Airplanes · Criminals · Pop Culture · Thief · Washington State

November 24, 1971 – D.B. Cooper Conspiracies

On a cold night before Thanksgiving in 1971, Dan –D.B.– Cooper literally leapt into history books and legends.

In the previous post, I gave the facts of what happened. In this one, I am going to discuss the what-ifs of the story.

Did He Survive the Jump?

The first conclusion that the FBI came to was that Dan Cooper did not survive the fall.

They originally assumed that he was an experienced skydiver, but there were a few things that did not make sense to them.

  • The reserve parachute that Cooper jumped out of the plane with was a training chute that was sewn shut. – An experienced jumper would have noticed.
  • No experienced parachutist would have jumped in the pitch-black night, in the rain, with a 200-mile-an-hour wind in his face, wearing loafers and a trench coat.
  • He took the military parachutes, not the steerable sport parachute
    • This might lend toward being a experienced jumper because the military chute would have withstood the winds.
  • He requested Front and Back Parachutes, not Main and Reserve parachutes – Was this by design??
  • However, he put the parachutes on like he knew what he was doing.

The FBI further feels that even if he survived the jump in the dark and in the rain, it was winter in the Pacific Northwest. He was not dressed for the elements. He would not have survived the night.

Show me the Money!

What happened to the money? FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover insisted that the serial number list be sent to every law enforcement agency in the country. They had pictures of all 10,000 $20 bills.

Here is a link to the serial number search. – I now want to run all old $20 bills I find through this list.

In February 1980, 9-year -ld Brian Ingram was playing with his family on a beach called Tena Bar. They were digging a fire pit and came across three bundles of 20 dollar bills, totaling $5800. The money was in rough shape, yet still wrapped in delicate rubber bands.

Tena Bar Money found in 1980
Image Source:Aseporg blog

How did this money get there? The sand on the beach was dredged from the Columbia River in 1974. The problem –in order for the money to have been dredged–the money would had had to float down several rivers.

It is very unlikely that the money floated down two rivers, got separated from the bank bag, and managed to travel all the way without the rubber bands deteriorating.

So… how did $5800 of Dan Cooper’s ransom money become buried on a beach near Portland, Oregon?

Who is/was Dan Cooper?

Richard McCoy
Richard McCoy
Image Source: Wikipedia
Richard McCoy

April 7th, 1972, Richard purchased a plane ticket under the name James Johnson. Using a empty gun and dummy hand grenade, Richard pulled a Dan Cooper–only this time he jumped out of the plane with $500,000.

Richard was a 29 year old, married, Brigham Young University student. He had served two tours of Vietnam, was a decorated pilot, and was an avid skydiver. He was a Mormon Sunday School teacher and was studying  law enforcement with hopes to be an FBI agent.

Richard McCoy was a Utah National Guard helicopter pilot and was flying one of the helicopters involved in his search.

Two days after the skyjacking, Richard was arrested and convicted of his crimes. He was sent to the Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA with a 45-year sentence.

On August 10, 1974, he escaped from the prison. He died on November 9th in a shootout with FBI Agents.

Witnesses put Cooper around 40 years old, and 29-year-old McCoy had an alibi. The FBI removed him as a suspect. However, FBI Agents Bernie Rhodes and Russell P. Calame wrote in their book D.B. Cooper: The Real McCoy that they believe he was a suspect.

Kenneth Christiansen

Mr. Christiansen was a paratrooper during WWII. After he left the service, he worked and a mechanic for Northwest Orient Airlines. Other coincidences: he loved his bourbon, and he purchased a new house shortly after the hijacking.

Lyle Christiansen was Kenneth’s younger brother and on his death bed, he was told the following.

Kenny said, “There is something you should know, but I cannot tell you!”

Lyle didn’t want to know. “I don’t care what it is you cannot tell me about. We all love you.”

25 reasons that Kenneth Christiansen is D.B. Cooper

The FBI does not believe that Christiansen was Dan Cooper. He was not as tall and was thinner than the witness statements had described. Mr. Christiansen was also balding but was know to wear a hairpiece. The biggest reason that the FBI has ruled him out is that he was a paratrooper and the FBI feels that Cooper was not experienced.

Lynn Doyle Cooper
Image Source: Komo News
Lynn Doyle Cooper

In 2011, a woman named Marla Cooper came forward and said that she believed her uncle L.D. Cooper was Dan Cooper. Marla’s mother ,Grace Hailey, was L.D.’s sister-in-law.

On Thanksgiving Day 1971, L.D. arrived at the house looking “beat up” and claimed he had been in an accident.

Hailey doesn’t remember much about that Thanksgiving in 1971 where her brother-in-law returned to the house in Sisters, Oregon, but she believes he could be the hijacker. Hailey’s statements are one reason why the FBI thinks the tip from Marla Cooper is credible.

“I’ve always had a gut feeling it was L.D.,” Hailey told ABC News. “I think it was more what I didn’t know is what made me suspicious than what I did know, because whenever the topic came up it immediately got cut off again.”

Hailey says that L.D. grew up in Sisters and was familiar with the area where the hijacker jumped — a fact that is consistent with the FBI’s theory that D.B. Cooper knew the Pacific Northwest. He was also a war veteran, which matches the theory that the hijacker had a military background, [and he] was a logger and an outdoorsman — tough enough, Hailey believes, to leap out of plane into the wilderness.

ABC News

In 2007, the FBI was able to obtain DNA from the tie left behind by Dan Cooper. The DNA and fingerprint comparison to L.D. Cooper have so far been inconclusive.


Duane Weber

In 1995, Duane Weber was dying of kidney disease in a hospital in Florida. On his death bed, he asked his wife of 17 years –Jo Weber– to come closer.

He said, “I have a secret to tell you. I am Dan Cooper”

At the time, she did not understand what that meant because she did not think of D. B. Cooper. She started piecing together clues that pointed to her husband being Dan Cooper. He’d had nightmares about leaving fingerprints on the plane.

He took her to the site in Oregon where the money was found. There was a book in the local library about D.B. Cooper with notes in the margin from her husband.

Mr. Weber was also ruled out as a suspect with the 2001 DNA evidence.

Barbara Dayton
Image Source: The Mountain News
Barbara Dayton

Barbara was born Robert Dayton and was a WWII vet. Robert received the very first sex change operation in Washington State in 1969.

Barbara was an accomplished pilot, parachutist, mechanic, and demolitions expert. On top of all of these other D.B. Cooper traits, Barbara was FEARLESS.

Pat and Ron Forman believed that Barbara put on the ultimate disguise– that of her former masculine self.  They claim that she never spent the money, but did the crime just to suit her own curiosity.

The Formans wrote the book The Legend of D. B. Cooper: Death by natural causes in 2008.

What about the DNA?

The problem with the DNA evidence is that the FBI found trace DNA evidence from three different individuals on the tie.

Where did the tie come from? Was it from a thrift shop? Could none of the DNA evidence actually belong to Cooper??

Will we ever know? – Do we really even want to know?

In 2007, an organization convinced the FBI to open the case files for external examination. This group, Citizen Sleuths, has a very detailed website about their investigation.

Personally – I have always admired D.B. Cooper. He did not hurt anyone and from all accounts he was a gentleman. AND – dude! The big brass ones he had to have to jump out of that plane in the dark!




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