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Random Thoughts on Finding DB Cooper

-We have the three various and incomplete male DNA profiles on the tie. At some point we may find a good candidate who can provide a good DNA sample, and we’ll get a match. Since the samples on the tie aren’t complete, we can’t be 100% sure, but once we have a candidate like this, an investigation should find plenty of circumstantial evidence to go with the DNA evidence. We’ve been told familial DNA match would be impossible from these partial matches.

-In theory, there is a complete DNA profile on the recovered cigarette butts. If that evidence is found, a DNA profile (including a racial profile) will help match suspects to DB Cooper. There are a number of survivors and relatives that will link a candidate to the complete profile (Familial testing) and we can be nearly certain about who Cooper was. A complete DNA sample will give us racial information, and we could even produce a realistic bust of our hijacker.

-There are a few details the FBI has never released about the hijacking. A deathbed confession with the necessary details, or a posthumous confession out of the woodwork could get us our guy. However, if Cooper is dead and hasn’t left a written confession with these magical details, then those details are useless.

-We get a complete list of engineers and managers from Industrial Chemical companies operating in the 1970’s, and we investigate each one in turn. This would be difficult, but not entirely impossible. Publicity could result in former coworkers of Cooper’s coming forward, from there we might get employment records, census records, payroll information, photos from company picnics; all could lead to a falsifiable candidate. The problem is most people are unaware of the Kaye findings. The people who would have been working with Cooper at these chemical companies would all be in their 60s/70s/80s, so the clock is ticking here.

-Large databases are used to find all those who match the various Cooper details, and each is investigated in turn. Larry Carr, former Norjack case agent, felt he could solve the crime by getting access to military records, cross referencing physical descriptions with job descriptions, finding those who worked as loadmasters (they had to wear parachute harnesses) and then tracking matches through their lifetimes. Carr would not only need access to these databases, he would need a lot of human resources to work through all that information.

-Someone finds a skeleton with money tied to it. Since I don’t believe Cooper died in the jump, I doubt this will happen.

It is my opinion this case will get solved.

DB Cooper’s Body

One of the guys reviewing the draft version of my book on DB Cooper had this to say about what would have happened if Cooper had belly-flopped into the Columbia (he works on a dive/recovery team on the Mississippi):

I have some points of fact that counter your statements regarding river survival, but maybe we can chat on an actual telephone about that some time.

The interwebs tells me the Columbia River was 50F/10C around November 24, maybe colder. That’s really the cut-off for bodies to not pop. Trust me.

And people don’t drift, he was not semi-buoyant. We do our usual search patterns basically as the radius of water depth. People pretty much drop like a rock.

Any additional weight would have stymied the bloating process. very likely, given the water temp, that Cooper popped in the Spring of 1972. If he went in the river. Not sure if any of your nerds on those forums are part of an actual recovery team, but just my two cents. Usual trend for bodies that go in, in that cold of weather, to not pop until the spring.

Also, research the barge activity on the Columbia. I know you researched dredging efforts. Which would indicate the river is heavily traffic. We’ve seen barges really alter the sub-surface landscape. Occasionally stir a body lose (happened this Spring, but luckily in another county)

So, if Cooper lands in the Columbia, his body stays on the bottom until the spring of 1972. The money on Tena bar would have to be deposited on Tena bar at this time, or it stayed on the bottom (detached from Cooper’s body) and was later dredged. This is still unlikely, since we’re pretty sure Cooper jumped before the airplane was over the Columbia, but it’s a possibility.

The Latest on Tena Bar

Video of some original TV broadcasts from the FBI dig at Tena (Tina) Bar was released on YouTube. It was later taken down, but the video vindicated much of what has been told to us by FBI agents who were at the dig. Most importantly, the video appears to show agents digging up a money fragment from around two feet deep. This video, became a topic of discussion on the Cooper Forum, eliminated the possibility of a plant. The money had to arrive at Tena bar through natural processes (plus or minus the dredging operation). The video also clearly shows the line of the FBI dig running perpendicular to the water flow of the Columbia, right up against a line of trees and foliage. This natural backstop creates an area where water-carried debris would accumulate.

This supports a theory proposed by forum member “R99” that the money, and probably Cooper, landed near Tena bar, somewhere between the Williamette/Columbia confluence and Caterpillar island. R99 estimates the money would have been between 10-12 feet above sea level. At some point flooding grabbed the bag, and deposited some of the money on Tena bar. In fact, it’s possible this happened several times, creating the debris field we see in the video.

However, this new evidence also fits in well with the dredge theory. Chunks of the money would be pushed perpendicular to the water flow by heavy machinery as they tried building up the sandbar from the spoils of the dredging operation. These new revelations don’t really help us in choosing between the two theories.

The dredge theory seems more plausible to me. I have a hard time believing Cooper, or even a bag of money, could go unnoticed along the banks of the Columbia River, just a few miles from a major urban area. Fishermen, swimmers, boaters, kayakers, hobos, it beggars belief that no one noticed a dead body, a parachute, or the bag of money. It’s possible someone found some of the money and never reported it, but I find this very unlikely as well. The FBI found no other material at the bar. No parachute fragments, no human bones, nothing except the money.

