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I Am D B Cooper

 

Over the years several people have either come forward and confessed to being D B Cooper or have been fingered by others as D B Cooper. This list includes Duane Weber a Florida antiques dealer, Ted Mayfield an Oregon pilot and skydiver with a criminal past, and Richard McCoy, a convicted skyjacker who was killed by the FBI after a prison escape. Recently a Washington lawyer named Galen Cook has offered Wolfgang Gossett as a suspect for D B Cooper.

 

The FBI has investigated over 1400 individuals as possible suspects. To this date none have emerged as a likely candidate for D B Cooper. Many people have their favorite suspect, who do you think D B Cooper really was? You can express your feeling about the identity of the “real D B Cooper” at the NORJAK Forum.

Introduction

After the Northwest Airline Flight 305 Skyjacking on November 24, 1971 (NORJAK), the FBI and other law enforcement received many tips from the general public about someone who was believed to be D B Cooper.

In some cases, the “fingered” individual was already deceased. In some cases, the individual made a confession before dying. All but a few have been eliminated as a suspect. The FBI has entertained leads both incredible and plausible. A Florida woman told authorities that her late husband, Duane Weber, had confessed on his deathbed to being Cooper. A Minnesota man claimed that his brother, Kenneth Christiansen, was Cooper. Another tipster asserted that Cooper actually was a woman who had undergone a sex-change operation. Among the more far-fetched tips the FBI received was a report that Cooper was Tom Busch, the father of NASCAR drivers Kurt and Kyle Busch.

 

Another Cooper claim involved a San Diego cabby who stepped forward in 1986. He said a friend who died that year of a cocaine overdose had recited intimate details of the Cooper skydive and survival. The man said he landed in a tree near a river and suffered knee and rib injuries. He managed to crawl to a cave and then hitchhike to Portland, where he recuperated before moving to San Diego. He said he laundered the cash on a Montana Indian reservation in 1978. The cabby said the Cooper claimant explained that the cash found on the Columbia River fell from his money pouch during his parachute descent.

 

This page contains a discussion of some of the more notorious suspects and some of the facts that made others suspect they were D B Cooper.

John List

John List was arrested for shooting his mother, wife, and three children in 1971. In 1971, mass-murderer John List was considered a suspect in the Cooper hijacking, which occurred just after he had killed his family in Westfield, New Jersey. List's age, facial features, and build were similar to those attributed to Cooper. FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach stated that List was a "viable suspect" in the case. Cooper parachuted from the hijacked airliner with $200,000, the same amount List had used up from his mother's bank account in the days before the killing. After being captured and sent to prison in 1989, List strenuously denied being Cooper, and the FBI no longer considered him a suspect. List died in prison on March 21, 2008. John Emil List (born September 17, 1925 in Bay City, Michigan) is a convicted mass murderer who, on November 9, 1971, murdered his mother, his wife and three children in their sparsely furnished 18-room mansion in Westfield, New Jersey, and then disappeared. ... Map of Westfield in Union County Westfield is a town in Union County, New Jersey, United States. ... This article is about the U.S. state. ...

Richard Floyd McCoy, Jr

On April 7, 1972, four months after Cooper's hijacking, Richard McCoy, Jr., under the alias "James Johnson", boarded United Airlines Flight 855 during a stopover in Denver, Colorado, and gave the flight steward an envelope labeled "Hijack Instructions", in which he demanded four parachutes and $500,000. He also instructed the pilot to land at San Francisco International Airport and order a refueling truck for the plane. The airplane was a Boeing 727 with aft stairs, which McCoy used in his escape. He was carrying a paper weight grenade and an empty pistol. He left his handwritten message on the plane, along with his fingerprints on a magazine he had been reading, which the FBI later used to establish positive identification.

 

Richard Floyd McCoy while on trial for hijacking United Airlines Flight 855.Police began investigating McCoy following a tip from Utah Highway Patrolman Robert Van Ieperen, who was a friend of McCoy's. Apparently, after the Cooper hijacking, McCoy had made a reference that Cooper should have asked for $500,000, instead of $200,000. Van Ieperen thought that was an odd coincidence, so he alerted the FBI. Married and with two young children, McCoy was a Mormon Sunday school teacher studying law enforcement at Brigham Young University. He had a record as a Vietnam veteran and was a former helicopter pilot, and an avid skydiver.

 

On April 9, following the fingerprint and handwriting match, McCoy was arrested for the United 855 hijacking. Coincidentally, McCoy had been on National Guard duty flying one of the helicopters involved in the search for the hijacker. Inside his house FBI agents found a jumpsuit and a duffel bag filled with $499,970 in cash. McCoy claimed innocence, but was convicted and received a 45-year sentence. Once incarcerated, using his access to the prison's dental office, McCoy fashioned a fake handgun out of molding material used by dentists. He and a crew of convicts escaped in August 1974 by stealing a garbage truck and crashing it through the prison's main gate. It took three months before the FBI located McCoy in Virginia. McCoy shot at the FBI agents, and agent Nicholas O'Hara fired back with a shotgun, killing him.

