This writer thought it was going to be a television show for the BBC. Wrong. It turns out that producer Anna Stephens and award-winning director John Dower had a full-length feature film in mind all along. By the time they contacted Adventure Books of Seattle to participate in their documentary on the Cooper case, they had already shot hours of footage for the movie. In fact, we were one of their last stops on an extended shoot that spanned the USA from coast-to-coast.
The movie is the first to present many of the known witnesses and investigators from all over the USA in a single documentary. It also delves heavily into the human element of the case, and what some call the Cooper Vortex. AB staff does not have the total list of everyone who participated in this landmark film. However, we did discover the identities of some of the people interviewed for this movie, although actual content is largely being kept secret for now.
Among the people who participated in the film were Ron and Pat Forman, a couple from the Puyallup, Washington area. Their book, D.B. Cooper – Death by Natural Causes, theorizes that Bobby Dayton, later ‘Barb Dayton,’ had gender reassignment surgery two years before the Cooper hijacking and pulled off the famous crime as a woman.
Prior to coming to the Northwest USA, (the heart of D.B. Cooperland) the crew also shot segments with Lyle Christiansen and members of his immediate family in Morris, Minnesota. Although Lyle does not know whether his brother Kenny was Cooper, he was a great assistance to Adventure Books staff during our eight-year investigation into Kenny Christiansen. He provided letters, notes, documents, and pictures that helped us very much. Some people have said that Lyle denies believing his brother was actually D.B. Cooper. That statement is a lie, of course. Lyle has been cooperative right up to the present day in our investigation. Another big lie we hear is that my co-author, the late New York private eye Skipp Porteous, wanted nothing to do with our book Into The Blast – The True Story of D.B. Cooper, or yours truly, after the book was released. The truth is that Porteous believed Kenny Christiansen was D.B. Cooper right up until the day he died, and we were good friends. Just ask his family, I tell people. You can find them easily at Facebook.
Friday, November 10, 2018 was the second, and final day of the planned shoot involving both myself and AB of Seattle’s Gayla Prociv. The day prior, I had answered three hours of questions on a number of Cooper-related subjects. Among the items covered (other than the investigation into Kenny Christiansen) were my extensive views on the hatred and vitriol that exists within Cooperland. I defined Cooperland as the relatively small group of armchair investigators and very serious fans of the case. I discussed the occasional backbiting, the dirty tricks, and the lies – and I gave concrete examples.
When John Dower asked me why this happened in the Cooper case, I said it was because anyone in Cooperland who proposes a serious suspect is more seen as a threat to the discussion itself, rather than a positive thing. Offering serious evidence on a suspect, I said, could bring the world of Cooperland crashing to a halt, should Cooper actually be identified. Interest and discussion on the Cooper case would cease, I said. They WANT it to remain a mystery, I said. They don’t want to know who Cooper was, because just talking about the case is a lot more fun. The result of this attitude, I said, was that some Cooper fans, as well as the armchair investigators, would try every dirty trick to discredit anyone getting really serious on a suspect. I named names and gave examples of the more famous attempts to do that, including the actions of certain people at the infamous ‘DB Cooper Forum Dot Com,’ and Cooper investigator Bruce Smith’s ‘Mountain News’ blog. Both sites, I said, contained literally hundreds of negative posts, even recent ones, hacking on people they purposely banned so that the people they picked on could not respond personally. Cesspools of hatred, lies, exclusion, and name-calling was my description of these sites.
On the final day of the shoot, I met the crew at the Auburn (WA) Park and Ride and we traveled caravan – style to the small town of Eatonville, located in the shadow of Mount Rainier. Once there, we met a shy witness named Denise (last name withheld on her request), and her son Jordan. Denise is a close relative of alleged Cooper accomplice Bernie Geestman. He is her uncle.
A few years before, I had met Denise and her son at a small restaurant and given them a preliminary version of our 2015 report to the Seattle F.B.I. on Kenny Christiansen. We discussed this report for a couple of hours that day, but it wasn’t until a month later that Denise quietly volunteered a story to me about Kenny Christiansen, sending it to me through a family member. Denise said she had seen Kenny creating the bomb used in the Cooper hijacking.
Today, the film crew and I were gathered at the Eatonville Library for a reunion with Denise, and to get her amazing testimony on film. I was very excited to be able to see her again, and I wondered if she and her family had any further evidence pointing to either her ‘Uncle Bernie,’ or to Kenny Christiansen. The answer was yes, although I cannot give readers ALL the details. Some of those are being saved for the upcoming picture.
