D.B. Cooper -The Bomb and What the FBI Withheld on it

no6-a-cells-x4When the F.B.I. or any law enforcement agency investigates a major crime, one of the things they do is to hold back a known fact or two from the public. They do this to weed out false confessors to the crime, or to eliminate (or confirm) suspects. The D.B. Cooper hijacking case was no different. It has recently come to light that the F.B.I. decided to hold back a key bit of evidence about the bomb the hijacker used to force Northwest Airlines to hand over $200,000 in cash and four parachutes.

Over the last forty-six years, only four things have ever been revealed about the bomb itself. First, that it was housed in a briefcase. Second, that there was a battery inside similar to the one in the picture. Third, that there were wires attached to both the battery and the bomb. Fourth, that the bomb was composed of red sticks. This last bit originated from stewardess Florence Schaffner, who was allowed a quick glance inside the briefcase. Schaffner was passed a note from the hijacker shortly after takeoff from Portland, OR that read:

Miss. I have a bomb here and I would like you to sit by me.

As soon as Schaffner did as she was told, the hijacker opened the briefcase for a quick moment. She later told the flight crew what she saw. Red sticks, lots of wires, and a battery bigger than one you would put into a flashlight. That’s been the story for several decades now, although FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach has said occasionally that he was sure the bomb was phony because dynamite sticks are generally tan in color, and not red.

Red sticks. Could they have been road flares? The problem with road flares isn’t that they are red. It’s that they have an ignitor on one end, and a lot of instructions printed on the outside. Even a stewardess who only got a quick look would be able to tell the ‘dynamite’ was phony. So if they weren’t dynamite, and they weren’t road flares, then how could they pass for a real explosive? If the F.B.I. had even a clue that the bomb was a phony, they probably would have stormed Flight 305 right on the tarmac after it reached Seattle. But something created doubt in their minds about the whole thing, and somehow they assumed the bomb could be real, even if the alleged dynamite was the wrong color.

The answer was both simple – and a brilliant move by the hijacker. He not only fooled the F.B.I. and the flight crew, but the bomb itself had a purpose beyond just being a bomb.

It was a key part of the hijacker’s escape plan.
Continue reading “D.B. Cooper -The Bomb and What the FBI Withheld on it”

Less Than Zero: History Channel Lays an Egg With Their ‘DB Cooper – Case Closed?’ TV Special

tomandbillyLMNO 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.

Continue reading “Less Than Zero: History Channel Lays an Egg With Their ‘DB Cooper – Case Closed?’ TV Special”

D.B. Cooper – An In-Depth Look at Alleged Accomplice Bernie Geestman – Part One of Three

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.)

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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”

D.B. Cooper – The Parachute Found in Amboy, WA – and Why The FBI’s Explanation Makes No Sense

amboywithcaptionIn 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
JSD:klb
Parachutes

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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…’

What do we have here so far? What does it all mean? Well, that is the Big Question, isn’t it?
The best road to the answer is to examine how the Seattle FBI handled all of this.
Continue reading “D.B. Cooper – The Parachute Found in Amboy, WA – and Why The FBI’s Explanation Makes No Sense”

90-Minute Interview With Chuck and John from Mysterious Topics: Author Robert Blevins Speaks About 'DB Cooper' Suspect Kenny Christiansen

RBLargeSizeOn a Saturday afternoon recently, I did an extensive interview with Chuck and John, the hosts of the podcast Mysterious Topics. The subject of the interview was the DB Cooper case and Kenny Christiansen. There is a video version coming to YouTube soon, but until then here is the MP-3:

There is ONE inaccuracy in my interview. It was when I said that some others famous for engaging in personal attacks on others in their Cooper case discussions had been ‘cut’ from any media production (if any) that is upcoming on Cooper. I found out later that only SOME folks had been cut, while other people will still participate. After I thought about it for a while, I decided this was the best course. Everyone’s voice in the case, mine, yours, whatever…should be included. Any questions directed to me regarding any such production will be deflected, since I am not allowed to speak about it, or to even acknowledge its existence.

