After hijacker D.B. Cooper jumped (most likely near Ariel, WA) on November 24, 1971 it was a little more than six years before any evidence surfaced, and it wasn’t from Cooper himself. An instructional placard showing how to open the aft airstairs was found in what was described as ‘a heavily-forested area six flying minutes north of Ariel’. The placard was discovered in early 1978 by Carroll Hicks of Kelso, Washington State, while he was out hunting.
The location of the found placard has been researched pretty heavily and is well-known. Today, the area is much less forested, and has been subjected to extremely heavy logging since 1978. The exact spot can be reached today (within about fifty feet accuracy or so) with any decent car or truck. The placard was turned over to police afterward, and its location on the ground was used to help confirm the flight path of the hijacked airliner.
For GPS users, the exact coordinates are:
An embedded, interactive Google map is shown below. To begin, click on ‘View Larger Map’. Then select ‘Satellite View’ and the 3-D option for best results. Zooming in or out also helps, and yes, Google can provide directions to the site. When using 3-D, hold down your CNTL button while moving your mouse to adjust the terrain view for best results.
Adventure Books of Seattle, who investigated the DB Cooper case for several years, and has hosted occasional summer campouts for the public, has named this spot as a possible future camping location for one of those events. The idea being that it might be fun, and campers could search the surrounding area for additional items that could still be lurking in the trees and brush. These include the (probably) phony bomb, the non-working reserve chute, and Cooper’s briefcase. They were not on the plane when it finally landed in Reno, and have never been found. Perhaps Cooper actually ripped off the placard and tossed it out the back, along with those other items, to throw off any ground search later. He could have done this before he jumped. It’s doubtful he tied them to himself, as he did the money bag. You never know. In any case, we’re considering a metal detector for this camping trip. 🙂
LMNO Productions out of Encino, CA ran commercials for weeks on History Channel about their upcoming four-hour special on skyjacker ‘D.B. Cooper.’ The commercials hinted strongly that not only did they have a suspect who was alive, but they were certain he was the man who pulled off the only unsolved skyjacking in U.S. history. They bragged about using a team packed full of ex-FBI agents and crime reporters, including Billy Jensen, a well-known crime reporter out of New York. They said they had been secretly working on the case for five years, and that the four-hour special for History Channel was the result. For D.B. Cooper fans, the anticipation built to a fever pitch as the show neared its premiere date.
The show, D.B. Cooper – Case Closed? begins with a basic history of the hijacking, and then moves on to interviewing both civilian sleuths of the case, as well as actual witnesses. The show was presented in two-hour increments over two consecutive nights. About halfway through part one, the show finally announces their Main Suspect – Robert Wesley Rackstraw. They show a filmed interview with him that was shot in 1979, when Rackstraw was being questioned for an unrelated crime.
At that point the wheels began to fall off on the whole thing.
It’s a strange deal for sure, and the details are only slowly coming together. LMNO Productions, creators of content for cable television such as The Little People and Killer Confessions, put together a team to investigate a new suspect in the unsolved ‘D.B. Cooper’ hijacking. This team consisted of more than forty people, many of them ex-FBI agents and other Federal officers. They recently completed their work, and the end result was a four-hour special for History Channel that will premiere on Sunday, July 10th at 9PM-11PM, and conclude on Monday the 11th at 7PM-9PM. (All times Pacific) There is also a book on their investigation, which will be released in paperback and Kindle on July 12. The show is titled, D.B. Cooper – Case Closed?
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…”
Today, Bernie Geestman lives in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains in Washington State, near the town of Sequim. (pronounced ‘Sk-wim’) Over the years, he has become a strong suspect as not only an accomplice to the Cooper hijacking, but helping hijacking suspect Kenny Christiansen to purchase a house a few months after the crime.
(If you’ve already seen Part One, you can skip to Part Two HERE.)
Much of this suspicion Mr. Geestman brought upon himself with his dishonesty in dealing with both this author, and people working with the History Channel show, Brad Meltzer’s Decoded. (Link leads to the full episode done on Christiansen, in which Mr Geestman appears as the last guest.)
Geestman, as Decoded cast member (and former state prosecutor) Scott Rolle once said to this writer, is ‘a tough nut to crack’. When the show first aired on January 11, 2011, the cast agreed that Christiansen was probably Cooper, but that Geestman didn’t assist him. But at the time, they were not provided with all the facts, due to timing issues with filming. (This means that this writer, who had just received important information about Geestman, was busy collating this information at the time of filming.) When the cast were later provided the preliminary public report on these men that was later sent in an expanded version to the Seattle FBI, both Rolle (now an elected judge) and WSU professor Buddy Levy changed their minds in email messages to this author. Cast member Christine McKinley had no comment. Later, all cast members received the complete report on Christiansen that was sent to the Seattle FBI, which strengthened their opinion even further. If anything can be said about the six-year investigation done by the staff of Adventure Books of Seattle, it is that their investigation has always been an ongoing process. Figuring out exact details and events that happened forty to sixty years ago was both complex and difficult – especially when people sometimes try to take the easy way out by lying.Continue reading “D.B. Cooper – An In-Depth Look at Alleged Accomplice Bernie Geestman – Part One of Three”
In late March of 2008, a story broke in the press that some kids from the small town of Amboy, WA had discovered a partially buried parachute. The parachute was found along the same line as the alleged dropzone for Cooper. As a spokesperson for the Seattle FBI said initially to the press:
“It’s the right kind, the right color, and found in the right area…”
Earl Cossey, the man who packed the parachutes for Cooper, but did not actually OWN or DELIVER them to SeaTac Airport (as he claimed in the media for years) said this:
“It was my parachute,” said Earl Cossey of Woodinville, Wash. “So, yes, I’d be able to identify it to this day.”
