In Parts One and Two, this writer laid the foundation on why Bernard Wayne Geestman of Port Angeles, WA became a strong suspect as a direct accomplice to alleged Cooper hijacker Kenneth Peter Christiansen. In the conclusion of this series, I present the theory from Adventure Books of Seattle staff on how the hijacking actually ‘went down’ in 1971, the events immediately afterward, and how we came to the final conclusions we did.
I became involved in the investigation about 18 months after author Geoff Gray published the first-ever article on Ken Christiansen, which appeared in October 2007 at New York Magazine. At the time, I was writing a sci-fi novel about every other year, helping run Adventure Books out of two spare bedrooms in a condo, and editing books for other writers. I knew nothing more than the average Northwest person about the Cooper case, although I did grow up in Sumner, WA – the same place Kenny lived at the time of the hijacking. (I was a sophomore in high school at the time.)
(BELOW: Picture found in one of Kenny Christiansen’s photo albums after his death in 1994. Stamp on front from developer says MAR 72, or about three months after the hijacking. The Christmas wreath on the door tells another story. Christiansen lived alone at #J-3, Rainier View Apartments in Sumner, WA. The apartment still exists there. Picture shows Christiansen carrying a briefcase and paper bag, just like Cooper, and dressed somewhat similarly. We believe this is a staged mememto, taken by Bernie Geestman a short time after the hijacking. We do NOT believe the items in his hands are the same exact ones used in the hijacking. The wreath indicates it was probably snapped after Thanksgiving of 1971 and before New Years Day, and then developed in March of 1972.)
The first time I heard of Ken Christiansen was when New York private investigator Skipp Porteous announced he was working on a book about the case, and since his suspect came from the same town where I had grown up on a small farm, I was naturally interested in helping him. He sent me the manuscript. I told him he needed more proof, and that meant interviewing not people who knew Christiansen decades AFTER the hijacking, but people who were closest to Christiansen either AT the time of the crime, or before that time.
BELOW: Margie Geestman from her third interview at her ranch in Twisp, WA. After the books on Christiansen came out, and the Decoded TV show aired, she sold her ranch for $491,000 to the State of Washington’s Fish and Game…blew town…and told her lawyer and the bank guy who handled the sale not to say where she was going.
Porteous asked if I would assist him in this, since I was in Washington State and HE was in New York. He sent me a confidential package of files and reports on a number of people who knew Christiansen. These included people like Bernie Geestman, his ex-wife Margie, Bernie’s sister Dawn Androsko, and others. None of these people were known to Geoff Gray or are mentioned in his famous article. Porteous wanted me to go around and do interviews with these people if possible. I rearranged by work schedule to take off weekends over the next few months, climbed into my little Subaru 4WD wagon with a camera and a notebook, and started hunting down these folks for cold-call interviews.
Frankly, I didn’t expect to find out anything new about the case. I thought about it like this: If Kenny was Cooper and Geestman helped him, someone would have figured it out already. Right? How could a guy who actually worked for the airline pull off a hijacking on his OWN employer and no one figured it out? How could that happen?
Well, I found out pretty quick that it was probably because no one ever thought an airline employee would be involved. When Geoff Gray was writing his book Skyjack, he interviewed former FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach (one of the first agents assigned to the case in 1971). Gray proposed Kenny as a suspect. One of the things Himmelsbach said was this:
“If you knew airline employees as I do, then you would know none of them would do such a thing. They are head and shoulders above the standards of ordinary Americans…”
Geoff Gray said in his book that he wasn’t buying Himmelsbach claim that there are no criminals in the airline business. He left the interview rather disappointed. Himmelsbach also admitted that the FBI never checked out Northwest employees for the crime, limiting any of that to interviewing the actual crew of the hijacked plane. So no one even considered it. Himmelsbach is also the same man who told media countless times that the ransom bills were being searched for by Treasury for years…when in reality they did little or no search at all. There are two sources that confirm this, which answers the question on WHY the bills were never found in circulation.
Source one: In a 2008 radio interview given by Cooper case agent Larry Carr, he admits that the search for the bills by the Northwest banks was given up within three to six months after the hijacking.
Source two: This writer interviewed a senior member at the Washington DC Bureau of Printing and Engraving in 2010. B and E is where all used and damaged currency eventually ends up. He told me that they receive ‘truckloads’ of old currency each day and no matter what the FBI said, that any search for the ransom bills would have gone on for no more than a very short time. He said ‘days at most’. This easily explains why the bills were never found. After six months, the hijacker could spend them at his leisure with little chance of discovery.
