On Request – The Two Page Outline on Christiansen and Geestman in the D.B. Cooper Case

HeaderPicOutlineArticleRecently, 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.

Well, boiling down a nine-year investigation where you interviewed dozens of people and took page after page of notes isn’t an easy thing. However, this was the result, shown below:
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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–Conclusion

db7In Parts One and Two, this writer laid the foundation on why Bernard Wayne Geestman of Port Angeles, WA became a strong suspect as a direct accomplice to alleged Cooper hijacker Kenneth Peter Christiansen. In the conclusion of this series, I present the theory from Adventure Books of Seattle staff on how the hijacking actually ‘went down’ in 1971, the events immediately afterward, and how we came to the final conclusions we did.

 

geoffgrayI became involved in the investigation about 18 months after author Geoff Gray published the first-ever article on Ken Christiansen, which appeared in October 2007 at New York Magazine. At the time, I was writing a sci-fi novel about every other year, helping run Adventure Books out of two spare bedrooms in a condo, and editing books for other writers. I knew nothing more than the average Northwest person about the Cooper case, although I did grow up in Sumner, WA – the same place Kenny lived at the time of the hijacking. (I was a sophomore in high school at the time.)

(BELOW: Picture found in one of Kenny Christiansen’s photo albums after his death in 1994. Stamp on front from developer says MAR 72, or about three months after the hijacking. The Christmas wreath on the door tells another story. Christiansen lived alone at #J-3, Rainier View Apartments in Sumner, WA. The apartment still exists there. Picture shows Christiansen carrying a briefcase and paper bag, just like Cooper, and dressed somewhat similarly. We believe this is a staged mememto, taken by Bernie Geestman a short time after the hijacking. We do NOT believe the items in his hands are the same exact ones used in the hijacking. The wreath indicates it was probably snapped after Thanksgiving of 1971 and before New Years Day, and then developed in March of 1972.)

 

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The first time I heard of Ken Christiansen was when New York private investigator Skipp Porteous announced he was working on a book about the case, and since his suspect came from the same town where I had grown up on a small farm, I was naturally interested in helping him. He sent me the manuscript. I told him he needed more proof, and that meant interviewing not people who knew Christiansen decades AFTER the hijacking, but people who were closest to Christiansen either AT the time of the crime, or before that time.

BELOW: Margie Geestman from her third interview at her ranch in Twisp, WA. After the books on Christiansen came out, and the Decoded TV show aired, she sold her ranch for $491,000 to the State of Washington’s Fish and Game…blew town…and told her lawyer and the bank guy who handled the sale not to say where she was going.

MargieThirdInterviewPorteous asked if I would assist him in this, since I was in Washington State and HE was in New York. He sent me a confidential package of files and reports on a number of people who knew Christiansen. These included people like Bernie Geestman, his ex-wife Margie, Bernie’s sister Dawn Androsko, and others. None of these people were known to Geoff Gray or are mentioned in his famous article. Porteous wanted me to go around and do interviews with these people if possible. I rearranged by work schedule to take off weekends over the next few months, climbed into my little Subaru 4WD wagon with a camera and a notebook, and started hunting down these folks for cold-call interviews.

Continue reading “D.B. Cooper: An In-Depth Look at Alleged Accomplice Bernie Geestman–Conclusion”

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

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ABOVE: Author Robert Blevins with the old Subaru wagon he used to hunt down and interview the witnesses against Christiansen and the Geestman couple.

In Part One, this writer detailed the early background of the relationships between D.B. Cooper suspect Ken Christiansen and his lifelong friend, Bernie Geestman, who is also suspected of being an accomplice to the crime. Part Two details the events leading up to the hijacking and what happened immediately afterward.

KennyBest1970By the year 1968, Kenny and Bernie had known each other for about twenty years, after first meeting on Shemya Island in Alaska while working for Northwest Airlines. When Bernie married his long-term girlfriend Margaret Ann Miller in the same year, Kenny is shown with a smile on his face in the wedding photos. Both men had a lot in common.

 

But one thing they didn’t have in common was their financial situation.

Bernie was no longer with low-paying, strike-prone, Northwest Airlines. He had taken a job with Foss Tugs in Seattle as a diesel mechanic. He kept the yearly logbooks for the tug he worked on, and made fairly good money. Margie took a job as a bookkeeper, a career she would carry on even after her eventual divorce from Bernie Geestman.

Continue reading “D.B. Cooper – An In-Depth Look at Alleged Accomplice Bernie Geestman – Part Two of Three”

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”

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…”