Minnow Films’ producer Anna Stephens and film director John Dower decided that doing the shoot with Denise inside the library was too clinical, too harsh, with its hard chairs and bright lights. To help her relax, they decided to interview her inside Gayla Prociv’s cozy 1998 Nissan Pathfinder instead. Denise got in on the passenger side after being miked-up, while Dower took a seat in back with the cameraman. I sat up front on the drivers’ side. This way, they could film not only her answers to Dower’s questions, but get input and my reaction to them. This worked very well and Denise, who had been a little nervous during my restaurant interview years ago, relaxed and opened up to everyone.
Denise told her story about walking into a shed out back of her ‘Uncle Bernie’s’ house a couple of weeks prior to the Cooper hijacking and seeing Christiansen taping filled, quarter-size coin rolls in twos, back to back, using red electrical tape. He was also cutting pieces of wire and laying them aside. She testified he had an alarm clock nearby and was attaching some of the wires to the clock. She said everyone in her family knew Christiansen, who they called ‘K.P.’ for short, and he was ‘a really nice guy’. But this time, she said, K.P. was a bit short with her. She said he turned to her and said, “You surprised me there.” He added, “You’re not supposed to be in here.”
Denise said that she asked Kenny what he was doing, and his reply was that he was making a ‘battery storage device,’ and then he asked her to leave. She said she didn’t think much about it at the time, since she was only thirteen years old and Kenny was known to tinker with this or that occasionally. It wasn’t until she read the book Into The Blast, (book reviewing the early evidence on Kenny Christiansen) and saw the famous Brad Meltzer’s Decoded episode on Kenny, that she put two and two together. The memory of that incident returned to her, and she realized it was quite possible that Kenny was involved in the hijacking.
There was more. She, like some of the earlier witnesses such as Helen Jones and others, confirmed that both Kenny and Bernie disappeared for the entire week the hijacking occurred, and that Geestman’s wife was highly pissed off at him for deciding to ‘go camping’ over Thanksgiving. Especially since they usually attended Thanksgiving dinner at Helen Jones’ house in Sumner, Washington. (Jones later became a good witness in the investigation.) So did Margie Geestman later, when after six interviews by AB of Seattle during which she named her now-ex Bernie as an accomplice to the hijacking – she finally admitted that it was Kenny Christiansen who accompanied him on his alleged ‘camping trip,’ thereby naming Christiansen as the hijacker. Previously, she had named other people in an attempt to protect Kenny, whom she loved like a brother. After the book and the Decoded program came out, she sold her ranch and moved, instructing her lawyer, S. Renee Ewalt, and her bank manager, Dave Thomsen from Winthrop, WA to not tell anybody where she was going.
At this point, Dower asked her if her family believed Bernie and Kenny were behind the Cooper hijacking. Denise answered honestly, saying, “We all believe they were, but we can’t absolutely prove it.” I tried to encourage her, pointing out some of the things we already knew about these men, and that WSU professor Buddy Levy (a cast member on Decoded) had said either they pulled off the hijacking, or it was the biggest set of coincidences in history.
Along the way, Denise said she and her family had been closely following AB’s investigation into Bernie and Kenny, and she wanted to set me straight on a few details. First, that I was wrong about Kenny loaning her mother $5,000 to buy a house. She said her family had already purchased a house, and the money from Kenny was to help fix it up. I made a note of that. I asked her if she knew that Kenny only made $512 a month in 1971, before taxes. She said she did not find out until after she read my book. She had heard he did quite well at the airline, (which was also something Kenny made a habit of telling everyone, that he made a lot of money working at Northwest Airlines.)
The question and answer session went on for another hour, and other details emerged, although I have been asked not to reveal them publicly. They are being withheld until the movie premieres. All in all it was a sensational shoot, and a very damning nail in the coffin of guilt AB of Seattle has already built around Christiansen and Geestman. It is our opinion, even more than before, that the two men were the ones who pulled off what History Channel once called, ‘The sixth-biggest unsolved crime of the 20th century.’
On a side note, descriptions of the bomb say the ‘dynamite sticks’ were about six inches long. Two quarter-size coin rolls, placed end-to-end, measure five and three-quarter inches.
Submitted by Robert Blevins, Adventure Books of Seattle.