“Should you or any of your IM Force be caught or captured…the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions…”

‘My Uncle Was D.B. Cooper’ – The Marla Cooper Story

MarlaCMarla Cooper first came to the attention of Cooperland in the fall of 2010, and her allegations caused a media stir. Over the space of about three months, she appeared on national television, attended the first symposium held on the Cooper case in Portland, Oregon, and submitted some physical evidence in the case to the F.B.I.  An F.B.I. spokesperson once named her as a ‘viable witness’ in the case to public media. She was interviewed on morning talk shows and her beautiful figure and striking blonde hair certainly turned heads.

Some armchair investigators of the Cooper case even voiced different fantasies about Marla, concentrating a bit more on her derriere, rather than the evidence she presented. On her Facebook page, Marla famously announced she ‘was ready to create a media frenzy,’ while at the same time apologizing to author Geoff Gray when his Cooper book fell off the NYT bestseller list as soon as she went public. She talked about her own upcoming book, and made hints that a publisher was interested.

A few weeks later, it all ended and she was largely forgotten except by fans of the case. But during the time she was enjoying the media frenzy, (and perhaps the fantasies of male Cooper investigators) I decided to put her claims under the microscope. At the end of that, my only question was how the F.B.I. even considered her story legitimate in the first place.

The Short Version of Marla’s Story: During an interview with ABC news, Marla claimed that her uncles (now deceased), Lynn Doyle Cooper, and his brother Dewey, were the real perpetrators behind the famous D.B. Cooper skyjacking. She said that Lynn Doyle Cooper was the actual hijacker, and that his brother Dewey was the accomplice on the ground. This occurred, she says, while several of her family members had gathered for Thanksgiving at Marla’s grandmother’s house in Sisters, Oregon. She was eight years old at the time.

According to her account, the two men were seen testing expensive walkie-talkies shortly before the hijacking, and then announced they were going turkey hunting. On early Thanksgiving morning, she says, the two men returned and Lynn Cooper had to be helped from the car to the house. He was injured, she said, wearing a bloody T-shirt, and incoherent. She said her other uncle, Dewey, told her that it was due to a traffic accident. Marla says she knows now that this was not true, and that her ‘Uncle L.D’. was actually hurt in the landing after parachuting from the hijacked Boeing 727. To support this, she says that the alleged accomplice, Dewey Cooper, told her father later:

“We did it. Our money problems are over. We hijacked a plane…’

Marla used a go-between person to approach the F.B.I. and they listened to her story. She must have been convincing, because at first they took her seriously.  A short time later they dismissed her claims and never commented publicly on those claims again. Talk of a possible book vanished, except for perhaps a self-published book, which never materialized. She no longer comments on any of the blogs or websites dedicated to the Cooper case.

As Steve McQueen said at the end of the film, The Sand Pebbles:

“What the hell happened?”

Nobody knows if the FBI ever checked out Marla Cooper’s Facebook page just prior to her going public, but they SHOULD have. If they had, it is unlikely they would have taken her seriously at all. Her postings there on the very week she went public contain references to ‘starting my own media frenzy,’ saying that the case agent for Cooper told her privately that he thought her story was legitimate even if the evidence showed otherwise, and that one of the stewardesses had ID’d pictures of Uncle Lynn Doyle as Cooper. None of those things, except the media frenzy part, were true. Or if they were, the FBI never said they were. They simply dismissed Lynn Doyle Cooper as the hijacker and left it at that. Marla also claimed that the Seattle case agent currently assigned to Cooper, Special Agent Thomas Eng, told her the FBI would be closing the case soon anyway. This never happened and the case remains open.

This author did an interview with her some years ago in a Ten Questions format. In other words, I submitted her ten questions and I posted the answers in an article for Newsvine.com. That interview is here.

