At the conclusion of a seven-year investigation, a team of amateur sleuths believes it has uncovered infamous skyjacker D.B. Cooper’s true identity.
Documentary filmmaker Tom Colbert, the leader of the cold-case team, held a press conference Thursday outside the FBI’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, to announce his team’s findings and accuse the Bureau of stonewalling and covering up evidence in the case.
“It’s more than a bunch of old guys chasing another old guy over forgotten history. This is about current FBI agents stonewalling, covering up, and flat-out lying for mentors and G-men long gone, over decades — all because of an unholy deal to hide and protect a valuable CIA Black Ops pilot known as D.B. Cooper,” Colbert said in an email to the Daily News.
D.B. Cooper cold case
D.B. Cooper cold case
Artist sketches released by the FBI of a man calling himself D.B. Cooper, who vanished in 1971 with $200,000 in stolen cash after hijacking a commercial airliner over Oregon, U.S. FBI/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Some of the stolen $20 bills taken by a hijacker calling himself D.B Cooper and found in Oregon, U.S., by a young boy in 1980, are displayed in an undated FBI picture. FBI/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
FBI sketch of hijacker D.B. Cooper who commandeered a Northwest Airlines jet, parachuted out over the forests of Washington State w. $200, 000 (obtained from a bomb threat) & simply disappeared. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Fbi/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Crew if Hijacked Jet Discuss Hijacker. Minneapolis: Crew members of a Northwest Airlines 727 jet hijacked November 24th tell newsmen November 26th they have no idea when the hijacker, tentatively identified as D.B. Cooper, parachuted from the plane, with his $200,000 ransom, on a flight from Seattle to Reno. Stewardess Tina Mucklow (right), 22, described the hijacker as 'not nervous.' 'He seemed rather nice, and he was never cruel or nasty,' she said. Captain Bill Scott (center) said, 'We first knew he was not aboard when we arrived in Reno.' First officer Bill Rataczak is at left.
Larry Lewman, Asst. State Medical Examiner holds a skull found by Forest Service employees in the MT. Hood National Forest 10 miles east of Estacada, Ore. FBI and local authorities are investigating the find to determine if the skull is that of D.B. Cooper, the 1st person to execute a hijacking attempt 11/71 aboard a Northwest Orient Airlines flight during which Cooper parachuted from the airplane while enroute to Reno, Nev. from Seattle. Cooper and $200,000 he got from Northwest Orient was never found.
(Original Caption) The badly decomposed $20 dollar bills were shown to newsmen after check of their serial numbers showed that they were identical to the bills given to hijacker D.B. Cooper on November 24, 1971. The money was found by Brian Ingram, 8, who was searching for firewood while on a family outing with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Dwayne Ingram of Vancouver, Washington. The money was found on the north shore of the Columbia River, partially buried in the sand.
Flight attendant Flo Schaffner, one of the crew members of the hijacked Northwest Airlines flight 305, tells reporters that she initially thought the hijacker was trying to hustle her when he gave her a note stating 'I have a bomb.' The 1971 skyjacking became one of the country's most mysterious crimes, as the hijacker, one D.B. Cooper, disappeared without a trace after jumping out of the 747 airplane with $200,000 cash and four parachutes.
(Original Caption) Vancouver, Washington: Map spots the area where some several thousand dollars of the D.B. Cooper hijack was found 2/10/80 by Brian Ingram, 8, while on a family outing. The money was badly decomposed and examination revealed that the serial numbers were identical to those given to the hijacker on Nov. 24, 1971. The exact location of the find was 12112 NW Lower River Road, Vancouver, Washington.
The badly decomposed $20 dollar bills were shown to newsmen 2/12 after check of their serial numbers showed that they were identical to the bills given to hijacker D.B. Cooper on Nov. 24, 1971. The money was found by Brian Ingram, 8, who was searching for firewood while on a family outing with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Dwayne Ingram, Vancouver, Washington. The money was found on the north shore of the Columbia River, partially buried in the sand.
