Each time this writer does an interview with the media regarding Kenneth Peter Christiansen (and his alleged accomplice, Bernard Wayne Geestman) regarding their involvement in the hijacking, one question always comes up: “In your book on Kenny and company, Into The Blast, you say that Kenny bought a house for cash shortly after the hijacking. You have also stated this on internet forums, such as Dropzone/DB Cooper. Is this true or not? Did he pay cash?”
The answer is: NO, he did NOT.
The next question might be: “So why is that statement still in your book?”
The answer is: “Because it isn’t even a key part of the case against Christiansen, and we aren’t going to modify that book until the movie on Kenny is released.”
Question: “If you were wrong on that, why don’t you just change it NOW?”
Answer: “There are a couple of reasons. First, we have to modify the book beyond just that one bit, and include new parts about the movie. If we did it now, we would just have to modify the book again later when the movie is released. So for now, we just let it stand.”
The investigation into Christiansen and Geestman (by Adventure Books staff) began back in early 2009. At that time, we only knew the basics, and most of that early information came from the famous 2007 article by author Geoff Gray, and some from the initial investigatory files from private investigator Skipp Porteous. It was a deep cave we were exploring, with many twists and turns, and the flashlight was very dim. We didn’t have all the facts, and we had not yet interviewed the people who knew Kenny best. In other words, we were entering a world where all the information and evidence was not yet available, and none of the witnesses had spoken to us. And like most criminal investigations, we made a few missteps along the way. The idea that Kenny actually bought that house for cash was one of them.
These days, when I do interviews I often direct the media AWAY from the book, and TOWARD the actual 54-page report we sent to the Seattle FBI in June, 2015. The reason being, it is much more accurate than the 2011 book. However, the truth on how Kenny actually managed to buy that house in Bonney Lake just seven months after the hijacking is more convincing, and better evidence against him, that just plopping down cash for it. That type of purchase could be explained in any number of ways, none of which points to him as the hijacker without additional proof. When we discovered the full truth on the house, it was better evidence than just the idea of a cash purchase on an approximately $15,000 home.
Our error about the house purchase has been brought up time and again, and often other Cooper investigators use it to try and discredit the entire investigation into Christiansen. In fact, it was another investigator who first brought this mistake to our attention. He presented a document showing that Christiansen financed approximately half the purchase price by assuming a mortgage through Seattle First National Bank, and took almost nineteen years to pay it off. This investigator was right, and we were wrong. However, this same investigator couldn’t explain where the OTHER half of the purchase price came from, and we wanted to find out.
The best way to do that, we decided, was to investigate the previous owners of the home. Their names were Ann and Joe Grimes, and that’s all we knew about them. After a while, we approached one of the major witnesses, Helen Jones of Sumner, WA (family friend of both Kenny and Bernie) and asked her if she knew anything about how Kenny bought the house. Jones said no, she did not, but that Bernie Geestman had been Best Man at the Grimes’ wedding, and then presented pictures of Bernie at their wedding.
(BACKGROUND – Helen Jones and her family hosted Thanksgiving dinners each year where both Kenny Christiansen and Bernie and Margie Geestman always attended. Kenny and Bernie did NOT attend the Thanksgiving that the Cooper hijacking occurred, and Jones said that when she saw Kenny a few weeks afterward, he admitted he was with Geestman that week, but wouldn’t tell her where they were, or what they had been doing.)
Checking further, we discovered that both Ann and Joe Grimes had passed away around 2005. I could not interview them, so I went to the next best source – their son – who lives in a small house near Rochester, WA. He said that he didn’t know a whole lot about the house sale, but there was a promissory note involved for about half the price of the house. When I asked him if his father was the type who would wait nineteen years (like the mortgage company did on the other half) to get paid off on such a note, he laughed. Not a chance, he said. His dad was a cash-on-the-barrelhead kind of guy, and would have been paid off in a very short time or he would have foreclosed, or taken other action based on the note.
Was there a copy of this note anywhere? I asked. He didn’t know. Did Kenny ever pay it off? He said that if Kenny had failed to pay, his dad would have certainly taken back the house, or forced Kenny to obtain an additional mortgage to pay his dad. He was just a young man at the time he said, and didn’t know all the details. But the one thing he was sure of was that his father would have wanted payment on that note – and in a quick, fast, New York hurry. He was certain on that.
Based on this limited information, we developed a theory on how Kenny bought the house, and the arrangements behind it. Some is based on fact, some is educated guesswork. As was usual with some of Kenny’s financial transactions within a year after the hijacking…Bernie Geestman was involved. After all, it was Geestman who came to Kenny in April 1972 as a go-between to get $5,000 in cash for his sister Dawn Androsko, so that Dawn could move she and her four children OUT of Geestman’s house, where they had been staying for over a year. (Androsko and her daughter both became key witnesses later, since they lived in the Geestmans’ home during the time of the hijacking.)
Since Geestman was good friends with the Grimes’ couple, and was Best Man at their wedding, we believe this is what actually happened:
- Now in possession of $200,000 of Northwest Airlines’ money, Kenny made it known to his buddy Geestman that he wanted to move from his little apartment in Sumner into his own home, but without arousing suspicion.
- That Geestman was the go-between who knew his friends Ann and Joe Grimes just happened to have a house for sale nearby in Bonney Lake.
- That Geestman approached the Grimes’ and told them he had a friend who was interested in the house, worked for an airline, and had the money to do it. (Kenny had a habit of overstating how well he did working for the airline anyway.)
- Kenny then managed to qualify enough with SeaFirst Bank to assume the approximately $7,500 mortgage on the home, and signed a note with the Grimes’ for the balance.
- Based on the recommendation from Bernie Geestman on Kenny’s ability to pay off the note in short order, the Grimes’ agreed to this arrangement, and Kenny moved into the house in July 1972.
- Kenny used laundered funds from the hijacking to pay off the note and then destroyed the note itself, since it could prove he was spending beyond his means.
- Three months later, in October 1972, Kenny pays ten dollars to the Grimes couple and assumes more debt, (including either the same, or a different promissory note) for the adjoining lot.
- To avoid any suspicion later, Kenny stretched out the remaining $7,500 owed to SeaFirst Bank for almost nineteen years, until the mortgage was paid.
Frankly, I thought this plan was genius, and offered much more evidence against Kenny and Bernie than just buying a house for straight cash. It got him the house, and kept him away from possible suspicion on excessive spending. It is also a convoluted series of transactions, and difficult to understand. There is no doubt that Bernie Geestman was involved in the whole thing, and as a possible accomplice to the original crime, would be the only person Kenny might trust to help him complete such a deal. Sure, Kenny could have laundered some of the ransom money, and bought the house outright, but this could have brought suspicion on him later from the F.B.I. Geestman himself is on record as denying he knew anything about the sale of the home to Kenny. It was his ex-wife Margaret who directed us to family friend Helen Jones, who proved easily that Geestman was almost certainly lying. This was no surprise to Adventure Books’ staff. Bernie Geestman had a habit of lying, not only to us, but to researchers from the History Channel. His family finally started coming forward after they saw him on Brad Meltzer’s Decoded.