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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.