 

In 1991, Bernie Rhodes and former FBI agent Russell Calame coauthored “D.B. Cooper: The Real McCoy,” in which they claimed that Cooper and McCoy were really the same person, citing similar methods of hijacking, a tie, and a mother-of-pearl tie clip, left on the plane by Cooper. Neither Rhodes nor Calame were involved in the original Cooper investigation, but Calame was the head of the Utah FBI office that investigated McCoy, and eventually arrested him for the copycat hijacking that occurred in April 1972. The author said; “McCoy never admitted nor denied he was Cooper." When McCoy was directly asked whether he was Cooper he replied, "I don't want to talk to you about it." The agent who supposedly killed McCoy is quoted as saying, "When I shot Richard McCoy, I shot D. B. Cooper at the same time." The widow of Richard McCoy, Karen Burns McCoy, reached a legal settlement with the book's co-authors and its publisher.

Ted (Teddy) E. Mayfield

D. B. Cooper is alive and well and living in Oregon, claim two freelance investigators. According to a three part series on a local Portland, Oregon, CBS affiliate, KOIN 6, and a national report on Inside Edition. the investigators, Daniel Dvorak and Matthew Myers, have accused Ted Mayfield of being D. B. Cooper.

 

Ted E. MayfieldRalph Himmelsbach's book, “NORJAK, the Investigation of DB Cooper”, notes that Mayfield was phoned in as a Cooper suspect by at least a half a dozen people on the night of the hijacking. Despite this, Himmelsbach, who personally knew Mayfield from an earlier dispute at a local airport, never took these leads seriously, since Mayfield phoned the FBI to offer assistance approximately two hours after Cooper jumped from the plane. Himmelsbach argued that there wasn't enough time to land and make it to a telephone.

 

This has been disputed by Dvorak and Myers, as well as a few professional skydivers, who have argued that any trained diver could have landed, hitched a ride and made it to a telephone within that time frame. They even speculated that, given that Cooper gave the pilot the flight pattern, the speed, and altitude, an experienced skydiver could have stashed a vehicle along the flight path, and used dead reckoning, navigational aids, or simply searched for a landmark and jumped within a predetermined area. They also note that Mayfield had the necessary background.

 

According to a local newspaper in Sheridan, Oregon, Mayfield owned a skydiving school for several years before the Cooper heist, and has national medals for skydiving accuracy. Court records in Oregon show Mayfield has various convictions, including an armed robbery just prior to the D. B. Cooper heist, transportation of a stolen plane across state lines, and Criminal Negligent Homicide, for which he served 5 months in prison. Mayfield states that he has over 50 years experience flying airplanes, is a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces from 1961-63, and has completed over 8,000 skydiving jumps.

 

In an interview with Inside Edition, Dvorak and Myers released some of the evidence of what they say is a strong circumstantial case. When asked for comment, Mayfield noted that the FBI called him for assistance five times while Cooper was still on the plane.

 

Dvorak and Myers say that they confirmed with two separate FBI sources, including Ralph Himmelsbach, agent in charge of the case, that Mayfield was never called by the FBI on that night.

 

In a KOIN TV interview, Himmelsbach collaborated their account, indicating that Mayfield called the FBI well after Cooper had jumped, and that the FBI never called Mayfield that night. Mayfield still lives in Sheridan, Oregon where he builds kits for Ultra-Light Aircraft.

Kenneth Peter (Kenny) Christiansen

Lyle Christiansen of Morris, Minnesota, is 77 years old, retired from the post office, and now works as an inventor and holds a few patents. In e-mails to a private detective, often typed late at night so his wife wouldn’t discover his secret relationship with D.B. Cooper, he said; “Yes, I knew the culprit personally, he was my brother.”

 

 “I’m not getting any younger,” Christiansen wrote to the FBI in January 2004. “Before I die I would like to find out if my brother was D.B. Cooper. From what I know I feel that he was and without a doubt.”

Keneth Christiansen

Kenneth Peter Christiansen was born Oct. 17, 1926, deceased July 30, 1994 from cancer. Lived in his own home in Bonney Lake, WA. One could see Mt. Rainier from there. His Social Security # was 473-30-3599. He retired from Northwest Airlines (NWA) as a purser. His employee ID number was 33983.”

