(UPDATE: A 30-minute video has been uploaded to YouTube with Kyle’s interview. We apologize in advance for the traffic noise, which was unavoidable. The area of Bonney Lake, WA where Kenny Christiansen’s old house sits today has been built up tremendously in the last few years, but it was the place we HAD to film the video. The video is linked at the end of this article.)
Two weeks ago, a man I will call ‘Kyle’ approached me through Facebook with an incredible story. Kyle, who is a 33-year-old resident of Bonney Lake, Washington, said that he had watched a rerun of the Brad Meltzer’s Decoded TV episode on DB Cooper suspect Kenny Christiansen. While he was watching, he said, he heard the part where the cast and this writer discuss the urban rumor that Kenny had buried some cash on the empty lot (a wooded hill) he owned behind the main house.
Kyle said he was not a big fan of D.B. Cooper, although he had heard of him and knew the basic story, but few details beyond the general things known by most folks in the Great Northwest. However, when he saw the part about the possibility of buried money, he said he recognized Kenny’s house as the same place in Bonney Lake that he and some of his friends often played as kids. Not down the hill at the house itself, but up on the hill in the woods behind the house. He claimed he was the one who found the rumored money, and it wasn’t a rumor at all. It was TRUE, he said. And he could prove it.
Of course, I get contacts about the Cooper case from time to time. Some are well-meaning, others are just plain crazy. My job is to filter the wheat from the chaff. So the first thing I did was to qualify him as a witness. I checked his Facebook page, his history on Google, and his friends’ list. Everything seemed normal enough. Kyle liked to post up about his vehicle, BBQ’s, his girlfriend – basically the usual stuff you see from a normal Facebook user. I checked his employment. He was a shoe salesman for an upscale department store chain in Bellevue. He had been trying to reach me for a couple of weeks, he said.
So far, so good.But did he have any proof of his claim?
He said: “I have pictures of the money. And I wasn’t the only one who was there when we found it.”
One thing about the D.B. Cooper case that makes it different, as in:
“Mrs. Gump…your boy…DIFFERENT…”
Is the amount of internet craziness going on within Cooperland that can get really wacko sometimes. Everyone thinks they have the right suspect. Others will play games, or tell any ridiculous tale to support their angle in the case. Sometimes the angle isn’t a suspect, but something else. Cornering the internet forum traffic related to Cooper, perhaps. Not to really solve the case on such forums, but to fritter away the time discussing it. Most of these discussions rehash the same old evidence and go nowhere.
There’s nothing wrong with discussions about old DB, of course. What makes the Cooper case different is when you start proposing a certain person may have been Cooper, and submit REAL evidence about that person. Then the claws come out, the wagons circle, and the dirty tricks emerge. Fear raises its ugly head, and loathing follows.
Unlike the Jimmy Hoffa case, or Scorpio, or even Jack the Ripper – SOLVING the D.B. Cooper case would be a horror to many of the people who discuss it. This is because actually solving it would mean the end of discussion and no more mystery. To them, it’s like trying to swallow a golf ball, or being forced to eat a plateful of sauerkraut laced with raw sardines. Not a pretty picture.
The jealousy among Cooper fans is rampant and predictable. This writer was once foolish enough to open his own discussion forum on the case. I named it: The Adventure Books D.B. Cooper Forum. At first, I tried to do it nicely. Listed all the suspects and their entries from Wikipedia, posted up about our upcoming eclipse campout to Oregon, and other reletively harmless stuff. I shouldn’t have bothered, since it turned out to be a waste of time.
It wasn’t long before other Cooper fans discovered the site and we got as high as twenty members, some of them were even relatives of Kenny Christiansen, the guy they are now making the first DB Cooper movie about down in Hollywood. But then I made a BIG mistake. I let it slip that the film producers planned to name Kenny as Cooper, not as a guess, or a maybe, but as a matter of historical record. Their decision was based on evidence I hadn’t revealed to the public, and I had to sign a confidentiality agreement to keep my trap shut regarding details on the movie. My mistake was telling Cooperland about the ‘historical record’ stuff.
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.
MYTH: We’ve had all sorts of offers for the movie rights to Into The Blast, the book that looks at Kenny Christiansen as the famous skyjacker.
TRUTH: There have only been TWO offers. The first came from an anonymous client of Paradigm, the rep agency in New York City. They merely asked if the rights were available. We said yes. Later, they revealed themselves as representing CBS Films, and made a modest five-figure offer for the movie rights to Christiansen’s story. When they warned us that they planned to take ‘serious liberties’ with Kenny’s life story, and that some portions of the film might be ‘comedic,’ we turned down the offer. Soon afterward, CBS Films purchased the rights to author Geoffrey Gray’s book Skyjack, but later sold the rights to director Will Gluck’s (Friends With Benefits, Annie) production company. Continue reading “The Four Biggest Myths About AB of Seattle’s Investigation of the D.B. Cooper Case”
Recently, I was asked by the film producers I am working with in Los Angeles to create an outline (limited to two pages for print in 8.5×11) laying out the case against Kenny Christiansen and Bernie Geestman.
Depending on your attitude or opinion on whether Ken Christiansen and Bernie Geestman were the actual perps in the D.B. Cooper hijacking, you might be ecstatic and wish us well…or hope I accidentally fall off a cliff on one of those camping trips to the Olympic Mountains I do occasionally. (We have our detractors, as well as our supporters.)