In the end, the dredge theory wins. The bag of money, or at least some of the ransom money, entered the Columbia River upstream from Tena Bar, and somehow some of the bills became part of the river sediment near Tena bar, and it was dredged and brought to the surface. Finding out how a large bag of money moves underneath the water is the next experimental step. Knowing how fast the money would have moved, where it could get snagged, how long the bag holds up, these will give us clues as to where the real entry point into the Columbia might be.

Robert Wesley Rackstraw is not DB Cooper

At first I thought I would have to do a big write-up on this, but the History Channel documentary basically eliminated their own suspect in the last few minutes of the show. So there’s no need. If you want a long article to read on this, I suggest reading Bruce Smith’s reaction to the documentary.

The History Channel did a four-hour documentary on D.B. Cooper in 2016, spending an inordinate amount of time on Rackstraw. Unfortunately, he’s not a very good Cooper suspect. Witnesses, both now and presumably then, say Rackstraw wasn’t Cooper. He does not have the background to explain the unalloyed titanium found on the tie. He was around 29 years of age at the time of the jump, way too young to be Cooper. And finally, the documentary suggested Rackstraw gave money to a drug-dealing buddy who then gave it to the Ingrams (the family that found the money on Tena Bar) so they could “find” the money and it would prove Cooper died in the jump. Almost every piece of the story fails, the only thing linking Rackstraw to Cooper is “skillset” and there are a lot of guys in that file.

Postscript: I did a longer write-up on Rackstraw anyway…

The History Channel did Not Find DB Cooper

I’ll be writing up a longer piece in the next few days, but we can already discard the History Channel’s suspect. The money was almost certainly not planted at Tena Bar. Any conspiracy involving The Ingrams (the people who found the money) and some drug lord is absurd. Very disappointing, but it doesn’t surprise me.

[It is not clear from the documentary whether the HistChan team really believes the Tena Bar money find is a plant as part of their Robert RackStraw theory, or not. They talk about the Tena Bar find during the Dick Briggs segment. So how the lost money fits in with Rackstraw hasn’t been enunciated.]

They did link Briggs to Rackstraw and the Tena Bar find. This alone destroys their case.

–Robert (Bob) Rackstraw was a known Cooper Suspect. He was eliminated by the FBI as a suspect back in 1979

–Rackstraw doesn’t appear to fit the particle evidence on the tie either. Though I have to confirm this.

–Rackstraw was about 29 years of age at the time of the Cooper hijacking, whereas most witnesses put Cooper’s age somewhere in the 40’s.

I’ll be waiting for the conclusion on Monday before I discuss this more.

Those interested can visit my DB Cooper post archive and read up on more suspects, theories and information regarding the Cooper mystery.

Day Two:

— The explanation that Rackstraw gave the money to Briggs, then Briggs gave it to the Ingrams to plant at Tena (Tina) Bar is ridiculous. The money was not planted at Tena Bar, it arrived there by natural means.

— Rackstraw is not the guy. The most important piece of evidence is he doesn’t match the tie evidence. The tie is the one piece of new evidence in this case that people need to hear about, and it wasn’t mentioned! DB Cooper likely worked in the industrial chemicals field as an engineer or manager in a metal fabrication shop. He was exposed to unalloyed titanium, and other anti-corrosive metals associated with equipment used in industrial chemicals. We desperately need people who worked in this fields to come forward and discuss what this business was like in the early 1970’s.

BTW, I have written a book on DB Cooper where I lay out the only remaining, viable method for finding DB Cooper. It will be available in Kindle in early September, paperback will take longer. Please contact me using the form below to receive an email when it becomes available (you will receive only one email, no spam.)

Cooper Podcast

I got my name butchered in a podcast:

In 1971, D. B. Cooper hijacked a plane and made off with $200,000 worth of random money. He was never seen again. In today’s episode Jack and J. J. dissect all the details of the case.…

Source: Ep. 42: D. B. Cooper

It’s a fun podcast, they deliver some criticism of my (and Tom Kaye’s) work on the tie. I admit, we’re shooting from the hip on quantifying this stuff. The reason I feel the need to try to connect Cooper to the tie probabilistically is because everything, every piece of evidence in this case, is challenged. Many of the researchers on the Cooper Forum suggest the tie wasn’t Cooper’s. I think is a very wrong assumption. Common sense suggests the tie belonged to Cooper, trying to connect it to him the way I did in my Math Tie post may have been a futile endeavor.

The two ladies also ridicule my attempt to infer future criminality, or the lack thereof, from someone’s reading habits (cf: Dick Lepsy). I still have a hard time believing Lepsy went from philosophy-reading grocery store manager and family man into a plane hijacker, but I’m adjusting my profile of Lepsy in the response to the criticism.

Definitely give the podcast a listen.

DB Cooper: The Money Find

You might have to visit YouTube to watch this video, but it shows live reporting from Tena Bar as the FBI was digging up money. It’s interesting to get a confirmation that fragments were found two feet or more into the sand. We also see Dr. Palmer in the background at several locations trying to figure out what the layers were on the sand bar. This definitively eliminates any kind of red-herring theory. The big question is if the dredge theory can still hold weight.

