume and Rhodes believed Cooper was wearing heavy makeup, something the Stewardesses on 305 denied. I don’t know what goes into the computer analysis, but McCoy doesn’t look like Cooper to me or most other investigators. Regardless, we don’t know what a “96% match” actually means. Does this mean 1 in 25 male photos will match the sketch? Is this a Bayesian result? (Very doubtful). Was there a control photo or photos? Do we even know what the computer is measuring? What’s the distribution of results? The entire show essentially hinges on this analysis, and we have no tools to understand the analysis. We’re now at the point where a computer programmer can create a result that can’t be challenged since we don’t have any idea how the computer came to the conclusions it came to.