Yes, it’s true that a Los Angeles-based film production company has picked up the option for our book, Into The Blast – The True Story of D.B. Cooper. It’s the story of Kenny Christiansen, a former US Army paratrooper and an employee of the airline that was hijacked by Cooper. This doesn’t mean they will actually bring the book to market in a picture, of course. That remains to be seen. However, here’s how it all came about and where it’s going now –
About two weeks ago, I received an email from three people at the same time. They wanted to make sure any reply I made went to all of them. They told me they had been following me (and the investigation into KC) for quite a while and wondered whether the film rights to the book were still available. I said yes, but I also warned them that I wasn’t interested in doing a comedy on the Cooper story, or Kenny’s life, and that I had rejected a previous offer over that same point. (The inquiry by CBS Films, via their rep at Paradigm in New York City.)
The three men were execs from the LA film company, and came back with a message right away.
No, they said. They were not looking to do a comedy, but the first serious feature film on the DB Cooper case.And they wanted to name Kenny Christiansen as the hijacker, and present it not as a theory, but as historical fact. This surprised me, because I have stated many times for the record that I can’t be 100% sure Kenny and Bernie were the perps. Yes, I believe they are guilty as sin. Could I prove it today beyond a reasonable doubt? Maybe…if I had Bernie Geestman and a few other folks on a witness stand somewhere. Maybe.
While Flight 305 was on the ground at SeaTac Airport, hijacker ‘D.B. Cooper’ requested that the airstairs be left DOWN on takeoff. This was refused on the grounds of safety. The stairs would drag on the tarmac and possibly cause the jet to crash before it could even leave the ground. Here at Adventure Books of Seattle, we’ve always wondered WHY the hijacker wanted them left down. Seemed a bit premature, since he told everyone he wanted to go to Mexico, and there was going to be a refueling stop in Reno, NV along the way. The only good answers we could think of were that the hijacker didn’t plan to stay aboard the aircraft very long, and had no intention of trying for Mexico. And that he had a plan involving someone on the ground a little closer to home. The idea that he would try jumping from a jet at night without a ride home seems unlikely, unless he was planning to just stick his thumb out while packing a bank bag full of cash.
And…if Cooper had help somewhere on the ground…that both men would know where that help was waiting. And that this help would probably come via a payphone, which were virtually everywhere back in 1971.
Now we do know a couple of facts regarding Bernie Geestman from our investigation, the man we allege was Kenny Christiansen’s guy on the ground. For example, we know Geestman bought an Airstream trailer approximately six weeks prior to the hijacking, and instead of bringing it home to Bonney Lake, he parked it down at his shop property in Oakville, WA. We also know he took the station wagon he used to haul the trailer back to Bonney Lake. (And that his wife Margie did serious bitching about him leaving the trailer in Oakville unattended. He told her ‘Don’t worry about it’.) We also know Mr. Geestman left Bonney Lake in the station wagon a day or two PRIOR to the hijacking. And since he told his wife he was going camping in his Airstream (over the Thanksgiving holiday no less) that he ended up at Oakville, at least initially. She did some serious bitching about that, too…reminding him that they were supposed to attend Thanksgiving dinner at Helen Jones’ place down in Sumner, WA that year. As they had the previous year, and DID do the year AFTER the hijacking. Coincidentally, so did Kenny Christiansen, although the year of the hijacking, he told several people he was planning to take a free NWA flight back to Minnesota to do the family thing for Thanksgiving.
(His family said he never did.)
Witness Helen Jones stated that Kenny Christiansen told her a few weeks after the hijacking that the reason he hadn’t attended Thanksgiving dinner at her house, as he usually did, was because he was with Geestman. (He didn’t give details, of course.) She ran into him at the Sumner Laundromat, she said in her interview. Jones also noted how angry Mrs. Geestman was when SHE turned up at Jones’ place for Thanksgiving and had to tell Jones that her husband skipped the dinner to go camping over the holiday week.
So…we can place these men together in Oakville before the hijacking.
We HAVE done this.
Okay, let’s say for the sake of argument these guys pulled it off. We don’t know for sure, we will just theorize here. We think they stayed at the trailer in Oakville overnight, made last-minute plans (probably over a bourbon and a road map of Washington State) and Kenny told Geestman where he would try to jump. And that spot was probably NOT down by Ariel, Amboy, or Woodland, but further north. Maybe within the area shown by the circle on the map below. That area, especially back in 1971, was not heavily populated. A lot of empty space, lightly -traveled country roads, and the landing zones mostly not too dangerous. The next morning, Geestman drops Kenny Christiansen off at the Portland Airport and returns to the shop property in Oakville, which may even have had a phone installed.
But not everything went according to plan. For example, when the ground folk at SeaTacsaid ‘No way’ to leaving the airstairs down. Now, the door has to be opened in flight, and that took a bit of time with the jet cruising along at three miles a minute. And the hijacker had to take time to secure the money bag and put on the parachute. By the time Cooper was ready to jump, the jet was far south (we think) of the jumpzone he had originally planned, and that’s why he ended up down there.
It’s just a theory, but IF Christiansen was really Cooper, and Geestman his buddy on the ground, we think the map shown below is a good rendition of what really happened that night. And then a long walk out of the woods to a payphone.
Geestman on the telephone with Kenny a day or two later: “You’re WHERE?” Kenny tells him where he is. “Oh, crap. How the hell did you end up clear down there? Okay. I’ll be there in about 90 minutes. You’ll have to tell me what happened…”