It is possible he could ID the chute, but the FBI’s own records tell a slightly different story than the one Cossey told the media for years. (Cossey only packed the parachutes, and this was done some time prior to the hijacking.) The proof is in an official FBI document publicly available on their dot gov website. It was written shortly after the hijacking by Special Agent John S. Detlor. It tells how the chutes were actually obtained for DB Cooper on November 24, 1971, and how they were delivered. And Cossey was neither their owner, nor did he deliver them to SeaTac as he claimed for years:
‘SE 164- 81
Mr. George Harrison, Northwest Airlines (NWA), Flight Operations, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, (SeaTac) advised that he talked with Mr. Barry Halstead of Pacific Aviation at Boeing Field, Seattle, in order to secure parachutes to furnish to the hijacker in this matter. He stated that two parachutes were obtained through Halstead, these two parachutes being back pack parachutes. He stated that two chest pack parachutes which were also furnished to the hijacker were obtained from Mr. Linn Emerick of Seattle Sky Sports in Issaquah, Washington. He stated that these two chest pack parachutes were transported to Sea-Tac by the Washington State Patrol.
Mr. Barry Halstead, Pacific Aviation, Boeing Field, Seattle, advised that the two back pack parachutes which were furnished to Northwest Airlines were obtained from a Mr. Norman Hayden of Hayden Manufacturing Company at Renton, WA.
Mr. Norman Hayden, Hayden Manufacturing Company, Renton, advised that two back pack parachutes which were his property, were furnished to Northwest Airlines. He stated that he called a taxicab in Kent, Washington, and had the taxi cab deliver the parachutes to Boeing Flight Service, Seattle. He described the two back pack parachutes as follows:
Civilian luxury type, tan soft cotton material outside, 26-foot white canopy inside. The parachute inside is a military parachute. The parachute has a foam pad cushion and a fray mark down the rib on the back from rubbing on metal.
A military back pack parachute, standard olive-drab green on outside, 28-foot white canopy on inside. He stated that this parachute also has a foam pad cushion.
He stated that both parachutes bore lead seals which had not been broken, and it is possible that the seals may bear a confidential number, such as a rigger’s number. He stated that both of his parachutes were assembled for him by Mr. Earl Cossey, who works at Sky Sports at Issaquah, Washington, and has a telephone number of SU-3-0475. Hayden said he can positively identify both of his back pack parachutes…’
Christiansen soon turned out to be one of the most viable suspects in the case, despite detractors. After the book Into The Blast emerged detailing the initial evidence, History Channel produced and aired an episode on Christiansen for their show Brad Meltzer’s Decoded. Not only was a hiding spot discovered in his attic by former prosecutor and now-judge Scott Rolle, but alleged accomplice Bernard Wayne Geestman of Port Angeles, WA was later found to be lying to the cast of the show on key points. Geestman pointed to Christiansen as the hijacker, but witnesses verified he was WITH Christiansen for the entire week the hijacking occurred. Geestman also claimed to be at Ken Christiansen’s deathbed in 1994, when in reality he merely called on the phone. Since he hadn’t contacted Christiansen in many years, the most likely scenario is that he wanted to see if Christiansen planned on a last-minute confession. His ex-wife Margie pointed to him as an accomplice in a half-dozen or more interviews, and admitted in her final interview that it was Christiansen who was with her husband the week of the crime. After all of this emerged, she sold her ranch in Twisp, WA for a half-million bucks to Washington Fish and Game and told her lawyer and bank officer to not reveal where she was headed next.
Shortly after Bernie Geestman’s phone call to him, Christiansen told his brothers Lyle and Oliver while he lay dying:
“There is something you should know, but I cannot tell you…”
SCREENSHOT BELOW: (Newsvine is no longer in operation, but we have the article stored in files.)
Four and a half years after the Decoded episode aired, a 74-page illustrated report file containing names, witness testimony, pictures, and key documents was submitted to the Seattle F.B.I. by the staff of Adventure Books of Seattle. It was the end result of an investigation that took years and included multiple interviews in the Northwest USA.
In the picture below, Christiansen is shown walking into his apartment in Sumner, WA between the Thanksgiving and Christmas of the hijacking. The picture is dated by the developer, as pictures were back then, and was found after Kenny died. He lived alone at the Rainier View Apartments, number J-3, which still exists today. Picture shows him having less hair than the hijacker, but witnesses who knew him for years testified he owned a toupee and sometimes wore it socially, although not on the job. One of the passengers who had seen Cooper extensively during the flight told the Washington State History Museum recently in an interview that he thought the hijacker may have been wearing a toupee. Christiansen is also carrying a paper bag and a briefcase, the same type of items carried on board the hijacked aircraft by Cooper.