However, little of this has to do with Christiansen being Cooper, or Bernie Geestman the guy who helped him. That discovery came from basic legwork and many interviews. Among these interviews, I made seven trips from my office in Auburn, WA up to Twisp, WA to speak to Margie Geestman. In the first six, she freely pointed to her ex-husband Bernie as being the accomplice, but tried naming other people besides Kenny as the actual hijacker. But on the last interview, I finally confronted her with all the evidence we had collected up to that point, and she admitted that yes…it WAS Kenny who went missing with Bernie that fateful week. They left on the Monday before the hijacking, she said. They returned the following Monday. She then gave me the name of another witness, a very late-to-the-party witness named Helen Jones, who knew both the Geestmans’ and Kenny very well. In fact, she said, it was at Jones’ house where Kenny and Bernie and she were supposed to show up for Thanksgiving dinner that year. I later interviewed Jones and she provided key evidence in the case, although at first she was quite angry with me for even suggesting Kenny could be a criminal. Later, she told me this:
“How could he (Kenny) do such a thing…”
Previous interviews had been even MORE revealing. Before doing the 500-mile round trips to Twisp, I interviewed Geestman’s sister Dawn Androsko at her home on Fox Island, WA. She said that she and some of her friends suspected Kenny was the hijacker clear back when it happened, but dismissed those suspicions later because Kenny seemed like such a nice guy. She verified that Kenny smoked Raleigh cigarettes and identified the tie clip shown in the famous FBI picture of the tie as one she had seen Kenny wear several times…but not AFTER the date of the hijacking. She was also one of a number of people who knew Kenny who said he owned a toupee, but was never seen wearing it after the date of the hijacking.
Later, when she was interviewed by History Channel researcher Marisa Kagan, she said that her brother Bernie had called her up after I interviewed HIM…and demanded she retract everything she had said to me in the interview. She refused his demand, but also would not agree to appear on Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, saying she didn’t want to testify against her own brother.
I interviewed Bernie Geestman just once, because when he realized why I was really asking him about Kenny Christiansen, he went white as a sheet and refused to answer any more questions. I had told him I already interviewed his sister about the $5,000 cash loan given to her by Kenny Christiansen a few months after the hijacking. He admitted knowing about the loan, but denied any other knowledge about it. His sister said that it was not only Bernie who delivered the money to her in April 1972, but Bernie who approached Kenny for the money. At the time, she and her four kids were all crowded into Bernie’s house in Bonney Lake, WA. After the money arrived, she bought a house in Buckley, WA and she and her kids all moved out.
One of the big problems with Geestman is he was caught lying several times when the investigation was really rolling. He told Marisa Kagan when she called him that he hardly knew Kenny and thought he was a dishwasher. Kagan mailed him twenty photos of he and Kenny together spanning a period of nearly thirty years. So…he calls up Marisa and admits he lied, then agrees to appear on Brad Meltzer’s Decoded. He was the last person interviewed. He called me a liar, and then agreed with the cast that Kenny could be Cooper. They asked him for his opinion. He replied:
“You’re asking me for MY opinion? Sure. He (Kenny) looks just like him.” (Cooper)
Geestman assumed that no one knew he was with Kenny the whole week of the hijacking, so he probably felt safe tossing Kenny under the bus. What he didn’t know was that several witnesses had already testified that he went missing (allegedly ‘camping’) on that Thanksgiving week. And that he was with Kenny Christiansen.
(BELOW: A cartoon created by the author about the situation.)
Witness Helen Jones said that both Kenny and the Geestman couple had attended Thanksgiving dinner the year prior to the hijacking, and showed up in 1972 the year AFTER the hijacking. She also said that Mrs. Geestman showed up alone in 1971 and was very pissed off at her husband for just taking off at Thanksgiving. Her anger seemed genuine, and is the main reason we believe she was not told in advance what the men planned to do on their alleged ‘camping trip’.
A few weeks after the hijacking, Jones ran into Kenny Christiansen at the Sumner Laundromat. She asked him casually why he hadn’t shown up for Thanksgiving. He told her he was with Geestman but wouldn’t give details. In weeks PRIOR to the hijacking, Christiansen had been telling people he might take a free NWA flight back to Minneapolis that year to see family. His family says he never came that year.