Personal Update

I’m approaching the end of my series on the D.B Cooper hijacking. I have a few more suspect profiles to finish, then that will be it. I am currently editing a book on the Cooper hijacking, I hope to have it ready sometime in the fall of this year.

If there is anything you wish to ask of me about the Cooper case, or something you wanted me to comment on, or something I might have missed, or any other grievance about this case to air out, please comment on this post or send me a message through the Contact Page.

Freewrite Review

Almost two years ago, I “invested” in what was then called the “Hemingwrite”, a “smart typewriter” that offered a distraction-free writing experience. I just got mine about two weeks ago, and have used it extensively since then. It’s a beautiful machine, a pleasure to type with, and is exactly what I wanted.

I’m a bit of a Luddite, so the idea of a “smart typewriter” was alluring.My writing production has gone down quite a bit over the years, so I was interested in something that would help me get some large projects done. Finally, writing on a laptop is a thoroughly unpleasant experience and I was desperate to try something else. So the Hemingwrite made sense to me.

However, after the Kickstarter campaign, I decided to look into other devices that ostensibly did the same thing. There were apps that turned off the internet on your laptop, and I found other word processors very similar to the Hemingwrite, like the Alphasmart Neo.

I ended up buying a Neo a few months before the Freewrite arrived. The retail price of the Freewrite is about $500, whereas you can get a used Neo for about $50. While the two devices are quite different in form and there are some functional differences, they do the same thing which is allow the writer to simply write.

Well… Buyers’ regret. While I love the Freewrite, it is heavy. Much heavier than the Neo. The Freewrite is also so much more expensive. I like writing “in the field”, often outdoors, and having a $500 device exposed to the elements is anathema to my natural risk aversion. And the functional differences ended up being more significant than I first thought.

The Neo has arrow keys, which allows the writer to go back and do some editing on a completed piece. The Freewrite is a “draft machine” where the only way to go back and do editing is through the delete key. Which is frustrating, since one of the features of the Hemingwrite is the ability to send a pdf file of your writing to your email address. Well, if you can’t do any real editing, what’s the point of making a pdf file of a draft?

The Neo isn’t perfect, the arrow keys are easy to hit accidentally. It takes time for the Neo to transfer files onto a computer, and it has no internet connectivity. However, the difference in price and the greater functionality means that I’m writing this review on my Neo, and not my Freewrite.

The Freewrite is a beautiful machine, and I use it often. In fact, I hope to use it for many many years to come. It is such a pleasure to use. But I’d rather have that money back.

Why Didn’t the FBI Catch DB Cooper

This case is an outlier as it represents the only unsolved skyjacking in American history. The FBI were good at their jobs, they solved all the other cases, so why did Cooper escape justice? The common reaction has been to say Cooper died in the jump so the FBI had no one to catch. This is current orthodoxy in this case: An unknown individual, a loner with few social connections, boarded the plane, jumped with the money, and impacted somewhere in the Washougal watershed. The FBI may not have found his body, but they know he didn’t escape with the money.

However, there are other explanations for why Cooper was able to avoid the FBI. In fact, Cooper would have been the only skyjacker who had a good opportunity to avoid justice because he was the first to actually jump out of the aircraft.

– The FBI, and others, did not expect Cooper to jump. Up to this point in history, all other hijackings had similar modus operandi: the plane would be hijacked, then flown somewhere, often Cuba. (Humorously, the Cubans would arrest plane hijackers regardless of their Marxist views.) It wasn’t even publicly known if an airliner could be jumped safely. Only a very small group of people at the CIA and Boeing knew the 727 was a safe skydiving platform.

-Cooper also lucked out because no one knew how to estimate the drop zone. Thus, during the most important time of the heist, the 24 hours after the jump, the FBI had no idea where to look, other than a vague search area encompassing almost all of Cowlitz and Clark counties in Washington. Himmelsbach even flew his airplane south of Portland in the days after the hijacking, before testing confirmed the Ariel jump location. Later, based on his hijacking and later testing, investigators could pinpoint a drop zone within a few miles.

-Cooper’s audacity resulted in what can only be described as a very slow reaction from law enforcement. During later hijackings, the FBI created a chain of communication that activated search parties, roadblocks, helicopters and flares to a drop zone very quickly during a hijacking. Richard McCoy could actually see the search operations targeting him before he hit the ground. For Cooper, there was almost no ground operation on the night of the jump, and only a cursory search over the following week.

-Finally, it’s clear that, live or die, Cooper made no large purchases with the ransom money. No mistaks were made prior to or after the hijacking. No one recognized him from the sketches; he was not missed by friends or family. Whoever he was, he had no one close to him who could identify him as the skyjacker. This is a significant indicator of his social status at the time of the hijacking, and any suspect has to match this particular situation.

Basically, Cooper and only Cooper could have gotten away with this crime. He was the first guy to attempt such a heist, which was the primary key to his success, and he made no major errors before/during/after the hijacking to get himself caught.