I once said her story had more holes than a five-pound block of Swiss cheese. There are three basic problems with it. First, that this happened over Thanksgiving with her brother, mother, father, sister, and grandmother in attendance…and that none of them saw a thing. Her own brother posted to Marla’s Facebook page:  “I’m not going near this one…” when she started posting the details. Her sister was silent on the whole thing. Her mother was only slightly more supportive, telling the media she ‘suspected’ L.D. could be the hijacker, but offering no testimony on what went on that particular Thanksgiving. In other words, none of Marla’s family members who were there for the family gathering would back her story. Her famous Facebook postings about taking AAD meds, going for a media frenzy, saying the FBI was closing the case, and teasing author Geoff Gray about his drop in book sales are legend. They have been posted publicly at Dropzone.com under the History and Trivia, DB Cooper thread.

coopercomicSecond, that Marla’s claim that she saw copies of the famous ‘Dan Cooper’ comic on Uncle L.D.’s bedroom wall at the time of the crime has problems. She said L.D. had been staying at her grandmother’s house in Sisters for a while, but that he departed the Saturday after the hijacking. This claim was discounted by a lot of people because L.D. died in 1999 and the idea that the REAL Cooper got his name from the French comic book wasn’t even discussed until years later. The comics were printed in French and available only in Belgium, France, and parts of eastern Canada. When asked how her uncle could have obtained the comics, she said maybe he drove his car (a Triumph MG) to Canada to purchase them.

Third, she changed her story…a LOT. One factor Marla failed to consider was the ransom money found at Tina Bar on the Columbia River in 1980. Her initial version of the story says her uncle landed outside Sisters, Oregon and that both uncles later went back to pick up the money where L.D. had dropped it on the way down. When confronted about the bills found 150 miles farther north along the Columbia, she changed her story. She said L.D. landed up there instead, and he lost the money on the way down. But she ran into ANOTHER problem when it was pointed out to her that the flight path was miles east of the found money. And that the condition of the money did not show it had been exposed to the elements for almost nine years.

In the end, the F.B.I. wrote her off as a credible witness. However, there was some fallout as a result of the Marla Fable. Post-Marla, the F.B.I. became a lot more closed-mouthed about public inquiries into the Cooper case. They stopped giving detailed answers to questions, and instead relied almost exclusively on the statement, “We can’t discuss it. It’s an ongoing case.” Before Marla they were a lot more open.

Marla1You really can’t blame them. In this writer’s opinion, the F.B.I. got burned and decided to be a lot more careful with witnesses and inquiries regarding the Cooper case. Some time later, I created a series of cartoons that depict my thoughts on Marla. They are meant to tease her a bit, to satirize her claims somewhat. Reports I received say she has seen them.

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Humor In DB Cooper Land – Cartoons on the Infamous Bob Knoss

Bob Knoss, a guy who has been trying to convince people for years that the crew of Flight 305 were actually involved in the hijacking, is definitely ‘out there’ on the fringes. He was once interviewed by author Geoff Gray for Gray’s book on the case, Skyjack. When Knoss went off to the bathroom for a moment, Gray notes in his book that he saw porno pop up on Knoss’ computer as the screensaver.

That’s not the worst of it, though.

Knoss’ IP was traced to a number of obscene comments on an internet article about Cooper suspect Kenny Christiansen. Knoss goes on the attack against everyone no matter where he is on the internet, and has been banned from practically every website on Cooper.

Part of Knoss’ theory about the hijacking is that it was pulled off by Richard Floyd McCoy, the perpetrator of ANOTHER hijacking a few months after the DB Cooper gig. McCoy was caught soon afterward. More than a few people still believe that McCoy and Cooper were one and the same, so at first glance Knoss’ theory appears reasonable. But appearances CAN be deceiving.

Houston, We Have a Problem: Knoss also insists that he is in communication with Richard Floyd McCoy today, and that’s how he knows all of this. But McCoy was killed by the FBI in Virginia Beach on November 9, 1974. He had escaped Federal prison a few months previously, and when the FBI finally tracked him down…he was foolish enough to go for a gun and got a 12-gauge blast of buckshot in his chest. He died soon afterward.

Basically, when people look up ‘DB Cooper Nuts’ in the dictionary, a picture of Bob Knoss usually appears. After a while, I decided to create some cartoons about him, some of which are shown below.

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