January 2011: The Decoded TV show airs. Geoff Gray’s book Skyjack, leaning heavily toward Christiansen as the hijacker, has been out a few months. Our book Into The Blast has been out for the same amount of time. Bernie Geestman’s own family, who had not a clue up until the Decoded show aired that ‘Uncle Bernie’ was possibly even involved…see the show. They were completely floored. Bernie had not told anyone in his family he would even BE on national TV. They ordered the video to study it, they ordered the books. They contacted me and we did an interview where I showed them the evidence.
What do all these people do, now that the shit has hit the fan?
Bernie Geestman: Contacts Adventure Books of Seattle and asks for six copies of Into The Blast. These are provided to him. Five years later, after thousands of posts, several articles naming him as the accomplice, and an FBI report…neither he or his family have made the slightest sound of denial on any of the allegations.
Dawn Androsko: She stands by her testimony about her suspicions, her ID on the tie clip, but won’t speak to the media about her brother.
Bernie’s Family Members: I interviewed some of them in 2014 and then again this year. Dawn Androsko’s daughter testifies to seeing Kenny in a shed out back of the Geestmans’ place in Bonney Lake just a short time before the hijacking making the phony bomb. She says she didn’t associate this with anything special at the time, but after she saw her uncle on the show, it all made sense. Later, she said this in an eMail:
“We’d rather wait until he (Bernie) is gone (dead) before saying anything…” (about his involvement in the hijacking)
Margie Geestman: She had seen an early copy of Into The Blast during my interviews. She had seen the evidence files. She finally admits the truth on the last interview and directs me to witness Helen Jones. Just over a year after the Decoded show hit the airwaves…she sold her ranch in Twisp to Washington State Fish and Game for nearly a half-million dollars. She also told her lawyer and the bank officer who handled the sale not to reveal to anyone where she was going.
- He lied when he told me that he didn’t know the arrangements on the cash loan to his sister.
- He lied when he told History Channel’s Marisa Kagan that he hardly knew Kenny and thought he was a dishwasher.
- He was DECEPTIVE when he told the Decoded cast that he thought Kenny could be the hijacker. Since he was WITH Kenny that week, he should have offered an alibi instead.
- He *probably* lied when he said he didn’t know the arrangements on how Kenny bought his house in Bonney Lake after the hijacking. Kenny bought the house on a promissory note for half the price and financed the balance by assuming a mortgage. There is also an entry on the paperwork saying ‘and other considerations’ which remains a mystery. Geestman was the Best Man at the homeowners’ wedding, a couple named Ann and Joe Grimes.
- He lied when he told the Decoded cast he visited Kenny on his deathbed at Kenny’s home in Bonney Lake. He only called Kenny on the phone.
It is for the reasons I’ve shown in this article series that I firmly believe that not only was Kenny Christiansen ‘D.B. Cooper’, but that Geestman was a direct accomplice. I believe that Mrs. Geestman was not told of the plan these men cooked up in 1971, but found out afterward…and was forced to keep their secret for years.
There is no doubt that Mrs. Geestman and Kenny were lifelong friends. After he found out he was dying in 1994, he made his last road trip. That trip was a 500-mile-round-trip to her ranch in Twisp, where they took a final picture together just a few months before he died.
A few DAYS before Kenny died of colon cancer, he got a phone call from Bernie Geestman. By this time, Kenny was totally bedridden and required close personal care. Usually, someone would answer the phone for him and then hold up the phone to his ear. When Kenny realized who was calling, he took the phone himself and asked for privacy. He spoke to Geestman for about ten minutes.
It was in the next day or two when Kenny told his brother Lyle:
‘There is something you should know, but I can’t tell you…’
We believe that Geestman, when he heard Kenny was dying, called up the house to see if Kenny planned on making a last-minute confession. Kenny may have said yes. And if he did, then Bernie probably tried to talk him out of it by saying he would get Margie (and Bernie) into trouble.
Looking at the whole situation today, it doesn’t matter. Geestman’s lies speak for themselves. We believe that if the Seattle FBI were to put Geestman in one room, and Margie, Helen Jones, Dawn Androsko, and some of Geestman’s family members in an adjoining room – that the truth would emerge on everything in short order.
One thing we suggested to the Seattle FBI in our final report was that they should also run the bit from Decoded where Geestman tosses Kenny under the bus on national television…and then ask him why he said that when he knows perfectly well he was with Christiansen the entire week of the hijacking.
Questions or comments on this article may be sent to Robert Blevins at Adventure Books of Seattle. adventurebooksofseattle AT G Mail Dot Com.
A more comprehensive version of this document, which includes better captions for the pictures, links to evidentiary downloads, and a video shot in the Olympic Mountains in June 2015 detailing the evidence, can be found HERE.