(Original Caption) Vancouver, Washington: FBI Agents dig in sand beach on the north shore of the Columbia 2/12, where a portion of the D.B. Cooper hijack money was found by the Harold Dwayne Ingram family 2/10. The badly decomposed money, some several thousand, was found to be identical to the money given to the hijacker by the serial numbers on the bills.
(Original Caption) Portland, Oregon: FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach (2nd right) asks questions February 12th of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Dwayne Ingram (left) at FBI offices where it was announced that the Ingram's son Brian, 8, had found the D.B. Cooper hijacking money while on family outing on the north shore of the Columbia River. Listening is William Wren (right), Northwest Orient Airlines, whose jetliner was hijacked by Cooper on November 24th, 1971.
FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach (L) agent Wm. Baker seated with Mr. & Mrs. Harold D. Ingram during press conference on recovery of the D.B. Cooper hijacking (1971) money they found while on a family outing on the shore of the Columbia River.
(Original Caption) Vancouver, Washington: Brian Ingram, 8, uses his hand to show how he smoothed put the sand on February 10, 1980, when he found three bundles of decomposed $20 dollar bills for photographer, February 15. Brian's father turned the money over to the FBI and when it was checked out, it was found to be identical to the money that was paid to hijacker, D.B. Cooper, on November 24, 1971. The area where Brian is digging is approximately the same as to where he found the money.
(Original Caption) Vancouver, Washington: Richard Tosaw (left ) looks at chart where Blake Payne, Florence, Oregon, shows what part of Columbia River he has dragged for remains of 'D.B. Cooper,' or skyjacking ransom money. Portion of the money was found on a beach in 1980. Tosaw, a former FBI agent and now an attorney, is writing a book about the Cooper hijacking, which took place 11 years ago, November 24, 1971.
(Original Caption) Portland, Oregon: Blake Payne stands in stern of his charter boat late December 18th, and holds up what he thinks is a piece of 'D.B. Cooper's' parachute. Payne has been dragging the bottom of the Columbia River for the past month and a half, looking for evidence that 'Cooper,' did land in the Columbia after parachuting from hijacked airliner. On the stern is 'rake,' Payne designed to drag the bottom of the river.
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His accusations refer to the case of a man known as Dan Cooper, who in 1971 hijacked Northwest Orient Flight 305 and jumped off the plane with $200,000 in ransom somewhere over the Pacific Northwest. He disappeared, and the FBI concluded that he had most likely died from the leap.
But Colbert insists that the man who took over the flight is former U.S. Army paratrooper Robert W. Rackstraw, who is now 74-years-old and lives in the San Diego area.
In November 2017, Rick Sherwood, a veteran of the Army’s signal-intelligence corps and member of Colbert’s team broke an encrypted code on a letter that was sent to newspapers days after the hijacking.
The code on the letter, signed “D.B. Cooper,” revealed Rackstraw’s military units, according to Colbert.
Colbert and his team have since obtained four more Cooper letters that they say link him to Rackstraw.
“The new decryptions include a dare to agents, directives to apparent partners, and a startling claim that is followed by Rackstraw’s own initials: If captured, he expects a get-out-of-jail card from a federal spy agency,” Cooper said in a press release.
A letter mailed on Nov. 27, 1971 contains newly deciphered coding including the phrase “CAN FBI CATCH ME... SWS.”
The letters in the code supposedly refer to the Special Warfare School, where Rackstraw studied.
Another code, “IF CATCH I AM CIA...RWR,” contains Robert W. Rackstraw’s initials, Colbert said.
A third code appears to signal to his partners that he’s flying south in the evening, and a fourth makes reference to another one of his training units.
“Seattle agents were informed of Rackstraw’s letter trail years ago, but they ignored it, along with more than 100 pieces of other evidence (including DNA) from Colbert’s 40-member team — ironically, led by retired FBI,” Colbert said.