Sheridan Peterson, a retired teacher from Santa Rosa, California, was once a suspect in the Cooper hijacking. He is an experienced skydiver who has been all over the world and once wrote an 800-page-plus anti-war book on the Vietnam War. During the time he was a suspect, he was also investigated by the F.B.I. in the Cooper case, and later dismissed.
More recently, he has again been suggested as a suspect.
Here are seven good reasons why the staff of Adventure Books of Seattle are absolutely certain Sheridan Peterson wasn’t The Guy Who Got Away With It:
Chute Selection by the Hijacker – A little-known fact about the hijacking is that Cooper was not only provided four parachutes, but instructions on how to use one. Cooper glanced at them and reportedly told stewardess Tina Mucklow, “I don’t need those.” He then selected the military-style C-9 canopy packed inside either an NB-6 (‘Navy Backpack Six’) container, or the NB-8 container. The container itself is relatively unimportant, but the fact that Cooper knew how to use a military chute shows he was almost certainly associated with a paratrooper outfit in one way or another. In fact, as he started to put on the chute, Tina Mucklow later told the F.B.I. that Cooper seemed to know exactly what he was doing. Although Peterson was quite familiar with parachutes and their use, he wasn’t a paratrooper, and probably would have at least given it a cursory check before putting on an unfamiliar military parachute.
Wrong Eye Color – Stewardess Florence Schaffner was the only witness (other than the ticket agent who sold Cooper his flight to Seattle) who saw Cooper without his trademark sunglasses. She told the F.B.I. she was sure the hijacker’s eyes were some shade of brown. The official F.B.I. wanted poster listed Cooper’s eyes as ‘brown’. In Peterson’s case, it’s been suggested he could have worn colored contact lenses to disguise this fact. However, back in 1971 color contact lenses were not only rare, but they were quite noticeable because they also concealed your pupils at the same time, unlike today. The color was so uniform it was like wearing dark glasses on your eyeballs, and could seem very strange to others. In the picture below, a girl is shown in three stages wearing MODERN color contacts. She goes from hazel, (her normal eye color) to green, and then to gray contacts. You can still see her pupils. Colored contacts from 1971 totally blanked out your pupils and looked, well…pretty weird.
Reason Three: Terminology – Sheridan Peterson was an experienced skydiver with thousands of jumps during his career, and at the time of the crime he was an active jumper. D.B. Cooper knew how to use a parachute all right, but when he demanded his four parachutes, he said he wanted ‘two front and two back chutes,’ which was an old-fashioned way of saying he wanted two reserve (front) and two main chutes (back), which more likely would be said by someone who knew HOW to use a parachute, but hadn’t actually jumped in a long time.
Reason Four: Level of Preparedness – One thing about Peterson was that he always came to his local dropzone prepared after thousands of successful jumps. In fact, the only reason he still isn’t skydiving today is because he’s quoted as saying he can’t convince a dropzone to let him go solo at his advanced age. (He’s over 90 today and still alive.) Cooper, whoever he was, came dressed in loafers and a suit to the hijacking. Peterson would never have attempted a night jump in such attire, and would have (at the minimum) worn jump boots or decent shoes. (Cooper, if he lived, pulled off one of the luckiest jumps in history) Sheridan Peterson would not have trusted to luck, and would have come a little better prepared.
Reason Five: Already Investigated and Dismissed – Peterson was actually a suspect in the Cooper hijacking for a while. F.B.I. agents came to his door to ask questions and take a DNA sample, which he willingly provided. He did not request a lawyer, he provided an alibi, and was later dismissed as a suspect in the crime. He’s also a non-smoker, while Cooper chain-smoked Raleigh cigarettes the entire time of the hijacking. Over the years, instead of hiding, dodging, or weaving about that part of his life, he has gotten a kick out of it. Although today he doesn’t go on social media much, for a time he did. Sheridan would sometimes make jokes about his whole thing with the F.B.I. This points to someone who is more likely innocent than guilty. A guilty person would dodge and weave instead.
Reason Six: His Entire Life is an Open Book – In 2006, Peterson ran for a school board position in Sonoma County, California. He put his life on the internet in a three-page statement. If you read it, you can see his whole existence has been one of teaching, standing up for others, a support for civil rights, and being a witness to some very historical events, including the overthrow of the Shah in Iran. The idea of holding innocent people hostages simply for money would be anathema to his entire lifestyle from the day he was born. He also has a family and children. You can read his voter biography in a separate window here: Peterson Personal Bio.
Reason Seven: He Was in Tibet Anyway – When the F.B.I. questioned Peterson about the hijacking, he offered the alibi that he was living in Tibet at the base of Annapurna mountain at the time. There is a birth record showing that one of his children was born near that place the year prior to the hijacking. He also had a passport for the F.B.I. to check records on. The idea that Peterson would suddenly abandon his own family, travel seven thousand miles back to the United States, dress completely unprepared in loafers and a suit to hijack a commercial aircraft for money, (a NIGHT jump no less) and then return to his family undetected is fairly ridiculous. In his long life, Peterson has marched for civil rights, still voices his support for non-violence, and the concept he would threaten people simply for money is against everything he has stood for, even today. His anti-Vietnam war book is still unpublished, and titled The Idiot’s Frightful Laughter. Adventure Books of Seattle has a standing offer to Peterson to publish it unedited and unabridged. He’s still considering the idea.