 

In 1944, Kenny enlisted in the Army, and chose an elite, and dangerous specialty: the paratroops. Kenny trained with the 11th Airborne Division, the Angels, which had been sent to the Pacific. After the war he took all sorts of jobs. He traveled once with a carnival, selling tickets. Then he’d leave for warmer climes: Jamaica, Laguna Beach, L.A., Mexico City. Then Kenny learned of a job working for the airlines. Northwest, based in Minneapolis, was looking to hire technicians to work on its planes in Shemya, an island in the Aleutians. He started as a mechanic and was rehired in 1956, as a flight attendant. He relocated to southwest Washington and was promoted to purser.

 

According to property records, Kenny was able to purchase a house and some land. In October 1972, about a year after Cooper’s jump, Kenny paid $14,000 for a modest ranch in Bonney Lake, a small town, in the foothills of the Cascades. A year later, a deed shows he paid $1,500 for a parcel of land. Northwest’s salaries were notoriously meager. For pursers, the saying was “$212 a month and all you can carry,” and that meant stealing toilet paper from the airplanes’ bathrooms to supplement your paycheck. “He built up a little hatred for NWA for laying people off and forcing them to go on strike,” according to Kenny’s brother. “I think he thought he could sock it to them by pulling off the hijacking.”

 

D B Cooper and Keneth ChristiansenOn his deathbed, Lyle remembers, his older brother pulled him close. He then said something that didn’t make sense to him then. It does so now. 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.”

 

The FBI knew there were many specific traits Cooper needed to pull off the jump. Cooper had to know how to parachute, and in tough conditions. Maybe he’d been in the Army. Better yet, they figured the paratroops. Also, he had to be familiar with planes (10,000 feet, fifteen-degree wing flaps) and the area (“Looks like Tacoma down there”). They also knew what Cooper looked like. They had a detailed sketch that Florence Schaffner helped create. And there was his personality. “He seemed rather nice,” said Tina Mucklow, another attendant on the flight. “He was never cruel or nasty. He was thoughtful and calm.”

 

When shown photos of Kenny, Florence Schaffner said that the images were closer in resemblance to Cooper than any of the suspects she’s ever seen, she said. But? “But I can’t say ‘Yay.’

William Pratt (Wolfgang) Gossett

In February 2007, the radio show MJ Morning Show released pictures of who the show's producers think may be the real D. B. Cooper, noting similarities in facial features from the Cooper composite sketch. The man’s family came forward after his death and are currently working with the FBI to ascertain if their relative is the real D. B. Cooper. Attorney Galen Cook is investigating the man (in conjunction with the FBI) and has stated that the suspect had night jumping experience as a military paratrooper. Cook has speculated further that the man might have known Richard McCoy, Jr. through the military or connections in Utah. The suspect was 41 years old in 1971, 5'10" tall, 175 lbs., dark hair, brown eyes, olive complexion, medium to well built, U.S. Army Green Beret, paratrooper, three tours of duty in Vietnam, last stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington (40 miles south of Seattle and on the direct flight path south of SeaTac International Airport). Also important to this case, he had a brother named "Dan."

 

The suspect’s name, William Pratt (Wolfgang) Gossett was released May 28th, 2008 in an article in “the Depoe Bay (OR) Beacon Online”. According to the article he officially changed his name to “Wolfgang” and became a priest in the Old Catholic Church, SLC Diocese, in 1988. Gossett retired to Depoe Bay, OR where he died Sept. 1, 2003.

The photo on the left was taken in 1973 during award ceremony at Fort Lewis, Washington. Gossett was a U.S. Army SFC.

 

Note the medal located directly above the ribbons (over suspect's heart). This is the suspect's "Jump Wings," a medal depicting a deployed parachute with wings. There was no HALO (high-altitude, low-opening) uniform insignia in the 1960s or 1970s, however, the suspect's son distinctly remembers his father practicing military HALO jumps at night.

 

Because of its timing, many amateur NORJAK investigators feel that release of information about this suspect is just a ploy (by Cook) to sell his forthcoming book. However, others believe he is one of the best suspects yet. Only time (and the FBI) will tell.

 

Materials courtesy of Galen Cook, Attorney at Law.

Duane L. Weber (aka John C. Collins)

In July 2000, U.S. News & World Report ran an article about a widow in Pace, Florida named Jo Weber and her claim that her late husband, Duane L. Weber (born 1924 in Ohio), had told her "I'm Dan Cooper" before his death.

 

Duane Weber and D B CooperIt was March 1995, and Duane Weber was in a Florida hospital. He had polycystic kidney disease, was weak and couldn't eat. Duane's wife, Jo, came over to his bed. "I have a secret to tell you," he said. "I'm Dan Cooper."

