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Wednesday, November 24

DB Cooper

                On the day before Thanksgiving, 1971, 39 years ago today, a man identifying himself only as “Dan Cooper” threatened to blow up an airliner if he was not given $200,000 in cash and four parachutes upon its landing. The money was given at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. After letting off the passengers and two crew members, he ordered the remaining crew and pilot to fly to Mexico. Then, at 10,000 feet in the air, the man from seat 18C, known only as Dan Cooper, jumped from the plane never to be seen again.
                This was the beginning of what is possibly the largest manhunt ever to take place on American soil. One newspaper reporter falsely identified Dan as “D.B. Cooper”. This is the name that stuck. Where did Cooper go? Nobody knows. Some say he died, some say he’s still alive, and others say he was an alien (surprise).
                In 1980, a boy digging a fire pit found $5,800 of cash by the Columbia River.  In 2008 a run of these serial numbers showed them to be same of the ransomed money. That same year, a parachute was found buried by children in southwest Washington.
                Some people say he never survived the crash. If the parachute is indeed actually Coopers then he was not an experienced jumper as many have thought. The chute was only for training and the reserve shoot had been sewn shut. An experienced jumper would have noticed that. Also, if the chute is his, there is no way for the money to wind up on the bank where it did by natural means.
                In April of 1972 a man named Richard McCoy, Jr, calling himself “James Johnson” hijacked a Boeing 727. He demanded $500,000 and four parachutes. He escaped after ordering the pilot to land and refuel. He left his fingerprints on a magazine unfortunately, and this led to his capture. While in prison he fashioned a fake handgun out of dentist’s molding materials and escaped with a crew of other prisoners in 1974. Four months later he was shot and killed by the FBI. McCoy does bear some resemblance to the sketch of DB Cooper. He also never admitted or denied that he was Cooper. When asked about it, he is quoted as saying “I don’t want to talk about it”. McCoy was a Vietnam Veteran and an experienced skydiver.
                In 2004, a man named Lyle Christiansen wrote to the FBI claiming he knew the identity of DB Cooper. “Yes, I knew the culprit personally,” he said, “He was my brother.” The brother in question was Kenneth Christiansen, a former paratrooper. After the war he became a flight attendant for Northwest airlines, the same airlines who owned the plane Cooper would later hijack. Kenneth died of cancer in 1994, but not before pulling his brother close and telling him “There is something you should know, but I cannot tell you!” According to records, Kenneth was able to purchase a house, land, and small ranch by 1972. This was a lot for a flight attendant’s salary.
                Duane Weber died in 1995 of polycystic kidney disease. Before he died he told his wife “I have a secret to tell you, I’m Dan Cooper” (Note that, according to his wife at least, he used the correct name). When his wife never responded, not knowing who Dan Cooper was, he shouted “Oh, let it die!” Moments later he was sedated and soon died. His wife, Jo, sold his van two weeks after his death. The new owner discovered a wallet containing a “bad conduct discharge” in Duane’s name, as well as a prison-release form in the name of John Collins. Jo says that Duane spoke of his past very little, but did tell her that he received an old knee injury from “jumping out of a plane”. A friend told her a month later to look into the story of D.B. Cooper. Jo checked out a book at the local library and was shocked to find the description matched her husband almost perfectly. And to top it off, in the margins of the book was a handwritten note, in what appeared to be Duane’s handwriting, naming a town in Washington in which a placard from the backstairs of the flight Cooper hijacked had landed. The same year the hijacking had taken place, Duane had been diagnosed with kidney disease and was not expected to live past 50. Perhaps it was a final bang for a former criminal. The FBI declared him to no longer be a suspect as his DNA was not found on a tie left behind on the aircraft (Which the FBI were so kind as to NOT test for with other suspects, and are not even sure if the tie belonged to Cooper).
                Other suspects have been made, but most were based on no evidence at all or very improbable. So what do you think? Alive, dead, or alien?

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