‘My Uncle Was D.B. Cooper’ – The Marla Cooper Story

MarlaCMarla Cooper first came to the attention of Cooperland in the fall of 2010, and her allegations caused a media stir. Over the space of about three months, she appeared on national television, attended the first symposium held on the Cooper case in Portland, Oregon, and submitted some physical evidence in the case to the F.B.I.  An F.B.I. spokesperson once named her as a ‘viable witness’ in the case to public media. She was interviewed on morning talk shows and her beautiful figure and striking blonde hair certainly turned heads.

Some armchair investigators of the Cooper case even voiced different fantasies about Marla, concentrating a bit more on her derriere, rather than the evidence she presented. On her Facebook page, Marla famously announced she ‘was ready to create a media frenzy,’ while at the same time apologizing to author Geoff Gray when his Cooper book fell off the NYT bestseller list as soon as she went public. She talked about her own upcoming book, and made hints that a publisher was interested.

A few weeks later, it all ended and she was largely forgotten except by fans of the case. But during the time she was enjoying the media frenzy, (and perhaps the fantasies of male Cooper investigators) I decided to put her claims under the microscope. At the end of that, my only question was how the F.B.I. even considered her story legitimate in the first place.

The Short Version of Marla’s Story: During an interview with ABC news, Marla claimed that her uncles (now deceased), Lynn Doyle Cooper, and his brother Dewey, were the real perpetrators behind the famous D.B. Cooper skyjacking. She said that Lynn Doyle Cooper was the actual hijacker, and that his brother Dewey was the accomplice on the ground. This occurred, she says, while several of her family members had gathered for Thanksgiving at Marla’s grandmother’s house in Sisters, Oregon. She was eight years old at the time.

According to her account, the two men were seen testing expensive walkie-talkies shortly before the hijacking, and then announced they were going turkey hunting. On early Thanksgiving morning, she says, the two men returned and Lynn Cooper had to be helped from the car to the house. He was injured, she said, wearing a bloody T-shirt, and incoherent. She said her other uncle, Dewey, told her that it was due to a traffic accident. Marla says she knows now that this was not true, and that her ‘Uncle L.D’. was actually hurt in the landing after parachuting from the hijacked Boeing 727. To support this, she says that the alleged accomplice, Dewey Cooper, told her father later:

“We did it. Our money problems are over. We hijacked a plane…’

Marla used a go-between person to approach the F.B.I. and they listened to her story. She must have been convincing, because at first they took her seriously.  A short time later they dismissed her claims and never commented publicly on those claims again. Talk of a possible book vanished, except for perhaps a self-published book, which never materialized. She no longer comments on any of the blogs or websites dedicated to the Cooper case.

As Steve McQueen said at the end of the film, The Sand Pebbles:

“What the hell happened?”

Nobody knows if the FBI ever checked out Marla Cooper’s Facebook page just prior to her going public, but they SHOULD have. If they had, it is unlikely they would have taken her seriously at all. Her postings there on the very week she went public contain references to ‘starting my own media frenzy,’ saying that the case agent for Cooper told her privately that he thought her story was legitimate even if the evidence showed otherwise, and that one of the stewardesses had ID’d pictures of Uncle Lynn Doyle as Cooper. None of those things, except the media frenzy part, were true. Or if they were, the FBI never said they were. They simply dismissed Lynn Doyle Cooper as the hijacker and left it at that. Marla also claimed that the Seattle case agent currently assigned to Cooper, Special Agent Thomas Eng, told her the FBI would be closing the case soon anyway. This never happened and the case remains open.

This author did an interview with her some years ago in a Ten Questions format. In other words, I submitted her ten questions and I posted the answers in an article for Newsvine.com. That interview is here.

I once said her story had more holes than a five-pound block of Swiss cheese. There are three basic problems with it. First, that this happened over Thanksgiving with her brother, mother, father, sister, and grandmother in attendance…and that none of them saw a thing. Her own brother posted to Marla’s Facebook page:  “I’m not going near this one…” when she started posting the details. Her sister was silent on the whole thing. Her mother was only slightly more supportive, telling the media she ‘suspected’ L.D. could be the hijacker, but offering no testimony on what went on that particular Thanksgiving. In other words, none of Marla’s family members who were there for the family gathering would back her story. Her famous Facebook postings about taking AAD meds, going for a media frenzy, saying the FBI was closing the case, and teasing author Geoff Gray about his drop in book sales are legend. They have been posted publicly at Dropzone.com under the History and Trivia, DB Cooper thread.

coopercomicSecond, that Marla’s claim that she saw copies of the famous ‘Dan Cooper’ comic on Uncle L.D.’s bedroom wall at the time of the crime has problems. She said L.D. had been staying at her grandmother’s house in Sisters for a while, but that he departed the Saturday after the hijacking. This claim was discounted by a lot of people because L.D. died in 1999 and the idea that the REAL Cooper got his name from the French comic book wasn’t even discussed until years later. The comics were printed in French and available only in Belgium, France, and parts of eastern Canada. When asked how her uncle could have obtained the comics, she said maybe he drove his car (a Triumph MG) to Canada to purchase them.

Third, she changed her story…a LOT. One factor Marla failed to consider was the ransom money found at Tina Bar on the Columbia River in 1980. Her initial version of the story says her uncle landed outside Sisters, Oregon and that both uncles later went back to pick up the money where L.D. had dropped it on the way down. When confronted about the bills found 150 miles farther north along the Columbia, she changed her story. She said L.D. landed up there instead, and he lost the money on the way down. But she ran into ANOTHER problem when it was pointed out to her that the flight path was miles east of the found money. And that the condition of the money did not show it had been exposed to the elements for almost nine years.

In the end, the F.B.I. wrote her off as a credible witness. However, there was some fallout as a result of the Marla Fable. Post-Marla, the F.B.I. became a lot more closed-mouthed about public inquiries into the Cooper case. They stopped giving detailed answers to questions, and instead relied almost exclusively on the statement, “We can’t discuss it. It’s an ongoing case.” Before Marla they were a lot more open.

Marla1You really can’t blame them. In this writer’s opinion, the F.B.I. got burned and decided to be a lot more careful with witnesses and inquiries regarding the Cooper case. Some time later, I created a series of cartoons that depict my thoughts on Marla. They are meant to tease her a bit, to satirize her claims somewhat. Reports I received say she has seen them.

Marla2

marla4

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Author: robertmblevins

Sci-fi writer and managing editor for Adventure Books of Seattle.

1 thought on “‘My Uncle Was D.B. Cooper’ – The Marla Cooper Story”

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