 

The name meant nothing to Jo Weber, she had met Duane in Atlanta in 1977. When they were married a year later, Jo still did not know much about her husband's past. It was only years after their marriage that Duane admitted he'd once served time in prison under the name of John C. Collins.

 

She put the information out of her mind. Her husband was likable and friendly, she says. And as he lay in the hospital in 1995, her thoughts were only on his condition. But when she didn't respond to his statement, Duane became upset and shouted so loudly the nurses heard his words: "Oh, let it die with me!" Moments later Duane was sedated; he died soon after.

 

It was only weeks later, after she learned the infamous hijacker D.B. Cooper had actually called himself "Dan Cooper," that Jo Weber began to understand what she now believes her husband was trying to tell her in his confession: that he was D.B. Cooper.

 

Although he always has believed D.B. Cooper most likely did not survive his jump from the rear stairs of Northwest Airlines Flight 305 on Thanksgiving Eve, 1971, retired FBI Agent Ralph Himmelsbach says "If he did make it, it would have been someone that fits the profile of Duane Weber. He appeared to me to be a credible suspect, and when Jo first contacted me (five years ago) I told her I thought it should be brought to the attention of the FBI right away. She granted me permission to contact the FBI, and they did initiate an investigation."

 

Compare the complections of Duane Weber and Dan CooperThere are photos of Duane that bear such a resemblance to the FBI composite of Cooper that a forensic expert who has worked with the FBI told US News & World Report recently, "It's about as close a match as you can get."  Jo had Weber family records that indicated Duane had served time at the federal McNeil Island Corrections Center in Washington State. D.B. Cooper had shown a familiarity with the Northwest.

 

There were receipts and photographs of a vacation Duane and Jo took to the Northwest in 1979. On it, Duane took Jo on a side trip along the Columbia River. Duane knew the area well. "He told me what was up that logging road, or up on that hill." A short while later, Jo says her husband pointed and said to her, "That's where D.B. Cooper walked out of the woods." "I said to him, 'How do you know that?' And he says, 'Maybe I was on the ground.' I just took it as a joke."

 

On the way back, Jo says, Duane stopped the car along the Columbia River, about three miles east of Vancouver. "He told me to stay in the car, that he'd be about 10 minutes. He opened the trunk; I don't know if he got anything out."

 

Months later, a Vancouver, Wash., boy discovered a bundle of D.B. Cooper's ransom money buried in the sand along the river, about thirteen miles downstream of where Duane and Jo had stopped.

 

An advanced age sketch, an older Duane Weber, and the original FBI sketch of D B Cooper.Then there were the intangible pieces of evidence that never before had made sense to Jo. Shortly before his last trip to the hospital, Duane told Jo his chronic knee injury had been caused "by jumping out of an airplane." He once had told her it was possible to make flares resemble a bomb.

 

In 1994 she had discovered an old plane ticket from Portland to Seattle in Duane's tax papers. After she asked Duane about the ticket, it disappeared. Another time, she'd looked inside a cooler Duane usually kept locked up; inside was a "grayish wheat colored bag made out of heavy, coarse material. It had some printing on it." D.B. Cooper was given the ransom money in a canvas bank bag.

 

After Duane's death Jo never found the bag or the ticket. But about a year later, when she went to the Pensacola library and checked out its only book on D.B. Cooper, she found what she is certain is Duane's handwriting in the margins. The single word “Toutle,” the town near where the placard from N467US was found by a hunter, was written there in the margin.

 

Jo Weber is disappointed that the FBI has chosen not to pursue its investigation of her late husband. But she is determined to continue her own. There are other pieces of evidence she won't reveal, things that led Ralph Himmelsbach to say, "She has a lot of points that would stretch your imagination at the possibility of coincidence." D.B. Cooper was a chain smoker who drank bourbon; Duane Weber was, too.

 

1988 Sketch and a 1950s photo of Duane Weber."All I want is the truth," says Jo. "I want it over. I have a very curious mind and I've never been able to put anything down until I've completed it. I'm not obsessed by this, I'm not crazy, I'm not making this up. But it is a passion, to get to the truth.

 

"I held that plane ticket in my hand," she says. "And Duane must have told me this for a reason. Evidently he wanted the story told."

 

The FBI has declared that Duane is no longer a suspect, based on DNA evidence found on the tie left on the aircraft. Many amateur investigators are skeptical of this determination, because of the possibility that of the four individual’s DNA found on the tie, none of them are from Cooper. Another shadow on the FBI’s DNA determination is that the samples of personal items submitted to the FBI years after Duane’s death had been contaminated by other individuals.

 

Photos of Duane Weber are courtesy of Jo Weber. Copyright © Jo Weber 2003 – 2008. All rights reserved by the Copyright owner.

 

 

 

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This page was last revised: March 13, 2009.